I'm a SF hound just coming back from a fun weekend in Seattle, and here are my experiences based mostly on recommendations from Chowhound.
My flight was delayed coming into Seattle so we weren't picky about our first choice. There was a parking spot open right next to Lola at 10.15pm, so that decided things. The room was smaller and more modern than I expected but the Greek-inspired menu looked really interesting. The grilled squid kabobs and the red pepper spread were very good, while the rest of the items in the combo appetizer plate were okay but nothing special. Our entrees (I had the seafood tagine, my boyfriend had the cumin lamb) were good but not stellar. Service was friendly and professional. Overall, I can see why it gets mixed reviews on Chowhound. It doesn't do anything wrong, but other than some of the apps and the yummy anise-flavored mints by the door, it doesn't really do anything to make me want to come back. Total was $130 for two including two cocktails, a small carafe of their so-so house wine, tax, and tip.
For Saturday lunch we went to Matt's in the Market. After some problems finding it (good thing Gayot mentioned it was in the Corner Market Building), we arrived in time for our 12.30 reservation. Gayot also mentioned the great view of the market from Matt's, but unless you're lucky enough to get at one of the two windowside tables, there's no view. We thought the chilled avocado soup with cevice, the white anchovy salad, and the bread pudding dessert were all good but not great. However, the hot albacore tuna sandwich was OUTSTANDING!! We really enjoyed the bold flavor and texture combinations and would happily eat it every week. This is a great place and I would definitely come back. Total including two ice teas, tax, and tip was $36.
Union was the most disappointing of our Chowhound recs. The room is small and elegantly modern, and the service was fine though our waiter seemed a little uncomfortable. We were really looking forward to our meal here after hearing adjectives like "exciting" and "innovative" applied to the food, and while the chef did have some nice touches with the dishes in our 7-course tasting menu, none were significantly different from that served at many other high-end restaurants, and worse, the execution was a bit lacking. The part of our Hawaiian prawn course was overcooked, and much of the beef course was very tough and also overcooked. Pairing a rich walnut with a rich goat cheese didn't work in the cheese course, and the chilled melon soup for dessert was a little too chilled.
Near the restroom I saw an old magazine article posted with a review of Union, and it mentioned having an 8-course tasting menu for $48. When I saw that, I thought perhaps the appeal of the restaurant is that it's a good value for what you get. However, our 7 courses were $65 each, and we've had many much better meals, tasting menu wise or a la carte, at that price. We also asked for a wine pairing with some of the courses which ended up not being very successful (we probably should have noticed the lack of a sommelier). Strangely (or not), the more expensive glasses in our pairing were our least favorite. Total for our meal including 4 glasses of wine, tax, and tip was $220. We would definitely not go back.
7 Stars Pepper
Our last meal in Seattle was dinner at 7 Stars Pepper. As Asians, we felt some trepidation entering the room since it was rather empty at 7.30pm and the clientele was about 2/3 non-Asians. These are usually bad signs for an Asian restaurant in my book. After ordering, though, our fears were quickly allayed :) We ordered Bamboo Shoots in Chili Oil, Ant on a Tree, and Szechuan Crab, all of which were delicious and with a good level (not too much, not too little) of spicing (though my Vietnamese boyfriend, who eats spicy food all the time, kept saying "this is really spicy" every ten minutes). My critical side would point out that none of the dishes had any Sichuan pepper (thus missing the "ma" of the traditional "ma la" Sichuan taste, which is too bad since I love Sichuan pepper) and the bamboo shoots weren't that fresh, but my Chowhound side was too busy devouring the oily, spicy, yummy bits of food to really care. Service was pretty good for a Chinese restaurant, and I appreciated how they brought out a bowl of warm lime-infused water to wash our hands with while eating the messy crab. Their freshly-pulped watermelon juice was also nicely refreshing, and by 8.30 the room was almost full and about half Asian, half non-Asian, all happily eating the great food. I highly recommend this find to anyone visiting Seattle, even those from areas with large Chinese populations like I have in the Bay Area. Total including 2 watermelon juices, a beer, tax, and tip was a very reasonable $42.
Again I'm reminded how glad I am to have a resource like Chowhound to help me find good eats during my travels. Otherwise we'd probably go by what's near us and by Zagat or Gayot and miss out a lot of Seattle's gems. Thanks to everyone who contributes to Chowhound!
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