Luck of the Draw

New energy turns an old space's frown upside down.

When is a club not just a club? When it packs in an ungodly number of PYT's every weekend for sweaty, hormone-soaked bass shakedowns, and still sets aside a night each week for live jazz (Mondays), tango dancing (Tuesdays), and Latin rhythms en espa�/I> (Thursdays). When it offers Daytona Beach-style drinks like the Electric Watermelon and Absolut Paradise yet also features the best braised calamari this side of the Sound. And finally, when it turns a small, perpetually doomed restaurant space just west of KeyArena into a bustling, capital-D Destination. True, Mr. Lucky cannot be all things to all people; this isn't really the place for rock shows or vegetarians, and it might be more useful for meeting Mr. Right Now than for meeting Mr. Right. But the vibe is strong, the food surprisingly excellent, and the bartenders generous. Arrive around 8 p.m.-ish early in the week, and you'll get a nice head start on your meal as Reggie Goings and the Jazz Suspenders warm up their instruments or a couple glides quietly across the small dance floor, practicing their tango steps before the crowd arrives. Begin with the simple, nicely tart house salad with sherry vinaigrette ($6) or the more robust Caesar ($5, more for chicken or prawns), which is pretty much just what a Caesar should be, plus a little excess dressing. The crab cakes with mixed greens and citrus beurre blanc ($12) are as well made as any you'll get at the nicer seafood kitchens, generously long on crab and easy on the breadcrumb filler. A lighter alternative, the fresh avocado and grilled shrimp ($9), is seasoned gently with lime and cilantro, and we still can't shut up about the braised calamari with shiitake mushrooms, kalamata olives, and tomato in a light, brothy garlic sauce ($8) flavorful, tender, and almost entr饭sized when augmented with a few hunks of the hearty house potato bread. The mussels are also a strong bang for the buck: a huge, gleaming pile of fresh specimens in a traditional shallot, garlic, and white wine cream sauce rings in under $10. ENTRɅS DON'T PRETEND to make huge culinary leaps; instead, the chef seems happy enough to prepare traditional bistro items heartily and well, with lots of wonderfully high-fat butter and olive oil. The grilled ahi tuna with mango and thyme butter ($16) comes medium rare, not a minute overcooked, with seasoned rice and grilled vegetables, and the light glaze is graciously complementary. The same goes for a grilled salmon fillet with dill, sun-dried tomato, and jalape�$15)not particularly adventurous, but popular for a reason. The 7-oz. beef tenderloin ($20) and chicken breast ($13) both require a greater love of sweet demi-glaces than this particular eater possesses, but both are solidly executed, though the same can't quite be said for the overly busy herb-and-lime-stuffed halibut chips with spicy tartar sauce ($12). A simpler 8-oz. New York steak with shallot lemon butter, leek mashed potatoes, and grilled vegetables ($17) is just as fulfilling as it sounds. Beef lovers without beefy wallets, however, should skip the fashionably late dining and head straight for happy hour, which offers an 8-oz. steak with fries, saut饤 shallots, and mushrooms for a ridiculously low $8. Also on offer between 4 and 7 p.m.: a half-pound of fresh, tender peel-and-eat shrimp with mango cocktail sauce for $5; fried calamari (also $5, and not as transcendent as the braised, but we'll still take it); the very same crab cakes for half the dinner price; plus an ever-trusty daily quesadilla ($5)and half-pound burger and fries ($6). Double martinis, cosmos, kamikazes, and micro drafts also ring in at parking- meter prices: $3 if your timing is right. Sugar quotas can be reached just with the drink specials; try a Citron Snap (Absolut Citron, Sour Apple Pucker, 7-Up, and a dash of sour mix; $6) or a strawberry margarita with Cuervo Gold (also $6) if you're up for it. If it's real dessert you want, though, there are several solid options, including rotating specials. The cr譥 brl饠and chocolate cheesecake are perfectly nice, yet we end up going for the raspberry sorbet every timea dense, unbelievably tart-sweet cup of pure cold heaven. Delicious, and light enough, of course, to get you up on the dance floor for just one more tango, maybe two. . . . lgreenblatt@seattleweekly.com

 
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