Monday, January 23, 2012

Lula Cafe

Years ago, when I lived in the suburbs, I heard about this cool little place in Logan Square called Lula Cafe. It sounded cool and it went on my list of places that I wanted to go but I never actually made it there until I actually moved into the neighborhood. It immediately became one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants. They have a frequently changing seasonal menu and serve both brunch and dinner. In addition, they "dress up" for Halloween, an event that is enormously popular. While they do fine dining very well, they also have a very good cafe menu which is less expensive. You can actually order from both menus during the same meal. They recently expanded and I haven't been there in a while so I decided to go for dinner. The restaurant used to be divided into two small rooms a long narrow bar that had a few tables, and a cafe that is entered by walking through the bar. The bar area has expanded, basically doubling in size adding a bigger bar and more tables. The design of the room is both kind of classic and worn and the background music was a mixture of classic jazz and avant garde. I hadn't been to Lula since they had opened up the new space and seeing it, i have to say that I really liked it.

The appetizer I started with would surprise no one. I had the duck breast. It was very rare and served with a savory tarte tatin (an upside down apple tart), Japanese Turnips, Mustard Streusel, Wild Arugula, and Hazelnut Jus. While the duck was good, I think I would have preferred it cooked a little more. While everything went well with the duck, I was actually surprised how well the mustard streusel and the tarte tatin went together. It was a pretty good start.I was not completely certain what I was getting when I ordered my entree. I ordered Strozzapreti with Venison Ragu, Matsutake Mushrooms, Fennel Cured Olives, Pecorino Romano Cheese, and New Potatoes. I knew that what it had in it sounded really good but I was not sure what Strozzapreti was. It turns out that it's a flat pasta that is hand rolled originating from Tuscany and the name literally means priest choker (possibly due to a fat priest choking on it or hope of a priests tenant farmers that he would choke on the past that was partially used for the rent). In any case it was all very good. The pasta had a nice chewy texture and the flavor of the dish was very robust with all of the ingredients working well together.The dessert that I ordered was very creative and actually kind of surprising. It started with some sticky gingerbread and had a hazelnut tuile, a thin curved cookie that is sort of shaped like a roof tile. It was also served with a key lime ice cream and sauce. While I could see before I tried it that hazelnut and gingerbread would go together well, while I like lime and gingerbread, I wasn't sure how they would work together. The hazelnut actually brought them together.

Overall, my meal was very good and I am very glad that I live close to Lula so it's easy to visit. I will certainly be back again soon.

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