My excitement to go to LAVA started when I first heard the murmurs of a tapas restaurant occupying the old Wok N’ Roll building. Tapas, Spanish small plates, is a tasty cuisine of bold flavors- spicy, sweet, and savory. And the best part about tapas? The accompanying cocktails. Caipirinhas, sangria, mojitos- all concoctions muddling fruit with liquor, wine, sugar or all of the above and can be found on your basic tapas menu.
So my trip to Lava was what I would consider the equivalent of what I like to call a “fondant date”. For those of you familiar with fondant icing on wedding cakes and/or bad dates, you’ll know what I mean. Looks good, smells good, but tastes terrible unless you peel back a few layers to get to the good stuff. In essence, I think I’m going to need a few dates with Lava before I get to the good stuff.La
We were seated in the main room of brightly colored décor and artichoke ceiling pendants, right next to the fish tank. As people poured in, we ordered a mango caipirinha, and a craft beer from a local brewery, Peace Tree. Our waitress recommended the Blueberry Lemon Drop, and on second thought, I may have missed out on the vodka-soaked blueberries.
We started with two appetizers- the BBQ Beef Lettuce Wraps and Truffle Mac and Cheese. Both items sounded like they would be promising, and had the opportunity to do something a little different. When the lettuce wraps arrived, I was surprised to see a full slab of barbequed beef but it delivered just what it promised. Sans embellishments, sauces or accoutrements of any kind, it was bbq beef and lettuce topped with a few scallions. Simple, yet good. The Truffle Mac and Cheese with a toasted crumb topping had just the right amount of truffle. Truffle is the most delicious of additions to food that is already great, but adding it to something similar to that of Velveeta macaroni and cheese doesn’t quite make it right. I shed a tear for the wasted truffle, and wished on a star that they would alter the cheese sauce, imaging it would raise this tapa to one of the best on the menu.
For our entrees, we went in yet, two more directions. Trying to run the gamut of dietary segments- it was time to opt for chicken and fish. We ordered the Paella Valencia and Coconut Curry Chicken. Paella, which tends to be cooked to serve multiple people at once, arrived as a personal portion of beautiful colors. Four types of seafood and some vegetables accompanied the lightly broth-ed rice that left you with the slightest hint of heat. The coconut curry chicken showed up as a heap of noodles, packed with chicken, red peppers, peas and carrots. Expecting to see more of the soupy coconut curry consistency that you see in Asian cuisine, I appreciated Lava’s insistence of doing food differently but still missed the broth, the heat, the spice, and the seasonings.
As we finished our dinner, the waitress dropped off dessert menus with the encouragement that they staff an in-house pastry chef. Sadly, we were too full from our meal to venture into the promised land of a Fusion Float Trip or Chocolate-Raspberry Lava Cake. With the other entrée selections pricing around $20 arriving at the table near us, I was wishing I had put all of my eggs in one basket. Maybe my visit would’ve been more successful with a bold choice of one $26 entrée and saving room for dessert. What I knew when I left was that I would be back for more, because like a bad “fondant date”, I’m not ready to give up hope. I see promise there, you just have to peel back the layers.
My last note as I headed out the entryway of colorful frames and painted décor was that if I’m eating at a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant, I don’t want to hear the beautiful voice of Norah Jones or lyrics of Lauryn Hill, at least give me a salsa beat that may have me dancing in my chair and I might just order one more sangria.