Is the Gonzaga neighborhood ready for a more high-end restaurant? Judging by the traffic we recently saw at Clover, the answer might just be "yes", and this is a restaurant that deserves any attention it can get if our early, first visit is anything to go by.
They describe their menu as "Mediterranean" which is somewhat of a vague term, yet it seems apt in this case. A bit of Italian, a bit of Spanish, a bit of Greek, with French influences... Yep, I suppose that indeed is Mediterranean, and the dishes didn't seem unfocused either. There was a signature style throughout our meal.
We tried the crab, spinach, and artichoke dip as a starter, and good it was. Granted, it might be hard to royally mess up a dip like that, but the bread (baked in-house, as is the case with all their baked goods) was very nice. It was a good appetizer for sharing.
The soups, too, held a high standard. Their take on a French onion soup, made with cognac as opposed to the more commonly used sherry, was very rich with a good depth of flavors. In fact, have it with an appetizer or a salad, and you can probably forego the main course. That mix of cognac and a good broth held its own flavor-punch, so pair the main course with it accordingly if you choose to go that route.
The tomato bisque was tasty in its own right, although I couldn't pick up on any shell fish in it. Maybe it was there, in smaller chunks, but the tomato really stood in front and center of the palette, which really wasn't a bad thing.
For the main course we tried the dungeness crab and mascarpone ravioli. It looks like, finally, Spokane is starting to see restaurants doing pasta correctly. The ravioli was perfectly cooked, in a light white wine butter sauce. All the flavors melded nicely together, without anything being too overpowering, and an accompanying garlic bread was good for dipping. A simple dish, in many way, yet very well executed.
Food aside, Clover apparently does many other things very well. Cocktails, for example, with a menu developed by the man who wrote the book on the subject. The Negroni balanced the bitter and sweet flavors perfectly, and Satan’s whiskers... Well, some drinks are worth having just because of the name. The cocktails were divided by category, and a clover rating indicated the complexity of them, making the menu easy to browse.
Finally, the service was top-notch throughout, with a very knowledgable staff. It's not often the front of house impress us in this town, but Clover apparently has trained its staff well.
So, this is still early in the game for Clover, but we were impressed with what we saw. The prices were reasonable for the quality of the food, and the interiors were classy yet comfortable. We'll be keeping an eye on Clover, mostly because we feel this is the kind of place Spokane needs. A kind of high-end, yet still reasonably casual restaurant, where fresh food and great drinks are front and center.