The little Saffron Deli in the Issaquah strip-mall with Noodle Boat, changed its direction a couple of years ago, but not its name or signage. No longer trying to be an American sandwich shop, Jessie, the proprietor, has gone back to her roots of cookery in Lao/Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese (it's a complicated family, it seems), and now calls it "Saffron Deli - Quick Healthy Asia Style Cuisine" (700 NW Gilman Blvd, Issaquah, 425-391-2488).
They need a new sign badly, because "Deli" conjures up cellophane-wrapped sandwiches at a gas-station shop. It looked dead, too, and not especially inviting, but a little note that said "corn Juice" (in August - dig it) enticed us to stop in late Tuesday, at 4:00, an hour before Noodle Boat would open.
The part about "Quick" may have been true in the day-old-fast-food-cellophane-wrapped-sandwich days, but a food like this is not 'quick' and I'm glad. We were sad when Jessie lamented that business was slow so she hadn't made any corn drink today and it was a lot of work to make and too painful to throw away. Friends, talk about painful - that was painful to hear. This is a great chef, lost in a confusion of American marketing. OK, so 'quick' was a poor choice of words, but they've got fresh down cold and Jessie has an amazing native talent for combining flavors. Oh my gawd, please move to Fremont. I've done a lot of hounding over 60 years, and THIS is why.
We opened our meal as we often do, with the 'Fresh Roll,' and were sold on this place from the first bite. With a fresh, zippy, spicy dipping sauce, the rolls were complex, cool, minty, nutty - the hits just keep on coming. Tamarind Tree rolls were so good, we had them at our wedding, and until today, they were the best we've known, but all that changed in that first bite. An explosion of thoughtful and lively flavors. Wow. Just wow. This is first-order talent.
As soon as we ordered the 'Tender Beef Salad,' we heard the opening cooler door, the crunchy separation of crisp greens, the chopping, stirring, and shaking (really, that 'quick' nonsense, is aiming at the wrong target. This little gem delivers fine-dining attention and quality at deli prices. Mark my words, some savvy restaurateur is going to notice her and make her an offer she can't refuse before long. I say get there while you still can. If it wasn't so far from Ballard, we'd be hauling every friend we have over there ASAP and she'd be seeing a lot of us. I recommend calling a day or so ahead. If you act fast, the 'Corn Drink' has a good shot at fresh local corn (this is killing me).
Next up, Beef Pho was yet another winner. I didn't ask if they made their own broth, but it was beefy and integrated and good.
We are planning another trip in a couple of weeks and intend to try some of these:
QQ Chicken with fat noodles...
and whatEVER Jessie recommends. Really.
They need a name change. Strip-mall lease requirements limit Signage and it's unclear how they'll market Lao/Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese fusion when they finally get around to re-naming it, but, baby, this is total chow from go. Elbow your way past uncertainty and hurry and please report about whatever you discover there.
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