by CARRIE SCOZZARO & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he evening started off rocky -- literally, since I got us lost bouncing through several under-construction back roads to find 1400 N. Meadowwood Lane in Liberty Lake -- but once we arrived at Stilos Restaurant we felt right at home. Just off Appleway, Stilos is an architectural dream with Craftsman-style windows, wall-to-wall woodwork, a rock fireplace, and well-appointed design details like the geometric and floral motif on the ceiling. Sure, they use the de rigueur dark wood and tawny glass light fixtures seen all over town, but what makes Stilos' interior distinct is its feeling of being a converted historic home.
Our server smiled knowingly. "That's what everyone thinks," she said. It's actually the former Caffe Liberte and the latest creation by nearby Hay J's Bistro owners Rhonda Entner-Powell, Martin Dean (Powell's brother) and Patrick Fechser (Powell's son). With the exception of the bar -- with its whimsical saltwater fish tank built into the bar top -- and the exhibition kitchen, Stilos does indeed feel like home. (And what home doesn't have a gourmet chef?)
Although the d & eacute;cor is unmistakably Northwest, the menu reminds me of a New York-style steakhouse, liberally supplemented with dishes from the poultry and seafood families, as well as salads and appetizers: Upscale surf-and-turf, expertly presented and priced in the middle to high range. A cup of chowder, for example, is $5; a bowl runs $7. The least expensive entr & eacute;e is the pan-fried oysters at $17 while Australian lobster tail will set you and yer mates back $43.
Expect no pseudo-multinational fusion foods here, though -- just good food served with panache under the direction of Chef Patrick Fechser. Thus a New York steak is glazed with a robust blackberry port sauce, aside roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and shredded horseradish root ($28). Halibut is served in a coconut crust, swimming in orange-ginger marmalade, sweet chili sauce and sticky rice ($23). And the humble chicken breast is paired with hazelnuts, crimini mushrooms and a Frangelico cream sauce with basmati rice ($18).
We started with the sesame ginger tuna appetizer ($11). Ahi tuna is seared with sesame seeds and served with bok choy, peppers and sesame ginger cream over a mound of sticky rice (an alternative to tuna is beef tips for the same price). This dish was fragrant with ginger and abundantly apportioned, with a spicy peanut sauce that had just enough bite. The rice was al dente, not mushy. The veggies were crisp and light, and although the sauce was a bit salty, a squeeze of lemon (served with the dish for just such an occasion) quickly balanced the flavors to our liking. The ahi was warm on the outside with a cool center, nicely done.
Our server recommended the Gorgonzola salad, which we shared -- and to our delight, it came already split. At $5 for a starter size ($9 for entr & eacute;e size), it was more than enough for two. The mixed greens were hearty, with a crunchy-creamy texture accomplished with maple pecans, tomato, cucumber, red onion and a Gorgonzola cheese vinaigrette.
We split the main course as well, hoping it would be enough. (We needed a take-home container!) The Steak Oscar ($22) tops medallions of beef with a sizeable chunk of Dungeness crab. It's served with asparagus and julienne vegetables over a garlicky mound of mashed potatoes smothered in b & eacute;arnaise sauce. Our steak was a spot-on "rare," barely warm in the middle and savory-seared outside. Unfortunately we had ordered it medium-rare and it was not the ideal dish to send back. Regardless, the meat was tender and flavorful and already split for us, a small but vital detail that will make any diner grateful. Although the asparagus was a little woody (they are late in the season), all the vegetables had a sweet, roasted flavor that stood up to the rich bearnaise.
Since we ordered dessert first (ah, the joys of being an adult) -- an Oatmeal Cookie martini made with Baileys, Stoli Vanilla, Goldschlager, butterscotch schnapps and a graham cracker rim -- it was only a matter of licking the gooey mess off the rim of the glass and fingers. In addition to numerous martinis, Stilos has a healthy wine list -- the L'Ecole Merlot was a tempting accompaniment to our steak -- as well as a selection of ports, both domestic and imported beer, and a full bar.
The restaurant also offers catering, banquets and wine dinners. (Check their Website for details.)
Stilos is a lovely place for a special occasion when you're looking to dine out with style. In fact, Stilos means style in Latin. And while style sometimes comes at the expense of substance -- from presentation to ambience to service to the food itself -- Stilos offers plenty of both.
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