Monday, April 16, 2007

Clayton's Royalle

Relatively new to downtown, friends have been talking up Royal Clayton's since I arrived. I finally made it there this past Saturday, April 14 with a lady friend. With nil expectations, other than that we would feel hip talking about it afterwards, I'm glad to report that the restaurant sets a good standard for the neighborhood.

Dark, gothy throughout, the space is quite warm and welcoming with plenty of room for eating, dining, drinking, and socializing. Two televisions near the steal-framed pool table tastefully hide in the corner, while the rest of the space provides plenty of eye candy from the heavy, leather seats and barstools.

The menu was substantial, with lots of American and European -style dishes with gourmet spins to choose from. We started with salads and shared some of their amazing blue-cheese mashed potatoes. As we were chatting the head chef came around and asked what we thought of the meal thus far - pointing to the potatoes I asked "Was that your idea?"

"Of Course," with his French accent.

"Nice. That is some awesome potato."

Vegetarians, we'd both opted to have the standard veg entree by which all restaurants can be judged: grilled vegetables with rice. Other veg options were a pizza or a grilled veg pasta, but the menu's revelation that the grilled veg would be accompanied by curried rice caught our imagination well enough for us to decide to get one each... So we wouldn't have to share!

In his twist on this standard, the chef grills a fine, fresh assortment Mediterranean vegetables which are plated squarely around a thoroughly tasty curried rice. The rice is worth talking up specifically - by 'curried' they don't mean they smear curry sauce all over your food, instead the curry is cooked into the basmati, bringing just enough of the flavor into compliment the veggies. A very basic meal, but very well executed.

As it was my birthday, we then decided to share two deserts. Cookies and milk, and the Chocolate lava cake. Lava cake - of course that was good; but the cookies really won. They brought out soy milk just for us, into which we dipped the freshly baked basic chocolate, macadamia nut, and sugar cookies. Simple, warm, homemade, fresh cookies. Yeah that rocked.

In all, its nice to know there's this welcoming, homey, spot so close. Light on the ego, heavy on the quality, and fair on the prices.

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