The Long Good Bye to Lola

Uygur later tells me he's beginning to feel a bit nostalgic. In our phone conversation last week, he recalls a Restaurant Week several years ago, when the place was swamped with first-timers. It was a Friday or Saturday and this guy, before even looking at the menu asked his waitress, "What kind of enchiladas do you have?" When the waitress said that they didn't serve enchiladas at Lola, the man slammed his hands on the table and blurted out, "What kind of a Mexican restaurant is this?!" and then stormed out.

"I look back on the funny moments," the chef says. It keeps him from getting too emotional about the closing. It's a difficult place to get over. He was there when the tasting room—one of the first in Dallas—opened. His work gave him entrée to the James Beard House in New York, where he was invited to cook, and it put him in the forefront of the local slow foods movement. He was even chosen to represent the city at an international slow foods conference in Italy. "We've gotten a number of calls from people," he continues, "saying 'I got engaged there' or 'I remember this dish'—it's really nice."

I'll tell you what I'll remember after Lola is gone: An evening in the tasting room years ago when multiple courses of Uygur's small plate creations silenced a table of eight normally boisterous friends. We had already started on drinks and could easily have out-vocaled the sphincter women's table. In fact, we were probably responsible for driving at least one quiet couple away—and then the food began arriving...

Fine dining at Lola includes house-cured meats and—gulp—pork rind.
Sara Kerens
Fine dining at Lola includes house-cured meats and—gulp—pork rind.

The layering of flavors, the subtle depth, the savory punch hidden in small bites—we all fell into a contemplative silence, broken only by the occasional murmur of "wow."

Clientele aside, Lola was always the shy, quiet restaurant. While others boasted in the media, Lola began sourcing locally, changing menus seasonally, dedicating a room to tasting plates and perfecting the art of pairing wine. Then it just sat back and watched Dallas come through its doors. Apart from the cooking, it's that lack of attitude I'll miss the most.

There are two months left to experience all this before an era comes to its end—to be wowed or perhaps grow some ear hair.

I'm willing to bet owner Van Roberts still has another restaurant in him. "I think Van has plans for all that wine," Uygur says of Lola's cellar.

As for the chef—well, fortunately for us, he is already on the hunt for a kitchen to call his own, something intimate, Italian and likely very good. But I'll miss Lola just the same.

Lola, The Restaurant 2917 Fairmount St., 214-855-0700. Open 5:30-11 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. $$$$
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