Kiss From a Rosé

Easy listening (and sipping) at a Kirkland wine bar.

Conceptually speaking, Purple Caf頦 Wine Bar makes perfect sense in wine-rich Woodinville, where the vino hangs in the air like a fine red mist. It turns out Purple works just as well in Kirkland, but for different reasons. A slightly hip, mostly cozy suburb would naturally embrace the safe cool of a wine bar that serves New American farecode for gussied-up comfort food, usually overpriced. That Purplewith sharp lighting, wrought-iron chairs, open sight lines, and spare decor that make the place look like a singles barexists in the heart of Park Place Mall, across from a GNC and a Washington Mutual branch, is telling. Purple wants it both wayschic but casual, markedly adult but also kid-friendlyand ends up muddled. My friend and I padded in wearing jeansmine were ripped, and having never laid eyes on the place, I thought I'd be underdressed. Not so. As the outmoded music of Seal filled the restaurant (when was the last time you heard "Kiss From a Rose"?), we spotted several familiesin a wine bar!and it didn't take long to discover the kids' menu with small portions of mac 'n' cheese ($5.95) and meatloaf ($6.95). The grown-up mac 'n' cheese ($11.95) is fancier, with Gruyère, and the big-person meatloaf ($12.95) sits right below filet mignon "with a gorgonzola cream sauce" ($25.95) on the bill of fare. The concept is homey, but with a touch of sophistication by way of California cuisine, circa 1992, with goat cheese, wild mushrooms, pine nuts, caramelized onions, candied walnuts, and/or roasted red peppers coming to the aid of any dish that would otherwise seem too plain (and thus too much like actual home cooking). One shouldn't have to pay $14.95, as I did, for goat cheese and red pepper rigatoni spookily reminiscent of what Mom used to make. But the Purple is not a total failure. Before the disappointing pasta and an equally underwhelming sautéed mushroom melt ($8.95), my friend and I savored the baked brie appetizer ($10.95, and worth it). We found the cheese wrapped in phyllo dough, spanakopita-style, with a variety of sweet thingscandied walnuts and caramelized onions, yes, but also fruit and preservesthat positioned it at the tantalizing divide between dessert and savory fare. The brie also benefited from a pairing with a 2001 Stag's Leap chardonnay (cool, dulcet, and summery). The wine list, appropriately epic, includes more than 50 wines served by the glass, plus plenty more in the bottle, with an emphasis on reds (cab/merlot blends in particular). Entrée issues and mall location aside, the Purple has potential as a tapas-and-wine place, ideal for winding down after work or dallying languidly, midday, on the weekends. Our server was happy to recommend multiple pairing possibilities for any of the starterslike calamari ($7.95) or pork tenderloin medallions ($8.95)and equally willing to point out which wines are best avoided. For explorers, there are tasting flights (four 2.5-ounce pours, $15-$24) of everything from dessert wines to south-of-the-equator reds. Artsy, affluent Kirkland may never be the wine country Woodinville is rapidly becoming, but Purple's vast selection of foreign and domestic product offers wanna-be vinophiles a chance to acquire some real-world pairing skills. Just tune out the "smooth hits" version of "Puff the Magic Dragon" piped a little too loudly into the dining room, and you'll be fine.

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