Sometimes you just want a proper lunch. Nothing too fussy or elegant, but something for one of those days when making it until noon without going back to bed is reason enough to treat yourself to something special. Something, preferably, that doesn’t come on a bun. Or with a side of french fries.
That’s why it was so nice to see fewer sandwiches on Allium’s lunch menu last week and more inspiring ideas for the midday meal. To add even more variety to our day, my friend and I decided to share three plates.
I was told on my way out the door that the lunch menu will be changing up for the month of March sometime this week, so these particular dishes might not be available.
I don’t encounter snails very often, so when I spotted crispy fried snails, I couldn’t not order them. Our server told us they were chicken fried — not sure if that means fried in chicken fat or just treated like fried chicken. Either way, these melt-in-the-mouth baby beignets were divine (banish any thoughts of rubbery or briny specimens) — especially when used to mop up the sticky honey-garlic sauce at the bottom of the bowl reminiscent of the sweet dip for springrolls. Together with the swath of Sriracha mayo painted around the wide rim of the bowl and confetti of baby cilantro leaves, there was a cleverly unexpected Thai twist to the dish.
If ever there was any doubt that mushrooms can be a satisfyingly meaty and umami as a great beefy burger, the decadent dish of Le Coprin mushrooms swimming in cream and Parmesan, all smothering a slab of garlic toast, will make anyone a believer.
I loved the super-lemony dressing on the big leaves of lettuce, topped with almonds, cranberries, and fingerling potatoes served alongside the toast, although it did nothing to improve the aesthetics of the plate; a real Ugly Duckling.
Looks matter little when it all tastes so good, but it was delightful to see the seared scallops and beets — smoked and pickled — were arranged into a little work of art: a real looker.
Further contrast came in the form of salted cucumber, broken pecans, and a few dabs of grilled scallion relish. I cannot recall eating a sweeter, more succulent carmelized scallop.
As for offering a half banoffee pie at lunchtime — brilliant! Perhaps the best $4 you’ll ever spend.
Hours: Lunch served 11: 30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Tuesday to Friday.
Cost: Crispy fried snails honey-garlic/spicy mayo ($9); mushrooms on toast with salad ($14); seared scallops, smoked beets/pickled beets/salted cucumber/ranch dressing/pecans/ grilled scallion relish ($16)
Allium, 87 Holland Ave., 613-792-1313.