If you've been reading lately, you may be detecting a theme in my restaurant reviews: after listening with interest to the growing buzz for a new place, I go with high expectations, only to find that there's another good-but-not-great restaurant on the local scene.
True to form, my recent visit to Lark was preceded by much local gushing - in both ink and conversation - about this "perfect jewel" of a restaurant with "incredible food" and the "ultimate see & be-seen" crowd. Last Saturday I went with a mixed group - two who had been before (and raved), and two who hoped to get a taste of the "best new restaurant in Seattle." Our collective review: while many aspects of the experience were, indeed, of very high quality, nothing - food, service, or atmosphere - delivered the "wow!" that the breathless local coverage had led us to expect.
We anticipated the 'no reservations' policy - one couple held a spot in the very pleasant bar at 1200, two blocks north on 12th, while the other put our name in for the hour wait. The restaurant called promptly at the appointed time, and we were shown to a table in the center of the dining room.
The physical space at Lark proved to be much warmer and more inviting than I had expected - all the talk of extraordinary style had led me to expect (or more accurately, to dread) a much glossier and high-polish room than the simple off-white walls, flowing divider curtains and original wooden trusswork that greeted us upon arrival.
In keeping with the 'small plates' approach of the menu, we ordered widely and to share, including cheeses, vegetarian, cured meat and fresh meat dishes (not to mention dessert). Nothing we ordered was a disappointment, and several dishes were quite good (most notably a nice paring of Salumi soprasatta with cured figs, and a cubed polenta saturated with a pork broth). Of the two desserts, the puff-pastry Tate Tatin was more satisfying than the slightly crumbly flourless chocolate tart.
Throughout the meal, the service was polite and efficient, with just enough personality and humor to add warmth to the experience without intruding.
So, you ask, what *didn't* you like? The answer is, "nothing at all", but that's not enough to move Lark from 'good' into the much-harder-to-attain category of 'great restaurant'. It's definitely good, even very good, for Seattle - and it deserves the warm reception it's received. But we can and should expect more from our city of nearly 2 million souls. Seattle is packed with clever, creative people, and with patrons of the culinary arts with sufficient discernment and disposable income to support more than one (Mistral) truly extraordinary restaurant. While I welcome the opportunity to celebrate all that Lark is doing well, I know that we should ask for more.