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Restaurants & Bars

Cafe Juanita in Kirkland

Tom Armitage | Nov 19, 200310:08 PM

I’ve always been impressed with the food at Café Juanita, but a recent dinner really knocked my socks off. Since quince is in season, I couldn’t resist starting with a quince Bellini with Taleggio crostini. My wife started with the crisp veal sweetbreads, which were perfection – crisp on the outside, tender and moist within, with the delicate flavor coming through in fine form, accented by the sharpness of the Pantellerian capers. My choice of appetizer, the foie gras, was served on slices of caramelized quince with Vin Santo and candied ginger. Another knockout. The foie gras was generously proportioned, moist, and perfectly cooked. I couldn’t resist the soup of the day, the name of which I can’t recall, that was prepared by cooking parmesan rinds in chicken stock, and adding torn pieces of pasta and vegetables to the finished product. The flavor was delicately infused with Parmesan, not at all overpowering. I relished every spoonful. For my main course, I had the “signature dish” of rabbit braised in Arneis with pancetta, chickpea crepe, and chanterelles. It’s hard not to order this dish on any visit to Café Juanita. Nobody in Seattle cooks rabbit better than this. It’s an amazing dish. My wife had the saddle of lamb served on a Jerusalem artichoke gratin. The lamb was some of the best I’ve had recently, full of flavor, tender, nicely seared on the outside and perfectly cooked to order (rare). The Jerusalem artichokes were a complex preparation that were exquisitely delicious in their own right, and a perfect complement to the lamb. Given the fact that there hadn’t been a dish that was less that wonderful, I couldn’t resist trying the Valhrona chocolate truffle cake with espresso sauce for desert. It was rich (perfect for sharing with the rest of the table), with the chocolate flavor very focused and intense. In short, a perfect end to a perfect meal. With our meal, we had a 2000 Luciano Sandrone Pel Mol Rosso Langhe, a moderately priced bottle recommended by our excellent waiter that was an exceptional value. Made of 60 percent Barbera and 40 percent Nebbiolo, it had a nice intensity of fruit with interesting layers and complexity of flavors. My usual standard in the Seattle area for this level of gustatory ecstasy is Harvest Vine. The meal I had at Café Juanita is right up there with those I’ve had at H.V. Plus, I like the ambience at Café Juanita, and the service was outstanding. Bouquets to Holly Smith and her crew. Café Juanita is way up there on my top ten list for restaurants in the Seattle area.

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