Revel Is Better Than Hawaii, Where Lava Has Multiple Uses

Duck meatballs so good it'll make you stick your dick in here.
Many things about Hawaii are beyond remarkable. Hawaii has shaved ice: like pussy, ice is better shaved. Hawaii is also the only state in the U.S. where lava isn't just a soap old people use. In Hawaii you can ACTUALLY SEE REAL LAVA. It flows down the street. It sometimes swallows dogs and cats and autistic children that step into its path. It rains lava. On foggy spring mornings, little drops of lava cling to blades of grass and coat the windshield of your car and bejewel spider webs. It comes out of the faucets: In Hawaii, if you want to make hot chocolate, you can make it REALLY goddamned hot. And as anyone who's ever tried to do it will tell you, lava is the best way to dissolve robots.

Still, Hawaii isn't the best thing in the known universe. Sometimes a restaurant is so awesome, it's better than Hawaii: good enough to make you take time off from your Hawaiian vacation to write about it. Revel is such a place. Not even the thought of seeing lava or, more importantly, THROWING STUFF into that lava, could keep me from writing about Revel.

Revel is in Fremont on 36th Ave. and Phinney, across the street from Nectar and next door to Brouwer's Pub. The menu only has 17 different things on it, but that doesn't mean it's simple. After all, a Rubik's Cube only has six sides, but they are so complex that the only known way to solve one of those things is to throw it into a pool of lava. Which I just did today, in fact.

We started with the corned lamb and arugula salad ($9). For this price you get a massive pile of arugula, as big as the breasts of a Samoan Walmart shopper, with thin slices of corned lamb and slivers of radish. Normally corned beef would be made from a brisket, but a lamb's brisket is the size of a midget's dick, so they had to corn the lamb's leg instead.

As everyone knows, leg meat cured in brine is ham, so why didn't they just call it "lamb ham?" It even rhymes! But it doesn't matter; this salad was dressed in nuoc cham. You know what nuoc cham is, even if you aren't familiar with the word. It's a thin translucent orange sauce: sour, salty, and sweet, sometimes with julienned carrot floating in it, that you get with almost everything on the menu at a Vietnamese restaurant. I don't know how much pot these people were smoking when they came up with the idea to combine arugula, cured lamb, radish, and Vietnamese dipping sauce, but I want their dealer's number because this was a fucking home run. These flavors and textures were great together.

The potato, garlic chive, and crème fraiche pancake ($7) was OK. The pancake itself was a bit too puffy and dry, and the crème fraiche tasted like melted ice cream that somebody forgot to add sugar to. Also, I'm not exactly sure what a garlic chive is. There were, however, these huge concentric pickled vegetable rings on top of the pancake, which looked like shitty bracelets an old lady would wear, and which seemed more like cross-sectioned leeks than anything else. This wasn't bad, but there's also a pork-belly and kimchi pancake on the menu that people kept raving about, and I'm bitter I didn't go for that one instead.

The rice bowls, like the pork-belly pancake, seemed popular too. For $14, these were served in a massive cauldron the size of a punch bowl, topped with short ribs and braised greens. The rice bowl was garnished with a neat pile of cubed daikon, stained a spicy umber after being marinated in sambal, and topped with a raw egg yolk. The yolks could be seen on the counter, steeping for hours in a container of soy sauce. As each order went out, the chefs would scoop a yolk from the soy and spoon it into the bowl. These things were fucking flying off the shelves.

Nine dollars got us five of the short rib, scallion, and shallot dumplings. These were pretty good. They came to the table stuck all together into a Human Centipede, except made of dumplings instead of humans, and of course not nearly as gross. The dough was sautéed a rusty orange outside, maybe a bit leathery to the bite, and filled with a rich mahogany beef filling. Carefully scattered over the top of the dumplings were thin parallelograms of scallion cut on the bias, and rings of scallion, looking like a vegetal Mondrian.

But the best thing--so good I would waterboard a nun to eat this again--was the five-spice duck-meatball noodles. Fifteen bucks seemed a bit steep for a small bowl of noodles, but it was worth every penny. The noodles were like ribbons of satin, as gently yielding as a drunken paramour's thighs, dressed in a spicy oily sauce and woven through with sautéed kale. Hidden within the secret folds of these noodles were duck meatballs. The meatballs were plump and moist with the barest hint of five-spice powder. They were so good I'd be proud to cut open my own scrotum and shove the meatballs in there and call them my own balls.

You can get dessert at Revel, and you might as well. Though if you were still hungry I'd recommend another order of the duck meatballs. The vanilla pound-cake sandwich ($5) came with two triangles of pound cake, dense but not too sweet, sandwiching a filling of housemade ice cream. Accompanying this was a tiny ramekin of some sort of caramel sauce, which was sugary and rich and a bit grainy. The menu called this caramel "milk jam," but I was under the impression that milk jam is what I spread all over your mo's face nightly. I'm guessing you were supposed to dip the sandwich into the milk jam, but which we just spooned up straight out of the dish.

There's nothing quite like Revel in Fremont. For years the region was devoid of fine dining, sandwiched between Wallingford and Ballard, both bastions of high-end neighborhood restaurants. Previously, diners in Fremont had to settle for a seemingly endless parade of Thai restaurants, or Cuban sandwich shops that keep unicorn's hours, or shitty overpriced Mexican food that was really just a front for a 24-hour frat party. Now, with Revel, Fremont finally has a real contender. May their competitors die in a raging fiery lava flow!

Rating: 9 lava flows out of 10.

Revel is located at 403 N. 36th St. For reservations call 547-2040.

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