I was at Dear + Almond sometime in the summer and was pleasantly surprised. My girlfriend and I had often walked or driven past their establishment without giving them much thought. The clean white exterior with Deer + Almond in black did not do much to lure us in. We were curious, but not enough to take than next step until one day Saturday afternoon we decided to drive to the Exchange to try something new.

Looking at the menu was like reading Greek to me. Thanks to my able assistant Mr. Google, I settled on grilled romaine with feta, sikil pak and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. Sikil Pak, Google told me, is a delicious thick pumpkin seed dip used in place of guacamole. Google wasn’t wrong to call it delicious. It was a smooth, smokey  and sweet thick paste-a delicate taste. I would choose it any day over guacamole. Although I should probably learn how to pronounce it.

When the chore of ordering was done, I sat back to enjoy Deer + Almond’s ambience. The restaurant has an air of elegance and warmth with a hint of quiet buzzing from conversations around our table.

Most of the tables in the small room were occupied. The diners seemed to be enjoying their meals and conversations. Some were sharing while others ate only from their own plates. It was interesting to observe the meal sharing as I had never been to a Tapas Bar before. Our waiter brought us a bowl of cinnamon popcorn on the house to enjoy while awaiting our meal.

When my food arrived I was a little confused. I mean, I knew it was going to have some lettuce in it. I just didn’t realize lettuce would be the entire meal. I should have known, I suppose. It was a starter, under the title “smalls” on their menu-plus it literally said ‘grilled romaine lettuce’.

I hesitated to take a bite.

After analyzing the food I equipped myself with fork and knife bracing for that first bite. I was transported to another world. That was definitely the best first bite of anything I have ever eaten. The romaine letters were just right, well grilled but crunchy. The thick sigil pak and pumpkin seed vinaigrette added a sophisticated sweetness to the grilled vegetables. The feta added that nice tangy salty taste that brought everything together. It was delightful. And quite filling. For a plate of lettuce I was a rather stuffed. I had no room for the main course or dessert. My girlfriend and I ordered some drinks to wash down our meals. And that was our lovely evening.

Deer + Almond turned out to be a treat. I will certainly pay them another visit!