All the flavors of Spain, and a particularly potent paella
Jo Luna has eyes the color of hazelnut shells and the low, husky voice of an inveterate smoker. Angular and slim, she glides like a denim-clad...
Special to The Seattle Times
Gaudi3410 N.E. 55th St., Seattle
Hours: Dinner, 5-10 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays-Saturdays, 5-9 p.m. Sundays; Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (Closed Tuesdays.)
Prices: Tapas $2.50-$9.25; entrees $16.50-$18.50; paella $34-$38 (for two).
Drinks: Cocktails, Spanish wines, red and cava sangria.
Parking: On street.
Who should go: Those pining for a taste of Spain.
Cards: Visa, MC.
Access: No obstacles.
Jo Luna has eyes the color of hazelnut shells and the low, husky voice of an inveterate smoker. Angular and slim, she glides like a denim-clad sylph among the white-clothed tables, often armed with a wine bottle or two.
Her husband, Joan (Catalan for Juan), is the puckish face peering out from the kitchen pass-through, the hurried hand that makes a bell go ping when an order is up.
On a slow night, the person likely to be picking up that order and delivering it to your table is his wife, who will tell you about the Barcelona restaurant the couple owned for 10 years as she lets you taste a couple of Galician wines offered by the glass. While you are deciding which one you like best, you will likely learn that back in Spain, Joan smoked turkeys, cured pastrami and even made sushi for customers who craved an "international" dining experience.
Here in Seattle, he gets to cook the food of his homeland, notably tapas and paella, at Gaudi, the couple's 8-month-old restaurant.
The space in the Ravenna/Bryant area, once home to the Italian restaurants Salute and Bella Rosa Bistro, has been transformed with color and art. Gaudi's saffron yellow walls are edged in soft cornflower blue and dotted with original art, many created by friends of the Lunas, who are also both artists. The American-born Jo works in stained glass; the dramatic panels that divide the two front rooms are hers, shipped from Spain where they once hung in the skylights of their old restaurant.
Joan's whimsical, color-washed drawings adorn the tapas menu, a variety of hot or cold, sweet or savory, pickled or spicy nibbles that can either pave the way to paella or other entrées, or add up to a meal in themselves. There's certainly enough variety among the seafood, meats, vegetables, fruit and cheese offered — and few disappointments.
Escabeche of mussels and boquerones is a chilled dish in which four fat mussels couple with slinky white anchovies to dance a brilliant tango in a tart marinade tempered with smoke and heat. A pair of roasted red piquillo peppers stuffed with creamy, mild potato and salt cod puree look like little elf caps floating on a sea of green sauce that contributes the pleasantly bitter taste of watercress to the mix of salty and sweet. Sweet and salt meet even more fortuitously on a plate of jitanitos, several dates individually wrapped in lean turkey bacon pinned with a toothpick skewer and grilled.
The crisp brown shells of bombas, fried spheres of mashed potato, rice, ground beef and cheese, crack open to reveal a hot, yielding center. Lavished with salsa brava, a chile-tinged aioli, they are bravura bites, as is lomo, tender slices of cured pork loin. Lightly grilled and finished with what tastes like paprika oil, thin slices of meat come with a slice of rosemary-scented bread that was either stale or just insufficiently toasted but either way no enhancement to the dish.
Gambas pil pil is a dish that demands some bread. A terra-cotta cazuela holds a handful of shrimp, small and a bit limp, but it's the sauce of garlic, chilies and oil that really grabs your attention.
Ask for the pan con tomate, two large slabs of lightly toasted rustic bread rubbed with the cut edge of a fresh tomato. It's well worth the $2.50 charge and provides a better canvas for any of the sauces here than the rye or rosemary bread that might turn up in the $2 bread basket served with a cruet of rough-tasting olive oil.
If you're grazing on tapas while waiting for paella, it will be worth the wait. The big round pan, jaunty with yellow napkins wrapped around the handles, requires a minimum of two people and 25 minutes to prepare, but it's he most impressive of the entree options.
Paella comes with meat or seafood, or a mix of both. There is even fideua, similar to paella but substituting noodles for rice. The meat version features bony nuggets of rabbit, tidbits of chicken and strips of chorizo, each lending their essence to the firm, short-grain rice liberally laced with red pepper and peas. A garlic rose in the center of the pan shoots tendrils of heady flavor throughout the ruddy rice, mingling with tomato, saffron and lemon.
None of the other entrees sampled had the paella's impact. Chicken braised in garlic and wine was gummy and dull. A stew of braised lamb with spinach and carrots served over rice had a rich lamb flavor accented with cumin among other spices, but it's a humble dish for the princely price of $20.50.
Seafood zarzuela would be well worth $22.50 for the seafood alone — the shallow pan is crammed with mussels, clams, squid, scallops and white fish — but much of it was overcooked, and the saffron-tomato broth had a pronounced anise flavor and was much too salty.
The bill can add up fast here. Order too many $8-$9 tapas, and dinner for two, even with a moderately priced bottle of wine, can all too easily escalate into three figures. This is steep for a neighborhood bistro where on busy nights you may encounter uninformed staff and haphazard service. But Gaudi has a quirky charm that works to its advantage, and the Lunas are smart, experienced restaurateurs who should find their equilibrium in time.
Providence Cicero: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(The Associated Press) Fuel rules get support A Consumer Federation of America survey conducted in April found that a large majority of Americans R...
Post a comment