Tom Douglas has quite a restaurant empire here in Seattle. As a whole, their quality is high. In 2012, the James Beard Foundation voted Douglas restauranteur of the year. Lola is one of those restaurants, named after his wife’s grandmother. The food is inspired by Greek cuisine with excursions into other parts of the Mediterranean and North Africa. Douglas has a farm in Prosser from where he sources his food as much as possible.
After a show at The Paramount, three of us had dinner at Lola to celebrate a birthday. It is located in the downtown core where six of Douglas’ ventures are within a two-block radius. The other complexes are in the popular South Lake Union area and at Pike Place Market.
The menu was small though there was enough variety to satisfy all tastes. At the very top was a list of six spreads that can be ordered with freshly made pita bread. We decided on tzatziki, kalamata-fig and fava skordalia. Freshly baked, the pita was brushed with olive oil, dusted with parsley and sea salt, thick, soft, chewy and great with the spreads. My favorite was the tzatziki (☆☆☆½). The strained yogurt was delicately tart with flecks of dill and a touch of garlic, tasting of sheep’s milk. The skordalia of fava beans (☆☆☆) was very much like a hummus. The olive spread (☆☆½) muted the saltiness of kalamata olives by adding figs, but it was a strange combination of sweetness and brininess. However, every bite was improved by pairing it with tzatziki.
We shared watermelon salad (☆☆☆½), squares of sweet, seedless watermelon on shredded iceberg lettuce and basil dressed with basil vinaigrette. The surprise was a rose-flavored syrup tucked underneath slices of smoked feta. A wonderful and refreshing salad.
Kebabs was a section of the menu, too—eight kinds in total. Our two choices were served on a cast-iron skillet heated up to caramelize the bed of red onions, some slices overly blackened but overall charred nicely and sweet. At our table, a small glass of ouzo was poured over the works that sizzled and imparted its anise flavor. Anderson lamb kebabs (☆☆☆) were grilled rare, coated in a red wine glaze. How about a cheese kebab? Haloumi cheese can stand up to high heat and retain firmness. They were paired with dried kalamata figs, glazed with grape molasses (petimezi). (☆☆☆)
North Africa was represented by tagines, another menu section. Seared scallops, mussels, clams, shrimp and salmon in the Northwest seafood tagine (☆☆☆½) were delicious and perfectly cooked, cherry tomatoes adding brightness and zucchini adding color. Typical for tagines, the scant amount of broth at the bottom of a cast-iron vessel was very tasty with seafood flavor, ouzo and butter, which we attacked with slices of toasted bread and spoons.
Our final entrée was housemade Greek sausage (☆☆☆), called loukaniko, made of pork, grilled, drizzled and underlain with lemon aioli and served with lightly sautéed red-ribbed chard. Wild huckleberries added a touch of sweetness.
We hadn’t intended on having dessert, but Tom Douglas’ signature triple-coconut cream pie (not on the menu) called out. We asked our waitress about it when we saw it being enjoyed at another table. There were generous amounts of coconut throughout, in the crust, cream and garnish, topped with ribbons of white chocolate, but while good the pie (☆☆☆) lacked the intense coconut flavor that I vividly recall in Ted’s chocolate haupia pie, a personal favorite.
One thing we noticed throughout the meal was the moderate noise level, helped by the very high ceiling, despite hard surfaces everywhere. We could actually hear each other across the table, a welcome relief from din bins.
2000 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121