Sometimes a guy (or gal) just wants to go eat good food in a warm and welcoming place without "a production."
And that is precisely why Lovely Hula Hands has been a roaring success since opening in 2003. Its former digs, a funky pink house in the shadow of the Fremont Bridge, were warm and inviting and offered up comfort food blended with enough international tinges to keep it interesting.
When LHH owners/sisters Sarah and Jane Minnick let it be known that they intended to move, followers tensed a little. Happily, the layout of the new North Mississippi LHH is exactly the same: a handful of tables downstairs, a handful upstairs and the same DYI shabby-chic style.
The menu has changed a bit with new chef Troy MacLarty (formerly of Simpatica) at the helm. A friend of mine pined for the Asian- and Latin-influenced dishes of the former LHH. Being an Italophile, I scarcely noticed. I was too taken with Italian offerings like arancini, deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with cheese ($7), and a 100-percent radicchio salad ($7). Alas, that visit they were out of arancini, but the bitter radicchio salad�balanced by buttery pear vinaigrette and cubes of creamy Brie�held my interest. A grilled artichoke starter ($8) had similar poise�smoky, buttery artichoke heart paired with creamy white beans and smoky red-pepper romesco sauce.
For those truly set against any sort of "production," there's the burger�a 1/3-pound monster ($8) comes to the table with a steak knife sticking straight out of it, as if to punctuate the carnal appeal of its beefy goodness. Nueske's-brand boutique bacon ($1.50) adds to the finger licking.
Or gorge on a brawny rib-eye steak ($24) generously covered (to a fault) with spicy patatas bravas (like pub fries doused in spicy, smoky ketchup), or the liberally salted pork chop with herb polenta ($18), just substantial enough to leave you one bite shy of uncomfortably full.
A recent offering of petrale sole ($18) was treated with the classic Venetian en saor preparation�sweet-and-sour saut�ed onions, currants and pine nuts. It scratched that winter light-but-satisfying itch. As did a well-thought-out entree of a fluffy little chanterelle souffl� ($15) perched on top of delicious green vegetables.
With all beauty, one always finds freckles. There's often a wait on an uncomfortable bench in the drafty hallway, the wine list is a bit lacking (the cocktails are not), and desserts are touch-and-go�ch�vre cheesecake ($7) with velvety pinot-poached pears: touch; gritty chocolate panna cotta ($7) with cloying amarena cherries: go.
Despite its little flaws, there's some things that bring me back: the sweet interior (and waitstaff), good food and the lack of a "production" to get a satisfying meal. And that is why we go out to eat, isn't it?