LK Dining Lounge turns to Latin-influenced food

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

The room is saturated in modern Latin sound and the dark wood blinds lend a ‘plantation look’

Mia Stainsby

LK Dining Lounge chef Travis Will-iams serves up grilled beef tenderloin with Yukon gold potatoes and asparagus at the Yaletown eatery. His food features a nice balance of flavours while also being sophisticated and light. Photograph by : Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun

It’s nearing the end of the week. I’m tired and grumpy and fixating on things that annoy me.

For one thing, why don’t servers give prices for the daily specials? And for another, why do large parties of women shriek with laugher, oblivious to neighbouring tables? Okay, I confess. I’m guilty of that, too.

And three, where exactly are the next generation of Latin and Vietnamese restaurants? The ones with a little more refinement and creativity. I’ve been waiting for them to be the next big thing.

We have Baru (on Alma) which is cool and unique. And what do you know — I just discovered LK Dining Lounge in Yaletown has made a U-turn to Latin-influenced food without much fanfare or clues to the nature of cuisine in their name.

(No, I wasn’t told how much the specials cost at LK and no, the tables of women around us didn’t turn into hyenas.)

As far as I knew, LK stood for Lily Kate, which was its birth name two years ago, after owner Britta Joyce’s two grandmothers. Once you walk through the doors, the clues hit. The room is saturated in modern Latin sound and the dark wood blinds lend a “plantation” look. One wall is a giant screen for projected images, which might be of a Mexican beach scene or tropical rainforest. The original modern open space has been divided into two dining areas by means of a flimsy wooden blind which unfortunately narrows the entrance to an uncomfortable runway.

Travis Williams, the chef, comes straight from Adessa, a lovely Italian bistro in Kitsilano which didn’t survive. At LK, Williams’s food has a similar quality as it did at Adessa — a nice balance of flavours and a light touch, even with the spicy, assertive nature of Latin food. Williams has also worked at Bluewater Grill (seafood) and Cincin Ristorante (Italian) and generally, his food is sophisticated, nicely balanced and light.

His seafood prowess showed in the cilantro-lime sablefish with citrus coconut milk reduction but was hit and miss in the paella Marisco with achiote risotto and lemon aioli. Prawns were overcooked and mussels were undercooked but scallops were perfectly done. Crab and plaintain fritters weren’t memorable but came with a tasty red pepper emulsion.

His meat-centred dishes were uniformly delicious — from the mini jerk-spiced sirloin burgers to the cumin cinnamon braised lamb shank (although I hoped to taste the cinnamon, but didn’t); adobo chicken tinga, a pizza-like dish with corn, ham chicharrones (crispy pork rind), tomato salsa was delicious but at $14 for a smallish portion, was over-priced. Dishes come in three sizes — bite-sized tapas ($5 to $7), sharing “tabla ($10 to $14) and entrees ($24 to $29).

The menu warns of an 18-per-cent gratuity for parties of six or more but I think the customer should decide on anything more than 15 per cent. What if service is incompetent? Although that’s not likely to be the case — I found the service exceptionally friendly and accommodating.

Weekly events include wine at retail cost plus $5 and a $55 tasting menu on Wednesday (call ahead); 4 tapas and two cocktails for $20 on Thursdays. Cocktails are Latin-leaning and wines include a good representation from Latin countries.

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Overall: 3 1/2

Food: 3 1/2

Ambience: 3 1/2

Service: 4

Price $$

1265 Hamilton St., 604-687-5885. Open for dinner, Tuesday to Saturday, from 5 p.m.

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone. Restaurants are rated out of five stars.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007


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