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Looking for the best Seattle (fried) calamari

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evergreengirl Mar 12, 2009 11:46 AM

Just moved back to Seattle from the Southeast, and am looking for the quintessential fried calamari.

In my other hometown (Durham, NC), a Greek restaurant served calamari in an extremely light, non-greasy, subtle-but-slightly-nutty batter, and made very sure to serve it FAST to your table. The squid rings were fork-tender at first, only firming up to chewy halfway through the (enormous!) plate - if I was eating alone. Otherwise, they were gone well before any hint of chewy-ness set in. For a dip, I either got a tremendously delicious tzatziki, or smuggled in a harissa aoli from one of the restaurants down the block (shameless, I know, but worth the cloak-and-dagger).

This was by far the very best calamari I've ever had the pleasure of even hearing about, and now I'm ruined, dreaming about the glorious days of light, golden cephalopod rings.

So, chowhounds - can anything in Seattle compare?

~evergreengirl

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  1. Mike CP RE: evergreengirl Mar 12, 2009 12:37 PM

    This summer I made it out to the Greek Festival at St. Demetrios Church. One of the more popular booths there had good calimari. I do not remember the name of the booth, however.

    If anybody knows the name of the company/restaurant that owned this booth, I would definitely suggest it as a place to try.

    1. dave_c RE: evergreengirl Mar 12, 2009 01:45 PM

      This is going down a different path, but Shanghai Garden makes a good fried squid dish. Lightly battered fried squid pieces tossed with white pepper, green onions, garlic and jalapenos (?) served with a similar soy dipping sauce and cilantro on the side.

      My little girls fav... actually she's now 17. Dang I'm getting old! lol.

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        staffstuff RE: evergreengirl Mar 12, 2009 04:58 PM

        Yanni's Greek Restaurant on Greenwood Ave. serves just what you're describing. Also, the deep-fried calamari at Twist in Belltown has a unique curry-spiced crust on their calamari.

        1 Reply
        1. re: staffstuff
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          evergreengirl RE: staffstuff Mar 13, 2009 01:22 PM

          Oooh, they both sound wonderful. I'll have to try Yanni's.

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          zoogrrrl RE: evergreengirl Mar 12, 2009 11:45 PM

          Actually, I can't think of a place that I've been, and that serves fried calamari, that hasn't been good. We just had it at La Taverna and it was yummy. We love it at Brasa. Yanni's is a very generous portion, good but little greasier.

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            BallardFoodie RE: evergreengirl Mar 13, 2009 08:22 AM

            Out of all of the places that I've eaten it, I'm most partial to Nell's version.

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            1. re: BallardFoodie
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              staffstuff RE: BallardFoodie Mar 13, 2009 10:00 AM

              Heads-up...Nell's version is not deep-fried...it's sauteed without a coating in herbs...nothing interesting texture-wise and rather bland IMO.

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                BallardFoodie RE: staffstuff Mar 14, 2009 09:40 AM

                It's been a while since we've been there (17 month old tends to do that to you) and it sounds like they've changed it. Too bad. I always thought they had the best aioli. Perhaps my mind is reminiscing back to Saleh's.

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              bergeo RE: evergreengirl Mar 13, 2009 08:43 AM

              I've had a great version of calamari at Toyota Sushi in Lake City. They use tiny baby squid so you get lots of little leg "bouquets" which I really enjoy.

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                wallyz RE: evergreengirl Mar 14, 2009 10:50 PM

                If you are willing to go north, Waterfront Fish market in Everett has good Calamari with a good aoli.

                They are a take away stand only, open during lunch. If you a re looking for really good fresh, the market next door has that as well. They also carry really cheap and good 5 lb frozen blocks of calamari that you can take home and experiment with.

                3 Replies
                1. re: wallyz
                  Freida RE: wallyz Mar 19, 2009 01:14 PM

                  Terracotta Red in Everett has astonishing fried calamari, done up with spices and onions and a lime dipping sauce. Zowie.

                  1. re: Freida
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                    wallyz RE: Freida Mar 19, 2009 10:30 PM

                    Hmm- must have been better than when i went. I was disappointed with most of the things I tried at Terracotta Red, including the Calamari. I may have to give it another shot.

                    1. re: wallyz
                      Freida RE: wallyz Mar 20, 2009 10:10 AM

                      Perhaps we're easily pleased when it comes to Everett restaurants, but we liked everything we had there, especially the pork belly appetizer and the calamari. The duck in the Shanghai noodles was really nicely done, too. We're planning a return visit to try some other things.

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                  wawinelover RE: evergreengirl Mar 16, 2009 03:31 PM

                  If your willing to give up fried for sauteed, AND if you like spicy hot food, I would highly recommend the calamari at the Capitol Grill (downtown Seattle). We were there a couple weeks ago and it was the best calamari we'd ever had! Warning - it is served with jalapenos and red peppers and you will be breathing fire. But it was awesome!

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                    GreenLakeDave RE: evergreengirl Mar 17, 2009 11:21 AM

                    Had the calamari at Smash in Wallingford again this weekend. Nicely done with a spicey pepperoncini aioli.

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                      Barry Foy RE: evergreengirl Mar 18, 2009 10:12 AM

                      I won't risk a stab at "best," but I will say I had a damn tasty batch--hefty order of fries and sauce included, altogether $7.66--at Pike Street Fish Fry yesterday. Light and tender, a little piquant. Which is not to say that the loud rap music on the PA, with its seemingly endless string of "motherf'rs," "ho's," and "bitches" enhanced the experience any (are you listening, Pike Street Fish Fry?).

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                        aprildoodles RE: evergreengirl Mar 19, 2009 11:41 PM

                        My vote goes to a new restaurant in town, Taberna Del Alabardero. I believe it is the one on their Tapas menu. It was so deliciously tender and not greasy or heavy. They are in Belltown in the old Cascadia space.

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                        1. re: aprildoodles
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                          evergreengirl RE: aprildoodles Sep 27, 2009 11:39 AM

                          I finally was able to try the calamari at Taberna del Alabardero - SPECTACULAR recommendation, aprildoodles! These guys have calamari *down*. Not exactly the same as my old NC haunt because of the thickness - thickest calamari I've ever had, but equal to Niko's in extreme tenderness (not even the faintest hint of chewiness), and perfection in cooking. We speculated at the table that they must have fried them while still frozen - there'd be no other way to get them so crispy on the outside without going chewy inside.

                          The tapas portion was larger than I expected, even. Great aioli to go with it. Going to frequent here more often - virtually all the food was died-and-gone-to-heaven delicious!

                          (Tried Pike St. Fish Fry previously, on Barry Foy's rec - PSFF suffers from apparently well-known variability - we must have had a *very* off night. Heavy, greasy, icky seafood.)

                          1. re: evergreengirl
                            JohnnyI RE: evergreengirl Sep 28, 2009 01:16 PM

                            Leave it to a Spanish restaurant to nail the squid. They are the masters...if you have a Spanish joint the first thing you need to make sure of is the tchipriones.

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                          karion RE: evergreengirl Mar 20, 2009 01:53 PM

                          This is spectacularly random, as I know what kind of calamari you are probably after, but the tempura calamari at Sushi Bay (Dexter, between Mercer and Fremont) is kind of fantastic.

                          My favorite calamari was at the old Fremont Trattoria, which has sadly been laid to rest.

                          1. Tom Armitage RE: evergreengirl Apr 3, 2009 01:04 PM

                            Two historical notes on calamari: (1) Although the now-demised Adriatica went through some ups and downs and a number of chef changes, in its prime it served the best deep-fried calamari in Seattle, hands-down. The preparation was exquisitely simple and, as I can attest, can be easily replicated at home. The squid are cleaned and then kept in ice water long enough to get them very cold. They are then LIGHTLY dusted in flour seasoned with salt, white pepper, and paprika (shake off all the excess flour). Finally, they are deep fried QUICKLY in peanut oil. By the time the foam from the flour subsides, the calamari are done – roughly about a minute or less. The squid at Adriatica were served with a classic Greek skordalia sauce. Simple, yet divine. (2) Although I am in general a fan of Chef Philip Mihalski’s cooking at Nell’s, and although he keeps pan-fried calamari on the menu from the wondrous days of Saleh al Lago, I agree that they are usually not quite as good as they were under the masterful touch of Saleh Joudeh, despite the fact that Mihalski worked as sous-chef to Chef Joudeh.

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                              staffstuff RE: evergreengirl May 19, 2009 04:16 PM

                              just discovered another good calamari: Greenlake Bar & Grill..they serve it w. a yummy chipolte sauce.

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                                Erika L RE: evergreengirl May 19, 2009 05:36 PM

                                I'm partial to the salt and pepper calamari during happy hour at the Triple Door. It's served with a vinegar-based spicy dipping sauce.

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                                  dagrassroots RE: Erika L May 19, 2009 08:47 PM

                                  St Clouds in Madrona has a pan fried version that I really enjoy. It comes with a roasted yellow pepper-sriracha sauce.

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                                    equinoise RE: Erika L Sep 28, 2009 09:15 AM

                                    I agree with the one Erika mentions, its quite good. Solid portion too.

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                                    zoogrrrl RE: evergreengirl May 19, 2009 11:26 PM

                                    Friends swear by the calamari at Flying Fish. Part of the happy hour menu, as well, daily 4-6 pm.

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                                      seatowner RE: evergreengirl Sep 30, 2009 07:10 PM

                                      Salt and Pepper Squid at the Seagarden in the International District. 'nuf said.

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                                      1. re: seatowner
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                                        equinoise RE: seatowner Oct 1, 2009 10:20 AM

                                        Another great Sn'P example. The scallops are good as well. I think its the hot pepper topping that does it for me.

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