Hazel

After my last Friday Fun Night pick at Kith and Kin turned out to be a disaster, everyone was leery of my restaurant selection. “Oh yeah? Small plates? That’s what you said last time!” they whined. I had a lot riding on Hazel. Me picking this restaurant was basically Rocky training to fight Ivan Drago.

From the outside, Hazel had a patio with hipster decorations and fire pits, so my in-laws were already on board. They are veritable suckers for fire pits. Who isn’t, really? I had scored my first point!

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Our server pointed us to the menu and informed us that Hazel serves “medium plates.” I don’t really know what that means, but I figured that if the servings were larger than a single soup spoon, I’d be winning. She also recommended 2-3 plates per person. She walked away to leave us alone with the menu and we all eyed each other suspiciously. 2-3 plates per person? That did not sound like medium plates to me. We made our selections and ended up picking five dishes for our table of four. “We also recommend ordering everything at once so that we can pace the meal for you.” Oooooooooof course you do. The server once again tried to push us into ordering more food. “Oh no, we’re just not that hungry,” I lied. I hate when I have to lie just to get food. That I pay money for. (In this case, “I” means “my in-laws,” but the point still stands!)

The smoked onion ciabatta came out first. This was the turning point of the meal. This was me–Rocky–hustling up the steps. This was when the slow guitar riff got loud and the percussion entered with DUN! DUN DUN DUN! DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN! (That was “Eye of the Tiger” in case that wasn’t clear). And I have to say, it was beyond climactic! The sweet-savory combination of the onion with the honey on top of plushy bread and creamy ricotta. It was more than I expected.

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Next we were served the sunchokes with kale. Even my kale-hating spouse loved this with its smoky-spicy-tangy dressing and home fry-style sunchokes. Then–and this is the really important part–they came and replaced our plates and silverware! I felt just like a princess!

The final course contained the barbecued carrots, the sweet ribs, and gnocchi bokki, which came at the recommendation of our server (what a surprise…) The carrots were pleasantly smoky and played with lots of textures and cuts, the perfectly fluffy gnocchi were served in a spicy sauce that was sweet with hoisin, and the pork was melty. Finally, the ribs tasted of honey and cilantro, and were crispy on the outside while still falling off the bone.

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And best of all, the plates were actually medium-sized as advertised! Most of the dishes had a delicious Asian flare, even if I wouldn’t call this place an Asian restaurant.

We were so impressed that we got dessert–the peanut butter cake, which came in a delicious chocolate mousse with crunchy crumbles. You know it was a good meal when a cake made of peanut butter is actually the low point.

And that is how I–Rocky–defeated Ivan Drago–the abstract fear of small-plates restaurants–in a unanimous decision, by choosing Hazel.

Price: $45 per person.

Bottom line: RUN, don’t walk, up those steps like the champion fighter you are and get yourself to Hazel immediately.

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