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100 King bistro report: Lebanese Taverna's upscale Old Town offspring


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100 King bistro report: Lebanese Taverna's upscale Old Town offspring

AC | Feb 17, 2006 12:40 AM

The main problem with 100 King’s small plates bistro is that Lebanese Taverna already performs at such a high level of execution that it’s well nigh impossible for 100 King to outperform the very restaurants whose success made its existence possible. The chef is actually French, and has incorporated a number of non-Lebanese dishes into the mix, but none of them seemed sufficiently interesting or complementary to the traditional mezze to be worth ordering. In fact, that may have been our mistake, as we only ordered the Lebanese dishes eschewing nearly all of the menu’s Western influences, so items like the duck confit may better showcase his passions.

Our goat cheese pizza featured smooth and creamy rounds of goat cheese, greek olives, tomato slices, and zaatar. Unfortunately, I’m used to pita being absolutely encrusted with zaatar, and was hardly satisfied by the coy sprinkling that the kitchen deemed sufficient.

The baba ghanouj was surprisingly thick and garlicky, and though enjoyable, had none of the smokiness that separates the great renditions of this dish from the merely pedestrian.

The Moroccan merguez sausage was wonderfully spicy, two links nestled among a delicate puree of mashed potatoes and a pool of paprika sauce, but the casings lacked any sort of snap. I demand snappy casings.

And the fattoush salad was just an absolutely bizzare interpretation of this classic, so much so that it was just about impossable to incorporate more than one of any of its several elements into a single forkload. The cucumber was clearly prepared with a melon baller, which made for a unique presentation, but repeatedly thwarted our efforts to spear them with our forks. And the crispy, herbed pita that is usually crumbled over the salad, instead appeared as dainty herbed pita breadsticks. Instead of “fattoush,” they had me thinking “Hospitaliano!”

But the true superstar of this meal turned out to be the sauteed shrimp arak. The shrimp were succulent and perfectly infused with the sweet and bitter anise of the arak, and the tartness of the lemon juice. The sauce was so amazing that we greedily sopped it up with our pita.

Nearly all of the desserts are French, and surprisingly, the apple galette trumped the cherry clafoutis. While the galette’s pastry was crisp and buttery, the ball of apple cider sorbet that crowned it had us all flipping out, and we rarely flip out over sorbet. The cherry clafoutis was an underachiever, a thin and boring baked custard whose tart cherries were unable to overcome its bland taste and wan presentation.

A slightly fuller report can be viewed at the link below.


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