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Paul's Kitchen: From Biscuits to Beef Tartare and Beyond

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In the beginning, there were biscuits. Dense with butter flavor and lightly toasted, both were served with a mild red pepper jelly more sweet than spicy and lighter-than-air unsalted whipped butter. We dug in and wanted to request another serving, but held back, because, well you don't go to Paul's Kitchen just for bread and butter.

Located in the former home of Haven, Paul's Kitchen has the uneviable burden of replacing a beloved neighborhood restaurant and dealing with the shitshow of parking situation created by unwashed masses that flock to Twin Peaks every night.

Despite these handicaps, Paul's Kitchen is off to a very good start. Attentive servers, well-executed dishes with the occasional playful spin, and a terrific wine list bode well for their continued success.

A broad selection of small plates means even the most selective of diners will find it hard not to order a starter. The beef tartare is modest in portion but major in flavor and the accompanying sourdough points the perfect surface for absorbing the piquant residual juices of the compote of shallots, capers, mustard, and bovine flesh. In combination with another appetizer, the tartare could easily serve as part of satisfying dinner.

You could pair, for example, this turf with surf in the form of the BBQ shrimp, huge shell-on prawns lounge in an earthy brown Worcestershire bath and served with their own toasts to soak up the extra sauce.

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Vegetarians, as well as traditionalists that believe that "Appetizer + Entree + Side + Dessert" always equals "Dinner" will really enjoy the fresh salad of shredded carrots and arugula, a delightfully novel pairing pairing that only further benefits from the inclusion of smoky toasted hazelnuts and a generous side of over-soft herbed goat cheese, artistically smeared alongside the greens.

The large plate portion of the menu reflects the chef and owner's ambitions to make Paul's Kitchen appealing to a broad clientele whose tastes may vary between sophisticated and straight-forward depending on the night. There's fish and chips traditionally prepared and presented with malt vinegar and mushy peas, but also more elevated piscine offerings, like the red gulf snapper whose supple texture is infused with the flavors of andouille sausage, hominy, and peas.

My favorite, however, was the pork shank, rendered submissive to even the lightest touch of the fork thanks to a 24-hour cooking process, and served on a bed of pureed sweet potatoes and lime crema. The sweet soft starch of the potatoes complemented the tangier botanical notes from the citrus and poblano peppers making for a wonderfully rich and balanced entree.

Bountiful sides are a bargain at $6 and because brussel sprouts are so-yesterday, go instead for the roasted cauliflower tossed with sultana and pine nuts. Here again I found another dish that while not an explicit main event on the menu nevertheless shown in terms of ingredient composition and taste complexity. In other words, consider a double order as it's likely your table will go for seconds on this "side."

The "milk and cookies" at Paul's Kitchen is already the darling of online reviewers, and for good reason, as the pairing of fresh churros and Mexican hot chocolate is a clear winner. More delicate in construction though still hearty in flavor is the "Southern Style Dobos," a more-layers-than-you-can-count pecan butter cream and banana cake laced with a bourbon butterscotch glaze plus fresh and fried plantains.

Dinner at Paul's Kitchen was impressive; round of my investigation will be happy hour, as I hear there's sloppy joes and something called "Poppycock Popcorn," which (and let me go on the record now) I highly reckon will be sold in stores one day.

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