Friday, January 26, 2007

Dining critic candidate No. 39

One hemisphere out of two ain’t bad

Plate World Cuisine impresses—in the Western World, anyway

Several stars or thumbs or something


What is “world cuisine”? Can a restaurant have an accurate sampling of food from around the entire world? A restaurant in Colorado? Springs?

I ask myself these questions as I drive two and a half hours to the Springs from my home in Fort Collins. I don’t know what to expect—flags? Will Plate World Cuisine look like something of a model United Nations? Will higher-end items be on a part of the menu called “The Security Council”?

Then, after two hours hating my CD collection and wishing I had the radio thing for my iPod, I find it. Plate is nestled between a Conoco station, something the sign calls “Diet Center”, a massage clinic, and a $1.89 cleaners. And a coffee shop. And other things.

I enter. No flags.

I am greeted by Walter Iser (know Walter’s Bistro? Yeah, same guy), Plate’s very hands-on owner, who, seeing I am alone, suggests I sit at the bar.
Already parched from the drive, and made even thirstier by fascinating waterfall-type things cascading behind the bar, I am in need of strong drink. I order a Bombay Sapphire martini ($8)—up, with bleu-cheese-stuffed olives.

The martini is good, but what I’m noticing is the olives. Bleu-cheese-stuffed olives are somewhat of an obsession for me, and these ones are to be commended. They literally overflow with what Tony the bartender informs me is Roquefort.

The bar is relaxing. Blues and greens span the walls. The bar itself accommodates about twenty, I’d assume, and there are three tables behind me, and a large nook-type area to my left with bench-couch things and lots of cushions.

It’s a good night, business-wise, for Plate. That’s saying something, since it’s 7pm on a Wednesday. The crowd is an interesting mix of people who my mind is only describing right now as “power brokers” in tailored suits and pastel-colored power ties, and people far less dressed, if you will—I’m not exactly dressed to impress in an Old Navy button-up and some Adidas, and I don’t feel out of place. The guy down the bar is wearing a t-shirt.

Speaking of the guy in the t-shirt, he is eating—something that looks amazing—which reminds me that I, too, am here to eat food. At the bar I get two menus—the bar menu and the whole restaurant menu. The bar menu is appetizers—some of which you can’t get on the restaurant menu, like the Bistro Steak ($10) and the Kobe Cheeseburger ($10) (I don’t try either of these, and that decision still haunts my dreams).

The restaurant menu, while it has no flags, is like a spreadsheet. The columns are the food categories (New American, French, Spanish/Latin American, Japanese, and Italian), while the rows are courses (appetizers, salads, entrees).

I decide, for my first taste, on the Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops ($11). Served in a shallow puddle of lobster and corn succotash (not unlike corn chowders I’ve had), the scallops are done perfectly—crunchy crust on the outside and still a little raw in the middle—something not that easy to do. Garnished with what I think is watercress, the dish is stunning in appearance.

The corn flavor and the chunks of lobster in the succotash mesh perfectly with the scallops—a delicate balance which leaves the seafood at the forefront of all flavors present.

In the interest of trying more things for less money—money I don’t technically have (I really should not be given a credit card)—I decide on another appetizer. Thinking Plate describes itself as “World Cuisine” deliberately, I decide to try Japanese: the Pork and Lobster Gyoza ($8).

And I’m afraid my complaint is here. The gyoza doesn’t really knock me off my stool the way the scallops did. The dumplings aren’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination. I eat them all. But they also aren’t extraordinary. They are under-stuffed, and I can’t seem to find any of the advertised lobster.

If it wasn’t for the outstanding quality of the scallops before them, I might not be thinking unspectacular thoughts about the dumplings at all. But that’s what makes me think that perhaps the “World Cuisine” concept is a little bit far-fetched.

But again, I don’t hate the dumplings; I don’t want them to die. I’m not writing Plate off. We’ll get through this.

To finish my evening with Tony the bartender, who’s providing me excellent service and more water then the glass is only half-done, I order the Caesar Salad ($6), which is, to me, the ultimate litmus test for any restaurant. No one ever wins, because I’m comparing them all with my mother’s—it’s more of a question of how close they come.

Plate’s version is sizely, and beautiful. It is garnished with two amazingly high-quality anchovy filets (I’ve never found anchovies with silver sides in stores) making an “x” on the top. The dressing is good, better than most restaurants’ attempts at Caesar. The croutons are not impressive—they are little, and don’t do much for the salad.

This is hardly a comprehensive critique of Plate; I didn’t even try an entrée. But I can say that I know Plate does things well, like the scallops and the Caesar. I saw other diners eating things I wanted to steal from them.

If I lived in the Springs, I would eat at Plate as much as my income would allow. I guess my advice, though, would be to stick with the “Western World,” as opposed to the Japanese cuisine on the menu.

To sum up, though, Gazette readers can know that Plate is worth checking out—I was more than pleased with my experience, four-and-a-half-hour round trip and all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your review. You don't sound pretentious nor ignorant of food and its quality. Your writing is original and fun to read. Thanks for sharing!

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this article shinned in comparison to the others. The author has a voice that will speak to a broad audience as the article was light and fun to read. The author knows food, but knows humor even more. If there is one thing the Gazette needs it is to induce more smiles! I would love to see more of this person.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny yes! I found it funny how many times he used 'I' (like a third grader) and all the parenthesis (what's up with that?).

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well if I can't be the new critic then I would like to read more of this guy, it was more like reading a foodie novel which is my favorite past time outside of eating. Living in Fort Collins seems a problem for future reviews, shouldn't restaurants be visited more than once before they are reviewed in the paper? Where would you find the time not to mention the gas money?

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this review was very fun to read. I liked this author's style of writing and thought they did a great job of capturing the attention of the reader while also reviewing the resturaunt. Loved it!

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy is great. He is obviously very knowledgeable about food, but he is so incredibly clever when writing about it. Very funny; very entertaining; very informative.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there are two things I love, they're food and humor and this review combines both. This critic understands what goes into the preparation of fine food. In spite of his witty comments, he appears to be serious about food reviewing, an important quality for a food critic as so many people count on reviews before making their choice of a new eating experience.

4:26 PM  

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