Eastside: I beg for your suggestions
I have read through the chowhound archives, but I still beg you to help me, a former Belltown woman. My new husband lives in Redmond and he hates to drive to (or in) Seattle. He's from some small town in New Hampshire and has never lived in a city.
I'm 50something years old. I don't cook. I burn everything. It's too late to start now.
Tell me anyplace: restaurant, precooked food, sandwich stand, u-pick veggies, drive-though (just kidding). I need anyplace with decent food that I can get to without crossing a bridge. Please also tell me what you ordered at the restaurant.
My husband and I travel. We go from heavenly pastries and asian food in Paris and chocolate in Bruge to ..... this desert...this hellhole of fast food ghettos. I'll take any suggestions...Woodinville? Bellevue? Kirkland? Duvall? Carnation? I just ate about a pound of u-pick raspberries from Remlinger farms because it tasted like real food which hadn't been nuked in a 7-11. There is only so much I can take. I would jump off the roof if I could find a decent bagel, a French pastry with good whipped cream (and I would even go across the bridge for that), a plate of eastside spagetti that doesn't taste like tin-can tomatos. Help. Have pitty on me. Toss me a bone.
I feel for your plight, having spent time living in several different places over the past few years, some of which felt like they were slipping into a black hole in the diverse universe of gastronomy.
Fortunately, you are casting a wide net encompassing several eastside cities. This list favors strong "ethnic" joints a bit over NW/"new American" because I think the latter is accomplished much better in Seattle proper.
-SeaStar, for inventive, highish-end seafood and good wine.
-Szechuan Chef and Bamboo Garden, probably the top two Sichuan spots in the Seattle area.
-Yea's Wok, CH-acclaimed Taiwanese/seafood. Seems to be emerging as a concensus favorite. (I suppose it's technically Newcastle, but that is just another uppity subset of Bellevue like Medina, et al).
-Spice Route. The best/only worthwhile non-vegetarian Indian spot I have found in the metro area.
-Udupi Palace, decent dosai, chaat, and other Indian vegetarian.
-Facing East and Cafe Ori, other, less esteemed Taiwanese.
-Yama, a Japanese that is a little lost in attempts at high-concept, but the food is actually decent.
-Ginza, good ramen, many small daily special plates and other Japanese, with a heavily Japanese clientele.
-I Love Sushi, silly name, but good quality fish, probably best on the eastside (not as good as several in Seattle though).
-Persian Grocery and Deli, my sleeper favorite for best sandwich, plus other Iranian dishes that are seldom seen in these parts.
-MIng's, Noble Court, Top Gun for dim sum. Some say Noble Court is the best dim sum in the metro area, FWIW: the hardcore, jet-set dim sum people here say anything less than Richmond, BC is not worthwhile. I often stick up for the local on this issue, and I truly enjoy Noble Court as compared to my somewhat limited dim sum experience in NYC, its environs, and BC; I haven't tried the other two mentioned.
-Malay Satay Hut, CH-approved, excellent Malaysian.
-Sichuanese Cuisine, another Sichuan that is well spoken of.
-Mayuri, Indian grocery, sweets, and chaat.
*Note: the three above are all in close proximity-like less than two blocks.
**Note also that Redmond is an Indian hot spot, but I have yet to try any that I reccommend besides Mayuri, and none of my targets have been discussed here much.
Noodle Boat, touted as best Thai in the area
Fish Cafe, good reasonably priced seafood.
Cafe Juanita, one of Seattle's foremost for years, romantic NW-slash-Italian.
I can't speak for the more far flung ex-urban locales you mention, like Duvall, but I hope you can start with the above.
i also like NOble Court (and O'Asian) for dimsum although I do think that, for certain items at least, there are places in the Bay Area and NYC that do better (I'm thinking for example Yank Sing or Koi Palace in SF and any of the xiao long bao/soup dumpling places in NYC). i also like the sea bass w/ crispy soybean topping at Yea's Wok, a bit on the sweet side but still good.
I like your list. I'm interested in what you like at some of your places because I have found one or two dishes that I love but have found others so-so.
Szechuan Chef - great Szechuan Crab (almost on par w/7peppers), what else?
Bamboo Garden - loved T&C Wood Smoked Duck & Twice Cooked Fish, what else?
Facing East - Taiwanese Chow Mein was very good, what else?
Malay Satay Hut - Roti Canai to die for but what else?
Some Dim Sum notes:
Mings is closed. I think Noble Court has fallen way off since changing hands a few years ago. Top Gun, although good is too crowded and greasy tables & utensils turn me off. When I don't want to go across the lake to Jade Garden, I usually do Bellevue Sea Garden or Kirkland Sentosa.
A few more places that I like are:
Mixtura(Nuevo Andean), Kirkland - Everything I've had has been great. Food served in tapas, app., &entree sizes.
Lai Thai, Kirkland - All the salads, Phad Woon Sen, Phad Kee Mao, Eggplant, Dragontail, Massamun Curry - outstanding.
Sichuanese cuisine, Redmond - Prawns w/ blackbeans, Dry Cooked Stringbeans, Kung Pao Fish.
I have liked the majority of things I sampled at both Bellevue Sichuanese. At Szechuan Chef: dan dan noodles; cumin lamb; szechuan flavor crab (i thought it superior to 7 stars); ginger crab. At Bamboo Garden: "strange flavor tripe"; qinjong chicken (addictive, it seemed every table ordered this); dry cooked beans; ma po tofu; some bamboo dish, and my favorite the water boiled fish aka "fish with hot and spicy gravy". Numbing, hot and delicious.
At Malay (in Seattle), I have enjoyed the okra, the chow kueh teow, and the malay rojak. So much more I want to try. I haven't yet been to Facing East.
Re dim sum: As I said in my post I haven't been to Ming's or Top Gun, just heard a preponderance of positive comments on this board. I just called the number for Ming's and the dude explained that they are the same restaurant but had to change the name to "King's" two years ago. They were serving dim sum as we spoke. I plan to try the others you mentioned. I was circumspect in my praise because of the bottomless Seattle dim sum debate. I still have trouble accepting that nothing here is even worth a visit by the average person on this board. The dim sum enthusiasts that argue as such may be operating in a universe of elite expertise, and may percieve flaws that others don't. I never went to dim sum in the Seattle area until moving here last fall so I can't comment on the decline you speak of. I like Noble Court, and continue to believe it superior to Honey Court in the ID, two of the better places in New Jersey, a handful of places in NYC chinatown, and on par with Floata in BC. That is the admitted limit of my dim sum travels.
I am excited that you like Lai Thai; I have heard positive reports. I am always looking for good Thai with unusual dishes. So many places here have identical, conservative menus. I still dream about the "secret" menu at Sticky Rice in Chicago-that place is wild good.
Ming's is now known as King's. Their dim sum tastes the same as before. But their dinner (especially their Chinese banquet menu) has improved drastically. It can almost substitute for Vancouver Chinese food in some instances. They were fully packed on a Sunday night for dinner. We were a party of 12 who had a 10-course Chinese banquet (lobster, crab, fish, shark fin soup, etc.) for $240 tips included.
I agree with kirkj, Noble Court used to be really good, but has fallen off. Plus, the restaurant has really gotten run down. I hit the same places, Jade Garden...or Sea Garden on the East side.
Szechuan Chef and Yea's Wok are my chosen places to eat also, and I have not yet made it to Bamboo Garden.
I'm also a fan of Cafe Juanita and am itching to try Mixtura.
Noble Court was good - 15 years ago. Now it resembles Pink Pearl in Vancouver - a place that rested just a little too much on its laurels. (But I've never had Pink Pearl even when it claimed to be "good") No offense to anyone, but a dimsum restaurant with less than 25% of its patrons being of Asian descent is probably a pretty bad sign.
You're in luck. As the above writers have mentioned, the Eastside has some great Asian food. I'd particularly second the recommendations for Udupi Palace (Indian) and Malay Satay Hut. My wife and I will drive from Seattle to get to Udupi Palace. Great dosas.
I'm glad you mentioned bagels...as a resident of South Seattle, it pains me to report that the only two decent bagels in the region I've found are at Bagel Oasis on 65th in north Seattle, and Mikie's Brooklyn Bagel's on Redmond Way in Redmond. I often go to Mikie's whenever business/life takes me out that way...as is increasingly common in New York, it took some South Asian immigrants to make a great New York bagel.
In Duvall, I'd point out Duvall Grill, which serves a good breakfast in a clean, contemporary, minimalist atmosphere - great potatoes and benedict. The breakfast burrito is quite good, as is the coffee.
On recommendation from my sister, who lives in Duvall, I'd suggest The Grange, which is a new restaurant - I have not been, but she recommends it highly. In an old Grange building, it specializes in serving local, natural meats and local, organic produce. Sounds like it's worth checking out.
Finally, Tutta Bella Pizza, which began in my neighborhood of Columbia City, is opening a third location, soon, in Woodinville. This is authentic, certified Neapolitan style pizza. It's a source of some controversy on this board - there are many partisans of the lovely Neapolitan pizzeria Via Tribunali - but Tutta Bella is a good pizza, good beer, great salads - and it'll be on the Eastside, so there you go. I order a Quattro Stagione and a Tutta Bella beer.
For shopping, I'd recommend Uwajimaya for good Asian grocery in the Crossroads area of Seattle, conveniently located around the corner from Trader Joe's.
The Eastside can be a good place to eat - if you know where to go.
in bellevue-calcutta grill at newcastle golf course
bis on main-old b-vue
yama-in the galleria
mediteranean kitchen-near bell square
mazana-across from bell square
whole foods-for take out
porcella urban market-for take out
belle pastry-old b-vue-for french pastry
in redmond-alborz-persian food
desert fire-redmond town center-sw food
matt's oyster bar-redmond town center
acapulco fresh-cleveland street
pasta and co.-for takeout
in kirkland-third floor-downtown
rikki rikki-park place-japanese
purple cafe-park place-esp. for wine
cafe juanita-near lake wa.-finest on the eastside
noah's bagels-park place-some may differ-i like
in issaquah-iris grill-gilman vilage
in woodinville-the herbfarm-do a litle research on this one
ooba tooba-near the albertson's-better than average mex-have the scallop quesadilla
texas smokehouse bbq-again some may not but i like
purple cafe-like in kirkland
and for something un-chowish but fun and pretty reasonable in redmond i suggest sushiland in the bella bottega complex-it's conveyor belt sushi. not the best but not terrible. can be very busy.
you can thank me later.
i recently ordered a butter chicken pizza from the bellevue branch of can-am pizza (canampizza.com). It was exactly what it sounds like - butter chicken on a pizza crust. It wasn't exactly pizza, and it wasn't exactly indian food, but it was exactly different and weird and delicious. I'm looking forward to trying their other 'delicacies'.
I am from the East Coast visiting Seattle for a week. After reading this board, we tried Sichuanese Cuisine and Yea's Wok.
Sichuanese Cuisine was a big disappointment. We ordered five traditional Sichuan dishes that should have had distinct flavors; they all turned out to taste pretty much the same.. A sign of bad Sichuan or quasi Sichuan cooking is to douse the dishes with a bland chili sauce. This place did not even use the most important Sichuan peppercorn in a couple of the dishes that should have it as a basic ingredient. Whoever thinks this is authentic Sichuan cooking is very much mistaken.
Yea's Wok was better. It's one of these places that claim to cover all different Chinese cooking styles (Hunan, Sichuan, Taiwanese...). It's usually a bad sign, but at least the dishes here were relatively well done. While not top-notch by any means, the dishes were distinctive and were close to what they area suppose to taste like.
At Yea's, if you do not ask for the Chinese menu, you get the standard English menu that has the usual "American Chinese" items that one sees in Chinese take-out places across the US. I asked for a Chinese menu, got an understanding nod and was handed a menu that had entirely different items. My friends left me to do all the ordering and was spared of the usual chow mein, pork fried rice or chicken with broccoli most Chinese stay away from.
I would recommend two areas to explore by foot (yes, by foot, on the Eastside):
-Main Street, Bellevue (aka Old Bellevue). Porcella Urban Market has superior take-out and casual sit-down for lunch and dinner. They have a standing French roaster and I gladly come across the bridge for their pork baguette.
Across the street, there is a pastry shop with traditional French offerings. Farther west, there is a decent bagel shop with shmear and everything.
BEHIND the street, there is a lovely, small cafe run by mother and daughter with a European-influenced menu.
-Gilman Village, Issaquah. Iris Grill is first-rate, excellent service and bar. If the happy hour menu were in Seattle, it would be mobbed every night. Sweet Addition has desserts of the to-die-for variety along with a great lunch menu. Bamiyana has an authentic Afghan menu. Nicollino's has a solid Italian menu (no tin-can tomatoes). The Boarding House has been serving the same classic homemade bread and soup lunch for over 30 years.
My husband and I have recently moved here from New Zealand, and have also struggled to find great food on the Eastside - I feel your pain. However, I've learnt a lot from this post, so thanks! Now I have plenty of new places to try. I won't weigh in on the Dim Sum debate, except to say that we were disappointed by Noble Court.
Pomegranate in Redmond is excellent, and the small cafe mentioned in tbilisi's post above in Bellevue is called Cafe Pirouette, and it's fantastic.
Kiwis call it Yum Cha rather than Dim Sum (which created some interesting confusion for me when we moved here!), and yes, it's very popular and generally really good. It's been tough here not to compare every place we try to our favorite back in Wellington, but we're desperate to find a regular dim sum place to call our own!
Places to consider: (I've included some more northend places too, which require no bridge-crossing)
Indian - Spice Route, Maruyi, Kanishka, Priya, Pabla (Renton)
Chinese - Yea's Wok, Szechwan Chef, Ming's, Jeem's, Cafe Ori
Korean - Blue Ginger, Kawon (Lynnwood), Hosoonyi (Edmonds)
Japanese - Sushi Zen (Mill Creek), Yama, Tuna House
Mexican - try the taco truck at the 76 gas station on 148th and 28th. It's the best Mexican you can get on the eastside, humorously located 2 blocks away from Azteca.
The Melrose Grill in Renton is a nice place for steak, if Ruth's Chris is too high-end.
Also try Tosoni's. That's always a fun place to go.
Brunch is supposedly pretty good at the Calcutta Grill at the Newcastle Golf Club. For what they charge, I'm sure they can't be half bad.
I hear that either the Family Pancake House in Redmond or the Original Pancake House in Kirkland is good. I forget which.
As you can see, I rarely wake up soon enough to eat out for breakfast. I like to make my own breakfast for yours truly and Her Majesty. :-)
Brunch at Calcutta is good--the view is an added bonus on a nice day.
The Family Pancake House in Kirkland (Park Place) is excellent, although the waits can be long. BTW, you can call in your name to be put on the list.
Pomegranate in Redmond does an excellent brunch also (rosemary hashbrowns).
Downtown Kirkland also has a few other options besides the Family Pancake House. Oriel, George's (diner), Waters at the Woodmark, all do a pretty decent breakfast/brunch without the waiting that the Pancake House as. Brown Bag Cafe in Totem Lake is another good one, but generally draws quite a crowd on weekends.
In Redmond, the Village Square Cafe is also a decent breakfast place, although I haven't been there in quite a while. The Brown Bag Cafes (Redmond and Kirkland) also seem to be quite popular, but I haven't been to either, so I can't say for sure how good their stuff is. Pretty much any time I drive by the Redmond one on a Saturday there's a line out the door though.
For what it's worth, I'm a big fan of California Pizza Kitchen in Bellevue. Good quality and good variety. Particular favorites are the Kung Pao Spaghetti, the Waldorf Salad and the Thai Chicken Pizza. Also, their Key Lime Pie is the best, and most legit, I've had outside of Florida. We often go to fancier, more expensive places, and then ask, "Why didn't we go to CPK?"
We tried out Mixtura, the Peruvian restaurant in Kirkland, last night, and it was fantastic! Pretty quiet (no more so than I'd expect on a Monday night though), good ambiance, and our server Farley was a perfect blend of discretion and attentiveness (and very understanding when we were focussed more on talking than reading the menu!). The food was delicious; I especially recommend the appetizer of chilled purple potatoes and seafood - divine.