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Restaurant review: Loft Ristobar has lofty ambitions

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The Loft Ristobar opened in December, taking over the space formerly occupied by the short-lived La Tropicana and before that by Don Pablo. Space is a good term to use when speaking of The Loft because it is spacious, almost cavernous, although it softens the latter with a multi-tiered layout that sections it into several areas.

Much of that is possible because of The Loft's location adjacent to I-75, a more open area than you might find downtown. And although its street address is Fruitvillle Road, it is set far back and is most approachable via North Cattlemen and Commercial Way.

Note, too, that qualifier " ristobar," because all that room would be usable for dining only if hosting a series of Roman banquets. Wisely, the owners have thus envisioned The Loft as a combination of restaurant, bar and nightclub.

On the outside, The Loft announces its new identity with a stylish neon sign that contrasts with the building's handsome but somewhat staid brick exterior. Inside, there's a bar to the right with other levels above it, and to the left the dining area, again multi-leveled. Large chandeliers spread light through the potential gloom.

In its marketing, The Loft promotes itself as the new hip spot in town, which may apply to the nightclub, but the dining room on the night I went had a surprising number of families and older couples as well as a sprinkling of younger ones. On the stage a singer/guitarist warbled his way through chestnuts -- "Hotel California" anyone? -- that are the staple of oldies' radio stations.

But this is good news for The Loft to have drawn a crowd so early in its operation. Many came, I think, for the very reasonable prices for its menu items.

The Loft is not reinventing the wheel. Most of these items have the familiarity of the songs drifting down from the stage. But there's nothing wrong with familiarity, especially when combined with good prices and pretty decent preparation.

Here that translates into appetizers such as Coconut Shrimp ($7), Seared Scallops ($10) and Calamari ($7), and main courses including Roasted Salmon ($13), Mediterranean Rack of Lamb ($15) and Roasted Eggplant Parmesan ($12).

My Shrimp and Crab Cocktail ($7) pretty much characterized the plates at The Loft -- moderately priced and modestly appealing. The three shrimp were large and toothsome, the dollops of crab tasted fresh and sweet and the dipping sauce was serviceable.

A Tuna Tartare ($7) combined chopped tuna and capers and flavored it with a vinaigrette and a dash of mustard for a refreshing dish with just enough zing to make this standard interesting.

The Loft hit a high note for the evening with a Marinated Skirt Steak ($13), which was tender and juicy and came with a chimichurri sauce that added a little spark to the dish. But the Shrimp Scampi ($13), which was served over linguini, was overcooked and lacked flavor.

Desserts arrived at a split decision. The Bourbon Bread Pudding ($7) was heavy in both taste and texture, but a Flourless Chocolate Cake ($8) was very good, moist with good-quality chocolate deepening the flavor.

Service was friendly enough, but the appetizers took a long time to arrive; the main courses then arrived on schedule but were a bit tepid, which suggests that it was our waiter's fault -- not picking up the appetizers -- and not the kitchen's.

The Loft carries a handful of wines, most very moderately priced.

The Loft Ristobar 5911 Fruitville Road Open for lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; for dinner 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday 312-6994
Last modified: March 16, 2011
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COMMENTS