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Spunky Lulav charms 

FINE FARE: Lulav offers elegant lunch and dinner options.
  • FINE FARE: Lulav offers elegant lunch and dinner options.

Lulav, the former kosher eatery scaled back to Mediterranean-California fusion, has a flirtatious, yet private demeanor. Its groove is still a bit enigmatic, but don't be fooled. This restaurant has a fire quietly roaring in its belly.

For lunch, go light with one of four salads ($7-$10), the Falafel ($5.95) or opt for the charming Bistro Peanut Butter served with Granny Smith apples and bananas ($5). We tried the Barcelona Fish Taco with crispy pollock filets, shredded cabbage and a lime and cucumber-dill aioli ($5). It was more of a wrap, really, but served with a choice of fresh fruit, orzo salad, house salad or potato salad. You'd be hard pressed to find a better deal for lunch in downtown Little Rock. The pollock was crisped to perfection and the cabbage provided a terrific crunchy element.

If you're feeling adventurous, feast on Lulav's decadent version of the Monte Cristo ($7.75): turkey, prosciutto, fontina and provolone served grilled on top of powder-sugary Texas toast, with a side of blackberry preserves.

At night, the flicker of candlelight illuminates the deep, rich colors that match the playful food pairings on the dinner menu. The windows that connect the funky main dining area to its cousin, the V Lounge, are hung with gold and burgundy draperies. Spunky in its own right with wicker chairs, festive pillows, couches and a staging area for live music on the weekends, the V Lounge is a place to kick back and have drinks, order appetizers or enjoy a full meal.

We were thrilled when our server placed the impeccable “Wine Program Dossier” on our table. The seemingly endless pages were organized by grape, label, vintage, body, region, finish, etc. Our predilection for Zinfandel led us to the Sonoma Ridge ($39). It was an affordably brilliant blend of several grapes, with big, silky notes to boot. For appetizers, we chose the bruschetta topped with balsamic-marinated artichokes and tomatoes ($6) and the Tunisian Tuna ($9) served on a bed of sweet ginger slaw and dressed with wasabi and lime. Both were well proportioned and divine.

For dinner, we chose the Crevettes a Marseilles ($24), jumbo shrimp and marinated vegetables over a bed of lemon and mint orzo. Here, Lulav came up a little short: The huge prawns were mildly overcooked. And while the orzo was cooked perfectly al dente, the vegetables were overpowered by the balsamic vinaigrette.

Service on our first visit suffered from various hiccups (it was fine on our second). The absence of a hostess to greet customers is awkward. A sign to direct people to seat themselves would be helpful. Our waiter seemed terribly distracted, and we waited almost 20 minutes to put in our drink order.

But dessert made up for any deficiencies. The Bowtie Chocolate Mousse was sensational. Chocolate mousse, skillfully placed hunks of white and dark chocolate and fresh berries are served in a crispy, sweet almond shell in a pool of creme anglaise. It was sinfully delicious and beautifully presented.

Like a diamond in the rough, Lulav just needs a little refinement to achieve its full potential.

Lulav

220 W. 6th St.

374-5100

www.lulaveatery.com

Quick Bite

Prices for lunch plates are amazingly cheap. There are several appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches. The Angus Steak Burger comes with offerings of blue cheese, Swiss, feta, pepper jack, bacon, caramelized onion, etc. Thursday through Saturday, hit up the V Lounge for live music, drink specials, appetizers or dinner. It doesn't seem quite kosher, but smoking is permitted in the lounge adjoining the restaurant. Check out the in-house wine cellar and the extensive corresponding wine list.

Hours

Bistro: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday though Friday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

V Lounge: 10 p.m. to 1 am. Thursday through Saturday.

Other info

Full bar, credit cards accepted. $$-$$$

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