By Shanna F. Jones
As one would expect in any fine dining establishment, where the chef is famous worldwide, the menu at Lola’s is impressive. Michael Symon and his staff have worked to create quality restaurant food which blends classic dishes with innovative flavours and daring ingredients. Very daring, in some instances, in fact, as dishes based on bone marrow and beef cheek will delight some and terrify others. A quick foodie’s tip: the dishes branded as Lola’s house recipes are all guaranteed winners.
Stepping off the bustling restaurant row on 4th Street and into Lola’s, diners will find low lighting and sleek, grandiose decor Heavy wooden panelling and dark green upholstery give the place a relaxed after-work vibe. The busy kitchen is visible from the table; chefs juggling multiple huge pans over open flames provides entertainment and conversation inspiration. Huge round tables are available for groups as well as rows of two-person tables with enough space between them for private conversations.
The drinks menu is presented on an iPad with an easy-to-read typeface and pictures, which make the selection process easier (or possibly more difficult, as they all look great.) The cocktail list is extensive and creative. There’s Peach Basil Sangria, Whiskey Britches Manhattan, Pistachio Rose Alexander and the Cleveland Plum Sour. Most cocktails seem to be infused with some kind of fruit or herb, which gives an interesting kick to classic recipes. When they arrive, the cocktails are made to served with the right kind of ice, sprigs of herbs and fruit in old-fashioned vessels.
Chef Symon’s philosophy is nose-to-tail cooking, which he began doing well before it was trendy. So the appearance of some of the more unusual cuts of meat has some well thought out reasoning behind it. The appetiser menu showcases its house charcuterie, beef cheek pierogi, bone marrow, king crab cake and potato pave with caviar. This is a menu for those who like their meat, and they like it full and flavoured. The bone marrow, for those of you who are curious, is an intensely salty affair. The flavour is mind bendingly delicious, however the gelatinous texture may cause the more squeamish to back away quickly.
The mains are equally as rich and meaty. Every type of steak is on the menu, from hanger to rib-eye, all with varying flavours to accompany. The strip loin comes with hollandaise, tarragon, chervil, crispy potatoes and black peppercorn sauce. With the meat cooked to perfection over open flames, it is completely delicious. The fish selection is also great, lobster, salmon and sole feature.
If you’ve still got room for dessert after all that tasty food, the choice is likely to be pretty difficult with the Lola s’more and the coconut-caramel-pecan fudge cake. But the 6.a.m special is the real stand-out treat. A bed of brioche french toast, maple-bacon ice cream and caramelized apples? I struggle to imagine how anyone could resist.
Shanna is a British freelance journalist covering travel and international human rights. She craves the freedom of hiking and camping in the rain just as much as the luxury of silky hotel sheets. Follow her on Twitter: @ShannaFelicia