Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lovely Evening at Lovely Hula Hands

My friend Michel met friends on the patio at Lovely Hula Hands the other night, and I asked her to share their experience with GSNW.

If the official arrival of summer and warm evenings has you yearning for al fresco dining, get thee to Lovely Hula Hands on North Mississippi. It covers all the bases for a perfect summer supper: charming patio, sassy cocktails, seasonal menu and friendly service.

The patio, which is anchored by a rosy salmon-colored wall, is an inviting two-level oasis decorated with festive paper lanterns, sun umbrellas and pretty plantings. On the lower level, a softly bubbling fountain puts you in the mood to go with the cocktail flow. The signature drink, the Lovely Hula Hoop, is a refreshing blend of pineapple-infused Absolut vodka with lemon juice served up with a sugared rim. My personal favorite, the Mojito, is among the city’s best: a perfect balance of Bacardi silver, lime juice, muddled mint and just the right touch of sugar.

Local farm deliveries and the chef’s inspiration drive the menu, which changes regularly. But based on a recent visit, odds are it’s all good, all the time. Salads are real standouts. On a recent visit, plates of arugula with prosciutto and shaved parmesan went head-to-head with baby greens, hunks of creamy avocado and toasted almonds. Because we couldn’t decide which was more delicious, we shared both.

Our plan to share tastes of four different entrees went astray when three of us just had to have the duck ravioli in brodo with fresh peas and baby spinach. We were fully satisfied with the plump, perfectly cooked pasta squares in clear, rich duck broth until we tasted the other entrée on the table: grilled polenta with a creamy mushroom ragout and grilled asparagus. However, once our polenta envy passed, we happily returned to the ravioli and slurped up every drop of the lovely broth, accompanied with a tasty, affordable Cotes du Rhone.

Content from our leisurely meal of cocktails, starters, entrees and wine, we passed on dessert and took home the bottle of Louis Roederer bubbly we’d brought with us. Our server, who always seemed to appear at just the right time, had kept it chilled for us with nary a dirty look. Just as quickly as she’d whisked it away upon our arrival, she returned it to our table with the check and a smile. We’ll be back soon, and the bubbly may come along again, too.

Details: Lovely Hula Hands, 4057 N Mississippi. Phone 503-445-9910.

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