Monday, August 18, 2008

Veg Out: Root

There aren't many false veneers at Root. If you get past the electric orange exterior of the signless building on 10th and Spring Garden, its busy flower garden mural stained on the side, the dimly lit dining room is an austere region. The outside is not homogeneous with the inlying space. Stark white walls, chopping block tables, and wispy, slender silverware that is made for deft hands. There are no ceiling lights, only candles. Be sure you like your partner. The setting does not inspire conversation, except to reflect on the inner/outer contrast, the rawness of the room, the trouble you had plying open the cumbersone sliding wood door on the latrine. The air conditioning isn't ready yet. Alright, you got me. Loads to talk about.

This is a BYO fresh out of Cali, plopped down in the grit and growth of the Loft District. Chris Hora's bare-bones presentation of slow food emphasizes the minimal: focus is directed immediately to victuals. A Cabrales and Valencia Orange Flatbread isn't available, but a mushroom and Point Reyes Blue subs in. I would have loved on some Valencias, but was easily won on the flatbread. Crisp, cracker-like slices were set with smoky slivers of 'shroom and my preferred cheese. Aw, Root, you shouldn't have. And Hora's in love with the cheese pops up yet again in our cheese plate, a mild selection that could use some early day tweaking. With many a cheese layout in town, one must compete with an excitable course. There's also a handling of blue in a number of the salads and the pork plate. Bread appears with the assembly as an afterthought, minutes later.

The menu is tight. Vegetarian handshakes come with cheese here, from a goat cheese tart to the Deconstructed Cheesecake. Meat-partakers may warm up to it, but my access to decent cheese is alarming. Even the Gem Lettuce Salad is prodded along by Buttermilk Parsley Ranch, the Spinach Salad slick with bacon dressing, so if vegan, you're out. Call me later.

Afterbites appear to be more imaginative. We delved into the Birthday Cake with butter cream, a round layer cake set with a single lit candle. The mellow puck was an oily feast of butter, a grown-up version of birthday cake. Children would loathe the unsweet confection. But you had the good sense to not bring them, right? My accomplice found it offputting. I chipped away at it, appreciating something about the texture and richness of it, but agreed that it was not a likeable cake. I could have spread it on bread, had we been given extra.

Root is a brand-new teacher, subject to missteps, laden with leaven identifiers like "sustainable", "byob", "slow food". It's practically asking for quips about growth. Or how this Root needs to see a bit more light.

Root, 1033 Spring Garden St.

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