Back to Archives

Delivering the goods

Cicada Restaurant & Lounge delivers inventive, gourmet dishes

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

ANNOUNCER: “Gimme a pig foot and a bottle of gin,” sang Bessie Smith in 1933. “Move me, ‘cause I’m in my sin.” Well, the boys weren’t gnawing on a pork stump, but they were sinning, all right, during the last visit to Cicada Restaurant & Lounge. Cicada’s long list of specialty cocktails — and a Manhattan with Bookers — invite temptation, one after another.

JAKE: It was the sea scallops that made my head spin. Big, thick Alaskan sea scallops served with edamame risotto and fried fennel. Yum. As filter feeders, I tend to stay away from scallops. But at Cicada (located next door to Charlie’s on Fourth Avenue in Olympia), the best way to overcome temptation was to succumb to it. Wise.

JASON: The medium sized room felt like a close friend’s living room not an impersonal restaurant. I wanted a blanket and a book; the comfort level was that great. It also helped that the server was smooth, knew her stuff and had recommendations for everything from wine to apps, entrees, and desserts — you couldn’t stump her.

I followed her suggestion of a bottle of sparkling 2005 Domaine de Pignon Chateauneuf ($59). You can’t go wrong with a sparkling white along with the cheese plate ($12) to spark up an appetite, and the Chateauneuf did very well with the two very different Washington cheeses from Mount Townsend and Pleasant Valley — one very buttery and creamy, the other with a tart sharp cheddar-esque bite that arrived quickly. Tart cheese was mellowed with sweet golden-spiced raisins while creamy fromage got revved up with julienne jalapeno. I alternately stacked the four items between thin bread, made a tower of goodness, then smashed it and crammed it in my mouth. Hey Jake, remember that’s when you kicked me under the table and knocked over my water?

JAKE: Well, I could change a tire under that pile.

I think Cicada needs a bit of sprucing. The carpet has frayed and torn edges, the tables scream for white tablecloths, and I wish warm colors would replace the green tones. Owners Billy Roberson and Lisa Smith have a treasure here. Their Northwest/Cajun fusion restaurant has an ambitious, inventive menu that hits its mark more often than not. Why not take it to the next level?

JASON: The dim lights and candle lit tables hide the flaws.

JAKE: Not at 8:30 a.m. when they open for breakfast. Doesn’t matter — Cicada’s breakfast menu reads like a five-star restaurant, and it delivers. The butternut squash pancake was moist, massive and decorated with curried apple sauce, honey and pumpkin seeds. The Big Easy (pictured above) tastes as good as it looks. Inventive green eggs and ham, a jalapeno scramble with corn tortillas and fixings, was extraordinary. The thick French toast with candied hazelnuts and raisin chutney belongs on a dessert menu. Hangtown Fry, biscuits and gravy and a breakfast sandwich look good enough to kill a hangover.

JASON: Is Master of Tenderization a real term? Cicada’s chef has earned it if it is. The Sirloin of Natural Colorado Lamb ($21) was ultra moist and soft. Apple mint chutney complimented the rich gaminess of the lamb to perfection — not too much mint, not too much apple. I could not ask for a better piece of meat prepared in a finer fashion. The potatoes Florentine did not receive much attention, not for lack of quality or taste, but due to my fork’s devotion to the palm size lamb.

JAKE: I’m the Master of Time, Space and Dimension. I often see the Master of Tenderization at our Hall of Juices meeting. (There goes any chances of this review hanging on Cicada’s wall.)

JASON: Cicada’s got a thing for organic and natural products, and I’ve got a thing for that. Natural Kurobuta Pork Loin ($21) is another dish that made me nod my head. American white pork can dry out so easily, but this darker, marbled Kurobuta (Japanese black hog) retained flavor and juices, and I’m told, is 100-percent pure all-natural Berkshire Pork. Walnut date butter melted into earthy mushroom couscous and tripled the richness of the entire dish. Fantastic. It seems sinful to put butter on meat like that, but heck, let me be a sinner.

JAKE: Cicada did falter a couple of times. The roasted cauliflower and squash pappardelle sat in a swimming pool size of oil. The Dungeness crab wontons bored. And the Morroccan-spiced calamari, while flavorful, sported spindle. Ah, but the lamb, I agree.

JASON: Desserts are like a little warm “thank-you” a restaurant wishes you after your entrée. House-made crème brulee had a firm caramelized sugar shell on top that had to be cracked with a hard tap of the spoon and sweet virgin crème inside. Small banana tarts had a buttery flaky crust and plenty of sliced and spiced banana; simple, delicious and gone in a few big man bites. I slowly sipped a double shot of Olympia Coffee Roasting Company espresso. As the sugar and caffeine snaked into my veins, I dream of the Cicada breakfast.

Cicada Restaurant & Lounge

Where: 700 Fourth Ave E., Olympia, 360.753.5700

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

Scene: Cute, corner café with back bar that combines an Olympia vibe with gourmet qualities

Menu: Inventive Northwest/Cajun menu with gourmet touches

Drinkies: Full bar

Damage: Breakfast and lunch $6-$14, Dinner $6-$23

The boys visit restaurants and bars anonymously and then slip the receipt under the publisher’s door and run.  Send restaurant and bar news and tips to

comments powered by Disqus