I'm just back from having a delightful time in Seattle. There were many fantastic restaurants I couldn't get to -- what with time and social constraints and so on, but I did sample many great things. This is a set of comments, as requested. Sorry they aren’t more detailed or, er, scientific!
The first place I hit was Ting Momo on Wednesday for lunch with a local friend. It was fantastic. I had the Azag Azog combo with Thenthuk. Wonderful spicy coconut curry pull noodle soup with a depth of flavor and perfect slight kick for the only really rainy day we had. The combo plate gives you 1 yak star anise, 1 pork, and 1 eggplant dumping, along with a nice chickpea/onion/bell pepper/celery salad, plus cilantro dip and soy/vinegar dip. It's more pricey indeed than a regular lunch spot, but fantastic. They also serve the local Dry soda (rhubarb!! on the sweet side, but nice). This said, when I went back to Ting Momo on Friday for lunch (I know, I know, I shouldn't have repeated, but I had such a yen ...), it wasn't nearly as good. When I went on Wednesday there was a beautiful older woman with fantastic smile lines who had The Touch. Her food was amazing. On Friday, it was some young folks, and it just wasn't as good. So try to scope out who is cooking. Because on Friday it was definitely the B (C?) team.
Later on, we made our way out to Fremont to Theo’s Chocolate – running late for our tour. They let us join it late and we enjoyed hearing about chocolate and sampling some nice standard bars – darks and milk and salted almond, chili and cherry bars. We also tried some confections – pear jelly with balsamic ganache was startling and fascinating. I bought some delicious caramels there—the cardamom was astonishing. Ginger was a bit too “fresh ginger” tasting for me (how is that possible? Somehow it didn’t blend adequately with the chocolate, or maybe I am just so used to the different flavors of ginger and dark chocolate that I usually have and adore). Chili chocolate caramels were very tasty too. But the cardmom was the knock-out. We tasted a bunch of the chocolate bars in the shop (my friend goes to Theo’s regularly and gets the Cocoa nibs for her oatmeal), and I bought the curry-coconut bar, the chai bar, and the hazelnut crunch: really delicious. I was less impressed with their mint, which was, er, “too minty” for me. But really a very very impressive chocolate place. And the people there couldn’t be nicer. (In fact, I have to say, I was really impressed with how friendly the Seattle folks were everywhere…though my attitude of gushing jealousy may have helped.)
I next ate at Tilth, where I had the 5-course carnivore/omnivore option. I'm afraid I didn't keep notes on things, but the standouts were the superb Grilled Dakota Beef Hanger Steak and the Sablefish. It was a delicious meal and my friends had phenomenal cocktails (iin particular El Presidente I think it was called; not on the menu now). My complaint was that the tasting plates were not very hot (when I think they should have been), so the flavor was a bit compromised. Perhaps that’s to be expected? I also thought the stack o’ bread course was a little odd, FWIW. The service was absolutely impeccable though -- just restrained and perfectly present/attentive without being in the least obtrusive. A wonderfully tall dark-haired woman with a perfect dignity and calm served us. And what a nice space it is, too. Sorry not to have gone to the Golden Beetle -- hope to next time.
Thursday morning, I met up with friends and their two small children (ages 2 and 5) for breakfast at Pike Place Market. We sampled Chukar Cherries (great -- Cabernet chocolate-covered cherries, spiced hazelnuts (a seasonal) were especially nice)...sampled some fresh, fat, yummy Alder-smoked salmon at Pure Seafood -- what a pleasure to see a toddler and his older brother SCARFING smoked fish! We ate breakfast at Lowell's -- nice oyster omelette, smoked salmon omelette, and big bowls of oatmeal. Stunning views.
Thursday for lunch, my friend and I tried to go to the Thai Simple Curry for a quick bite, but it was closed for the holidays so we dithered and then walked up to the Malay Satay Hut, the one in the International District. The woman who served was lovely, but the food was unexceptional. I'm told that the owner and the culinary splash have moved to the Microsoft branch. My friend had roti to start and a sort of mixed veg noodle dish and I had an egg noodle chicken curry, but it was just blah. Maybe there were other things that we should've ordered.
That night, a friend and I attempted to go to Le Pichet square in the middle of dinner time, without a reservation, with a big conference (i.e., mine) in town. Nope! This I knew would be a problem, but my friend wanted to try, and hey, it didn't hurt. Fortunately, because of YOU CHOWHOUNDERS I had my trusty-dusty cheat-map of downtown restaurants and realized we were handy to Long Provincial Vietnamese. Though they were packed, they seated us in the somewhat subterranean and very dimly lighted bar area. My friend had a groovy "tangerine martini" (which she said was really like a Marguerita?) and seafood fried rice, which she enjoyed. We also split the spring rolls, which were nice. On the recommendation of the server (for a choice among the satays), I had a wonderful Bò xã lụi lemongrass beef satay -- hot and spicy and addictive. I LOVE the preparation of the ground beef mixture wrapped around lemongrass -- the beef has a fantastic flavor. Then I had the Gỏi bắp chuối cua lột ~ Soft crab banana blossom salad. Heavenly. I've never had banana blossom before (hence my order, in keeping with my desire to eat not only well but new), and it was fascinating -- fresh, light, floral, delicious. Service was a little inattentive, but they were packed and we were just fine.
Friday morning, I grabbed a surprisingly tasty and filling turkey and swiss croissant from the Specialty Cafe near my hotel for breakfast. For lunch, I went back to Ting Momo and was disappointed. I happened to walk past Marie & Frères, 2122 Westlake, so I stopped in there on the way back and had their fantastic chocolate-covered passionfruit sorbet "pop" -- deservedly written up in local magazines, I gather. I also tasted their marvelous toasted coconut chocolate bar. Amazing. And the owner was full of recommendations for places to go and things to eat in and around Seattle. (Note: my friend agreed with me about the ice cream confection and the single-origin organic Brazilian chocolate, but noted that Gelatiamo downtown has a better passionfruit sorbet and gerlato For dinner, a group of 4 of us actually made reservations for a change (!!) at Mashiko, the sustainable sushi place in West Seattle. It was about an $18 taxi ride out there from downtown, but the food was worth it. Melt in your mouth sushi and other treats. My friend and I shared the $50 Toku Omakase. She insisted on ordering an extra Rainbow roll, which was awesome, but meant we just had too much food. But these are nice problems to have. The sushi, again, was awesome. A white fish with ponzu and shiso oil… tako salad….heavenly poké over seaweed salad – a perfect explosion of sashimi, seaweed, scallions, garlic and sesame. Then heart-meltingly fantastic Geoduck Butter Yaki with fabulous umami power. There was a fantastic grilled salmon, too. I was underwhelmed by the tuna sashimi—I don’t really see the point, frankly. I think the kitchen appreciated the absolutely wiped clean plates and enthusiasm, because they sent out two desserts for the whole table -- marvelous scented, rich Jasmine crème brulée and green tea ice cream, too. I couldn’t get over the quality of the food for the price. $50 for TWO????? I just wanted to put my head down on the table and cry. In fact, by day 3, I kept on finding myself muttering, “You’re killing me, Seattle, you’re killing me.” With envy. It’s enough to make an exiled foodie almost tearful.
Saturday, I had a surprisingly good crab omelet, topped with avocado, at my hotel (Red Lion on 5th). Later, I had a nice almond croissant and an AMAZING, FANTASTIC hazelnut sablé at Le Panier. For lunch, my friend wanted to hit Wild Ginger and so we did. It was just OK (prawns with green beans), nothing special, which is what I expected. I tried to get the server to steer me, but he just pushed the lunch special. I’m a little sad that I didn’t have another stand-out meal in that “slot” though. For dinner, a fellow conference-attendee arranged reservations at Poppy, a nice choice for a veg (her) and omnivore (me) to go to. We enjoyed tasty cocktails (Turkish delight and Wild about Saffron), which I’d enjoy exploring more though I’m not usually a drinker, as I am usually the designated driver at home. I note the GQ-type bar/server staff at Poppy—quite the collection of hunks, and very nice and professional too. The 7-item Thali with scallops, fennel salad, yams, burdock pickle, naan and beet soup was tasty, though a bit gimmicky – tasty, but not nearly the mind-blowing quality or generous quantity for the same money (or a bit less, actually) that you get at Mashiko. More of a scene—the adorable graphics on the menu, the studly servers, the cool music, the brick wall, etc—but that’s fun too.
Sunday I had Taiwanese food at Facing East in Bellevue. The kumquat and citrus tea, warm, was unusual and satisfying. The pork burger was delicious. (see pix on Yelp) I was less fond of the bitter melon with egg and the oyster-yam something or other, but it was comfort food for my friend. I would’ve loved to have explored the menu at this place more. Then I had shave ice—with everything on it! Sweet beans, soft, cooked peanuts, condensed milk, green jelly, etc—for the first time ever and it was addictive. That night found me wandering around downtown indecisively, unsure where to go for my last night. Stopped by blueacre and looked at the menu, but it was dead and I wasn’t sure it would be very nice to be solo in a completely empty restaurant. Wandered around a LOT and finally ended up at the Brooklyn, where I tried some oysters and had a rather busy scallop dish: Day Boat Scallops, porcini mushroom-dusted, with braised painted hills shortribs. served with yukon gold asiago scalloped potatoes and spinach. finished with honeycrisp apple, bacon and roaring 40's blue cheese butter. topped with a castelvetrano and nicoise olive tapenade ($31). I mean, stop already!! The flavors worked alright, but there was just a bit too much going on there. I’d rather keep it simple and just taste the seafood.
Monday I was flying out, but grabbed another hazelnut sablé at Le Panier, bought some expensive smoked fish and got a Meatloaf sandwich on pumpernickel with the works from Three Sisters Bakery. Even 4 hours later, instead of fresh, this was a monstrously good sandwich. Bye bye, Seattle, O how I loved you.