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Friday, February 10, 2012

Lola's on Harrison: A hidden Hollywood gem

I cannot hear the name Lola with thinking of Barry Manilow's Copacabana song.  "Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl..."
     Despite the title, I can assure you, Lola's on Harrison is definitely no showgirl.  Part of the recent revival of downtown Hollywood, Lola's on Harrison offers an intimate and classy atmosphere complete with it's own cafe-style charm.  On nice nights you can choose to sit outside and people watch, although inside has it's own cozy appeal.  Upon entering, you'll find a long bar lined with colorful bottles, and a lone television that provides the opportunity sneak a peak at the latest game's score.  Along the mirrored back wall there is a booth stretching the length of the room, with white tables placed along it, with more tables scattered throughout the room for additional seating.  It's the kind of place that is perfect for a date, but also a wonderful spot to bring friends or family.
  The menu itself changes seasonally, so while you might be able to find a couple of their classic dishes throughout the year, there is also usually a few new things to try as well.  The drink menu is no different, and on chilly (well about as cold as it can get for South Florida) nights, their hard cider is the perfect libation to warm you from the inside out.  Just enough spices and apple flavor to completely mask the taste of the alcohol!  If beer and wine is more your thing, they actually have a decent variety of offerings.  On my most recent visit I enjoyed a nice Saison Dupont and an Echte Kirekenbier.  The Saison is pretty light (a classic Belgian Farmhouse Ale that tastes kind of citrusy with a very clean finish) and pairs well with almost everything you might order, whilst the Kirekenbier (which tastes of dark cherries and vanilla) may be a bit more of an acquired taste since it is a sour.  Personally, I love that in a beer, but the pucker-worthy factor may not be for everyone.
     Throughout multiple visits I've been consistently impressed with the quality of the ingredients and execution of the dishes, all of which are exceptional versions of American comfort food. It's hard for me to pick any one favorite as I'm often in the mood for different things, but I've yet to be disappointed. As soon as you are seated they'll bring you a little cup of butter and a slice of their thick and chewy bread.  Amongst the appetizers, the crab cake is a gratifying starter, with the tangy carrot-mango slaw adding a nice punch, and the creamy tartar sauce offsetting the sweetness of the fresh crabmeat.  The baked brie is also delicious, a flaky phyllo pillow encasing gooey, melted brie, topped with a sprinkling of slivered almonds.   It comes with a black mission fig chutney and a mango-apricot glaze that lends the dish a bit of sweetness, and crisp flatbread toast squares to create your own little sandwich.  It's the kind of dish you've seen everywhere and still can't resist because no matter how many variations you've had, it's consistently tasty.  Let's face it, it's pretty hard to mess up a baked brie!
"John Alan Walker" Crab Cake (left) and the Baked Brie (right)
    As for some other alternatives, the Salmon Tartar with a sesame-lemon vinaigrette is served with crispy wontons, red tobiko caviar, black sesame seeds and jalapeno chile oil.  While I am not usually a salmon fan,  it was so fresh and paper thin, that there wasn't the typical fishy smell or taste that usually deters me.  Fantastic!  Also, the combination of flavors and textures is really spot on.  Next up, I highly recommend the mussels!  Yes, you may have had mussels before, but their broth is absolutely divine!   Served in a native lager with garlic, fresh dill, a hint of whole grain mustard and polish beef kielbasa, it is stellar. The last time I went, my dining partner and I were so enamored that we requested multiple rounds of bread to sop up every drop of the delectable goodness.  We almost ordered a second round (except that more food was already on its way).
Goat Cheese Salad
     If you're one of those girls that is on a first date and wants to pretend to be a dainty eater, or just because it's too good to resist, I'd suggest the warm goat cheese salad.  Usually I just can't pass up the chance to have a least a little bit, so we get one to share for the table.  A huge ball of melt-in-your-mouth and coat-your-tongue, creamy goat cheese takes center stage; rolled in tiny pieces of toasted pistachios, it perches like a King atop his throne of leafy arugula drizzled with  sweet raspberry-shallot vinaigrette dressing.  Gazing on adoringly from the sidelines are a smattering of whole, toasted pistachios, raspberries, and endives.  It probably loses a lot of it's nutritional merit with all of its additions, but I like to pretend that the large showing of greens somehow compensates for the rest (just like the rule that calories don't count if you're celebrating a special occasion).
Coca Cola Glazed Ribs
     Then come the entrees, among which, it's apparent they do play favorites.  Come rain, shine, and change of the menu, the Coca-Cola glazed ribs are continually present.  This ends up being incredibly fortunate as it is the dish you'd be disappointed if it wasn't there.  It is the fare that will unleash your inner caveman, with incredibly moist meat that falls right off the giant bone.  However, it is a bit like meat candy with the glaze, and if you are sweet-sensitive, I suggest going another way.  If you don't mind that sugary flavor though it is absolute perfection.  Also, it's served with a couple of giant onion rings that the buttermilk batter never seems to stay on, and a glopulent (the only word I feel adequately describes the dish is one I made up to describe a mesh of opulent and gloppy) serving of creamed corn.  Don't even think about your cholesterol and just say thank you because the saltiness of those sides is a nice break from the sweetness of those decadent ribs.
Veal "Oscar"
     Another tasty choice is the Milk Fed Veal "Oscar."  An ample portion of egg battered, bone-in, veal rib chop, it is served with garlic charred asparagus, piled with fresh crab meat, and then doused with a creamy herbed hollandaise.  Or if you're in the mood for something a little lighter, I'd highly suggest selecting the branzino with lentils.  The fish is flaky and the lentils that accompany it are absolutely phenomenal.  I'm not quite sure what they put in the sauce, other than tasting like a relative of a chimichurri, but it is out of this world!

     I have to say the only gripe I really have is the dessert menu is never quite so tantalizing that I can't resist.  In my opinion, the savory foods really shine here, and I'd much rather fill up on those than to save room.  That being said, if you do want a bit more you can typically find a standard cheesecake, chocolate cake or the like.  On my most recent visit, my dining partner did seem to really enjoy the chocolate lava cake with espresso chip ice cream.
    I'd highly recommend venturing over to Lola's when you've got the chance.  You're sure to have a great experience!
       2032 Harrison Street  Hollywood, FL 33020
(954) 927-985
Lola's on Harrison on Urbanspoon

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