Family Feast

Nobody goes home hungry from Fandango's $25 'La Familia' blowout.

It's March, and more than two dozen restaurants are once again offering some version of a $25-per-person menu. Some are well thought out; others look thrown together; some are even so hedged about with restrictions that they're hardly worth taking advantage of. And some are such good deals you can only hope that they become permanent parts of the dining scene. Take the special meal at Chris Keff's Latin-accented Belltown bistro Fandango: Called simply "La Familia," it's available only on Sundays, but it's so phenomenally "special" that, like one of the Guide Michelin's three-star restaurants, it's "worth a trip" all by itself. "Familia" isn't just a wholesome labelit perfectly captures the spirit of the menu. Ten (count 'em, 10) coursesappetizer (mussels), green salad, three entr饳, four sides, and a dessertare served "family style," in platter portions designed to be passed round the table. One thing's not like at home: You don't have to sweat taking more than your share of the big, juicy shrimp saut饤 in orange-tequila sauce or the darkly smoky pork adobo or even the massive chicken thighs and breasts oven-roasted Yucatan style. When the pan's empty, another's on the way. Same goes for the side dishes. So tasty are the "fiesta rice" with its spicy red and green vegetable flecks, the soupily succulent "drunken" cranberry beans, and, above all, the creamed corn fragrant with poblano chiles that you may find yourself neglecting another helping of animal protein to leave room for the meatless accompaniments. Dessert is called "Brazil nut truffle torte" and each word in that descriptor is true but doesn't do enough to convey the delectable entity disappearing from the plate and dissolving in your mouth. The $25, alas, covers only your food, and unless you're allergic to alcohol in any form, you'll never have the willpower to resist a few bottles of premium South-of-the-border beer or margaritas made from one of Fandango's three dozen or so fine tequilas. (We're partial to the classic salt-rocks version made with Chinaco blanco, which isn't even on the menu, but some people don't like their tequila as tequila! as this one.) When you're ordering that one more drink, just tell yourself: Almost anywhere else, a meal as good as the one I'm eating would easily cost twice what I'm paying for it. So, in a way, the drinks are free. Right?

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