Avila is like a kid with too much Play- Doh. Play- Doh is so fucking exciting when you're a kid. You look at the label on the Play-Doh and it shows all the cool multicolored things you can make. But when you mix it all together, it isn't cool. It just turns brown. That's how Avila is: they mix too many flavors together and it just turns brown.
Delicious mashed potatoes are visible on the bottom right of the plate. Not pictured: the crippling depression you suffer when you realize you'v eaten them all.
The bibb salad was, at $6, a pretty good deal for an enormous mound of greens approximately the size a man's ballsack would swell to if stepped on by a rampaging elephant. Supple leaves of bibb lettuce were polka-dotted with razor-thin discs of radish and threaded through with green wisps of chive sprouts. The best thing about this salad was that they gave you SHITLOADS of croutons. When we were finished with the lettuce, there still remained a gigantic pile of crispy buttery wafers of Avila's housemade challah bread. There was so much challah in that salad, that if you were a Jew, you'd be so happy you'd do whatever it is Jews do when they're happy: eat Chinese food and take in a matinee of "Fiddler on the Roof" or whatever.
The poached asparagus were okay. For $19 you got four huge spears of steamed asparagus--overcooked, but still tasting as bright as a Korean spelling bee champion. Accompanying the asparagus was a tiny red pepper, stuffed with mashed potatoes and herbs, and a duck egg that had been breaded and deep fried. The stuffed pepper was fine, but the duck egg yolk wasn't runny, which was a disappointment because I wanted to dip my asparagus into that yolk, just like I dip my asparagus into your mom's yolk.There was ALSO a roasted artichoke heart, AND a couple grilled ramps. I especially liked the ramps a lot, but my main objection to this dish was that there was too much different shit going on, like a totally bitchin' car drawn by an 8- year- old, with a rear spoiler and spiked tires and a machine gun on the roof AND flames painted on the side, AND it's driven by Iron Man. And Iron Man is wearing a crown and wielding Excalibur. Plus, there wasn't enough textural contrast in this dish: everything was just a little mushy.
Again, like your mom.
The hanger steak ($27) also suffered from ingredient overload. With the slices of grilled steak was a tangy pile of braised greens, and some quartered mushrooms, and bacon bits, and a huge mound of onion rings, AND a tiny spiral minarets of mashed potatoes, which had been piped out to resemble either a soft- serve ice cream cone, or fake plastic dog shit. The mashed potatoes were REALLY creamy and buttery: I completely enjoyed these, but when they were all gone I wept sadly into my food until there was a puddle of tears in the middle if my plate. My tears were as bitter as endive, or like a vinaigrette of despair, or at the very least a jus of being really bummed, that there weren't more potatoes in that swirly pile.
Everything else was good, enough. The onion rings were crispy and thinly sliced and evenly seasoned, with numerous tiny dingleberries of white cheddar clinging to the batter, but were a bit greasy. The vinegary greens were a great foil for the fattiness on the rest of the plate. The steak itself seemed a bit tough, but the outer grilled crust was good.
Finally, as if to drive home the point that the chefs at Avila like to put a bunch of different bullshit on the plate, we got the strawberry angel food cake for dessert. Seven dollars got us a big bowl of pretty random ingredients.
Here is a bullet-pointed list of the ingredients in the strawberry angel food cake:
• Massive, plump, crimson strawberries that had been macerated and grilled
• Tiny gummy pearls of butterscotch made from MacAllen's
• Ragged airy chunks of sunny yellow angel food cake, which was more dense than I'm used to, but still fucking killer
• Weird squiggly buckwheat cookies that looked like oversized sperm cells.
• And finally, the single most fucked-up thing I've ever seen in a dessert: a long serpentine ribbon of SUNCHOKE FLAN or custard coiled up amid the other ingredients.
The angel food cake was generally good. But the sunchoke flan? That was stupid. I felt molested every time I ate some of it. I get that they're trying to take risks and push the boundaries at Avila. They've even got little casks of house-made vermouth and ghost chili oil on the kitchen counter. And it's apparent that the chefs are technically proficient because the mashed potatoes and onion rings and the angel food cake were masterfully prepared.
But someone needs to give these motherfuckers the stern talking to they obviously never got in kindergarten: you can't mix the Play- Doh colors together, and you can't pair sunchoke flan with angel food cake. You just can't. You might try, but you can't.
Rating: 7 Play-Doh colors out of 10
Avila is located at 1711 N 45th St. For reservations call 206-545-7375