January 2, 1998 in Seven

Former Ii Moon On Strange Trip

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The II Moon has always been a quirky place with good, sometimes great food. Now, it’s taken the leap from quirky to just plain bizarre.

Maybe you’ve read about the restaurant’s money problems in other parts of the newspaper. It’s now in Chapter 11, so efforts are being made to reorganize.

Along those lines, perhaps, the place has changed its name to Scarlett Begonias. (One of many references to The Grateful Dead.)

The new moniker comes with a revamped menu and an altered atmosphere. What a long, strange trip that is!

After walking into the entry, diners must negotiate their way past gaming tables to get to the restaurant area. The open, airy dining room in the front of the house has been transformed to a mini Reno, but only at night. If you want to miss the “baby-needs-a-new-pair-of-shoes” crowd, try lunch.

Food is now served in the back dining room, just above the bar. That space, with the twinkling lights in the towering “trees” can be either cozy or claustrophobic, depending on your perspective.

New white linen tablecloths, fresh flowers and candlelight set the tone for the re-tooled French-influenced menu. (The Mexican fare has taken a powder. Though at a recent lunch, we were offered shrimp enchiladas that weren’t on the menu.)

The major hitch with this new setup is that smoke and bar noise drifts up to the non-smoking dining room. Serving upscale eats in such close proximity to the lounge is just too much of a contrast.

Lunch offerings include salads, sandwiches, seafood, pasta, with prices ranging from $6 to $9.

The tab goes up in the evening with entrees staring at $12 and topping out at $22, with salads and soups priced separately.

During my lunch visit, I tried a few things and the results were mostly disappointing.

I liked the French onion soup, served in a heavy pottery bowl, with a gruyere cheese-coated crouton baked on top. The beef broth was a bit salty, but the onions were soft and sweet.

My Poulet de Provence was also on the salty side and with the healthy dose of cayenne obscured the other seasonings. The sauteed boneless breast cutlets were served on linguini and surrounded by a variety of nicely cooked veggies.

The Mars burger - a 1/3-pound patty - was overcooked and dry, however. It did come with a big pile of wedge-cut fries, though.

The vegetarian daily special was described by our server as whatever looked good in the kitchen or as the menu called it, “a masterpiece.” Not quite.

It was a mish-mash of grilled eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash on a bed of slightly wilted greens.

I am intrigued by the prospect of going in for dinner and ordering some of the new tableside preparations, including Caesar salad and crepes suzette. Chef Steve Quinones is back in the kitchen most nights and remains a master of all sorts of sauces.

But this spot has seen better days. Maybe the management should listen closely to those lyrics of Scarlett Begonias: “Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest places, if you look at it right.”

Looking back on ‘97

All across the country, more people are eating out than ever before. That’s according to a roundup of dining trends that appeared in the December issue of Restaurants USA, a trade publication.

And here’s what we’re ordering:

Beef was the most popular menu item, accounting for nearly 13 percent of the entrees offered.

The comfort food craze shifted into high gear, with an emphasis on meals prepared from scratch.

Ethnic dishes continued their rise, with Thai, Mediterranean, Vietnamese, regional Italian and regional American being the hottest.

Meatless meals have been infused with creative twists.

All hail Caesar salads, the king of the greens at casual dining restaurants.

The forecast for this year indicates that with an increasingly competitive market, restaurants will be making efforts to earn the loyalty of its customers. That certainly sounds like good news.

Small bites

Pizza Rita has opened a second location for its take-out and delivery. The new digs are at 5511 N. Wall. Call 323-2300 to place an order.

Bambino’s has relocated to 111 N. Post, the former home of The Post Street Bar and Grill. (That sign’s still there.) The restaurant’s Italian menu has been updated and now includes pizza, pasta, chicken fried steak (served at breakfast, too), sandwiches and soups. Daily specials range from meatloaf with mashed potatoes on Monday to fish and chips on Friday. Breakfast is served from 7 until 10:30 a.m. (You can order Italian sausage with your eggs.)

Has cigar-mania peaked? Not in Seattle, where the Metropolitan Grill has introduced a spendy “captain’s list” of cigars. That includes a special stogie from Nat Sherman called the Metropolitan. It’s a 7-by-60, which means it measures seven inches long and 60 millimeters around. In other words, one big, fat smoke.

, DataTimes MEMO: Leslie Kelly can be contacted via E-mail at lesliek@spokesman.com or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

This sidebar appeared with the story:

GARLIC GALORE

The Dish

Vampires beware. A new savory shrimp scampi pizza at Tomato Street is loaded with enough garlic to keep the most dedicated bloodsuckers at bay. It’s definitely a pie for lovers of that pungent bulb. The kitchen slathers the crust with a smooth puree of the roasted stuff, followed by three cheeses (mozzarella, provolone and ricotta), sauteed spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. The shrimp are far from puny, though there’s just one prawn per slice. More garlic dots the top of the pie. Better ask for extra mints.

Leslie Kelly can be contacted via E-mail at lesliek@spokesman.com or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

This sidebar appeared with the story: GARLIC GALORE The Dish Vampires beware. A new savory shrimp scampi pizza at Tomato Street is loaded with enough garlic to keep the most dedicated bloodsuckers at bay. It’s definitely a pie for lovers of that pungent bulb. The kitchen slathers the crust with a smooth puree of the roasted stuff, followed by three cheeses (mozzarella, provolone and ricotta), sauteed spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. The shrimp are far from puny, though there’s just one prawn per slice. More garlic dots the top of the pie. Better ask for extra mints.

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