Monday, March 19, 2007

Blair's

Blair's is tucked away on an unassuming strip of Rowena Avenue, in the backside of Silverlake (I always get confused when driving around Silverlake...strange, considering my otherwise stellar sense of direction, so I refer to this area as the "backside" of Silverlake...I'm not sure why), near such landmarks as The Coffee Table (soon to be high-rise condominiums) and Ivanhoe Elementary School. I'd heard both good and bad things about Blair's before getting the chance to try it myself last night (Thanks to my father-in-law, Bob, for the opportunity).

Divided into three rooms -- a bar, a main dining room, and a cafe (which doubles as a second dining room at night) -- Blair's offers the kind of dim, orange lighting and private little tables perfect for a date...or in my case, dinner with your wife and her father. The place was about half full, and they seated us immediately. The server, who was training another server, quickly asked us our drink choices. Having been seated only moments earlier, it's no surprise we didn't know yet. So we asked for a few minutes. Why is it that a few minutes inevitably turns into half an hour in these situations. I could just picture the waitress telling her trainee, "This is when we inexplicably disappear for thirty minutes. I don't care what you do -- smoke a cigarette, call your boyfriend, play some online poker -- but DO NOT go into the dining room." When they finally returned, we settled on a blended wine called "Coup d'Etat" from the Andrew Rich winery. It tasted like a Spanish wine to me, and sure enough, it claimed to be inspired by the wines of the Mediterranean, so score one for me.

We asked for the specials, and the waitress informed us that everything on the menu is special (Right, just like every little kid is special, a fiction of which I am no longer a believer). So there are no specials. And the menu is always the same. I later discovered that this is a point of some irritation for the regulars. Having never been there, it didn't bother me at all.

For starters, we decided to share the Maryland blue crab cake and a salad of roasted beets with avocado and goat cheese on mixed greens. The food came out very quickly, and was presented simply and elegantly. With too many greens and not enough beets, I thought the salad was a slight disappointment. The crab cake had a nice, herby flavor, but the consistency was chunkier than I like in a crab cake. Still, I gave the crab cake higher marks than the salad.

As a main course, Bob got the roasted sea bass and substituted out the Idaho potatoes, because he's no longer eating any "deadly nightshades" (which include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and nipplefruit (I didn't make that up)...apparently all of these foods are poisons that the modern human has evolved to be able to tolerate...Anyway, it's supposedly good for the joints. Ask Bob about it if you see him). Edan ordered the lamb T-bones with celery root puree, while I had the linguine with Italian sausage and artichokes. Yeah, I got the linguine. I know, it's boring, but that's what I wanted, so suck it. I didn't try Bob's sea bass, but he reported that it improved as he ate, which I think is a sign of a good dish. Maybe the sauces needed to seep more fully into the fish; I don't know. I thought Edan's lamb was better than my linguine, but she thought the opposite, so maybe we should've switched. The lamb was very tender and cooked exactly the way I like it -- red in the middle, but not cold. She said the sauce from the lamb lent some flavor to the celery root puree, which was otherwise bland. My linguine was good, but not incredible. The sausage was heavy on fennel, of which I am a staunch supporter, and there was a pleasant amount of broth at the bottom of the bowl, ensuring that the pasta was never dry. The one drawback of the dish was the congealed cheese resting atop it. I don't understand why restaurants do this. Why not sprinkle the cheese on at the table, like they do at Italian restaurants. That way it doesn't turn into a little cheese mound that the diner must cut with a knife.

After some wavering, we decided to get dessert. We settled on a dish called "Coffee and Donuts," homemade cinnamon and sugar donuts filled with vanilla cream and topped with a scoop of coffee ice cream. Folks, this was the highlight of the meal for me. The donuts were not your garden variety belly bombs, but rather light, airy pastries (almost like beignets) dusted with confectioner's sugar and filled with a delicious custard. The coffee ice cream was the perfect accompaniment. Like "sinkers and joe," the gourmet version. What an ending to the meal. Dessert is so underrated.

With entrees running from $18 to $37, and the starters all in the double digit zone as well, Blair's isn't cheap. I'd recommend it as a place to go for a special occasion or if you get a sudden windfall and feel like a good meal. Hey, you're gonna have to spend that NCAA tourney pool money someplace, right?

2 comments:

Heather L said...

I just have a question. Do you take notes when you dine?

AndrewS said...

FWIW,

the pastry chef at Blair's has a rep for being excellent, and desserts there regularly outshine the mains, so if you don't want to drop bank, it's a good call for dessert and a drink after a dinner in thai town, or up at Carousel or some such.