Thursday, November 7, 2013

In the Funk Zone

The first thing you notice in The Lark is an 18-foot-long, 2,000-pound table with seating for 24, fashioned from a 200-year-old fallen tree rescued from an Oregon forest. The communal dining platform is more than just the most coveted table in this popular new Funk Zone spot. As something at once reclaimed, repurposed, handcrafted, great-looking, and a place for people to gather, it embodies the foundational ethos behind the restaurant. “The table was a labor of love, like the restaurant,” says Managing Partner Sherry Villanueva. “Everything here is vintage, repurposed, handmade, original and special – and the communal concept is the core of what we’re about.” The other tables were made from the same fallen tree. The seats in a row of semi-private booths are antique church pews. The bar stools and the dining room chairs were all bought second-hand. A 100-year-old Catholic confessional from Provence “houses” a pair of tables for two. But these are antiques made modern by context, from the long steel bar to the exhibition kitchen to the steel girders that frame the expansive patio. Executive Chef Jason Paluska’s New American menu follows suit, reviving “old” dishes through thoughtful tweaks at the edges and a laser focus on quality, care, creativity, craftsmanship and the best local ingredients. Charcuterie is available, but so are up-to-date deviled eggs stuffed with pancetta, jalapeño, smoked paprika and chives. The new vegetable darling, formerly boring cauliflower, is caramelized and served au gratin with gruyère, preserved lemon, chili flakes and bacon breadcrumbs. A whole grilled branzino cozies up with kale and fennel slaw, barley-caper risotto, grapefruit and salsa verde. And the classic half-roasted chicken with brown butter polenta and spinach is the hit of the house. Speaking of, Executive Sous Chef Nick Flores bats 1.000 in the clean-up spot, his handcrafted, understated desserts perfectly converging past and present.

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