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Apr 18, 2011 11:22 PM

Eating my way through Seattle

Hi Chow-People -

After WAY too many years of reading and getting all sorts of superb recommendations from you all, I wanted to finally take some time to share some great food I've had here in Seattle. I grew up out here and I've been back for the month for work. And man - you guys have it good on the food front. This has kind of been like a culinary tour of Seattle for me.

Favorites so far:

CAFE PRESSE: Croque Madame. Wow. That was awfully good.

MATT'S IN THE MARKET: I've read all about how this place has fallen off, but i found the octopus to be among the best I've tasted anywhere, including while living in Spain. Short Ribs (the special) were spectacular.

LONG PROVINCIAL ( REALLY enjoyed the squid satay (as do most, I know) and the Long Provincial Crepe was very, very good.

LA CARTA DE OAXACA: I thought their mole and their chile rellenos were superb (I was dubious, our server was adamant we try them). All told, this was some of the best Mexican I've had North of L.A.

SAVATDEE THAI: Loved this food. Went with the Lao menu and it was a winner: Nhem Mou and Gai Yang were both exceptional. Pad see ew off the thai menu was great too. Sticky rice and mango were excellent for dessert.

MARKET DINER at Pike Place: Salmon Sandwich is spectacularly delicious. Love the rub, well-executed high-quality fish and i love their bread (from le Panier I guess?).

MEE SUM PASTRY: I dream of their pork Hom-Bow and red bean sesame balls when I go to sleep at night in Colorado.

PASEO: Went to the spot on Shilshole and I love this place. Cuban and chicken legs are just so crazy good.

WILLOWS INN: I will not claim too much expertise or experience that is all that extensive. In the world of top-echelon restaurants, I'm still a novice. I've eaten at Frasca in Boulder a good few times, Kelly Liken in Vail, Tasting menu at Rovers, and a couple of other standouts. That said, the meal I had at Willows Inn was head and shoulders above anything I have every eaten previously. Every one of the eleven courses we were served was executed flawlessly. The ingredients were uniformly superb - from the poached crab with seaweed, to baby radishes from their farm. I could wax on and on about this for a post in and of itself. Perhaps I will later. For now, suffice to say I was totally blown away. This was the best food I have ever eaten, and served with great wine. The servers were individually charming, friendly, and knowledgeable about every ingredient. We sat alone with the our party of four at the chef's table and left feeling like the kitchen staff were good friends. We paid about $250 each for four of us to stay at the Farm Yurt for a night, eat dinner and drink well, and enjoy a delicious breakfast in the morning. More than I've paid for a meal before, but totally worth it for me.

Pretty good:

JADE GARDEN: had GREAT dim sum here the other Sunday. reasonable long wait, but I really enjoyed the Jasmine Tea and a lot of the steamed specialties. Pork Hom-bow, shu-mai, ha-gow, sticky-rice were pretty lights out. I sure wish I was better at ordering though.

POPPY: Ordered one meat and one vegetarian Thali. A number of the vegetarian tastes were superb - cauliflower was LIGHTS OUT delicious. Naan was fluffy and delicious. Green-roasted halibut was a bit over-cooked. All in all, pretty darn good but not making the headlines.

ETTA'S: I really enjoyed the crab (see above), but the albacore tuna was dry and overcooked, and the famous salmon dish left a lot to be desired. The salmon cut wasn't as good as I'd hoped, and the again a little overcooked. I've liked this place in the past, but was just not as impressed this go round.

VENTANA: Happy hour deal is sort of crazy cheap... loved the ribs, the rest of what we ordered (I think sliders, some salmon and mussels really wasn't as good). Fun place and a great deal though.

SERIOUS PIE: Waited and waited and waited, and got some pretty great pie out of it. I really liked the yukon potato. The Fiddleheads and Pancetta pizza was crazy good.

KANAME IZAKAYA: Pretty good. Loved the octopus dumplings and the black cod. Sashimi plate - while pretty straightforward - was a great deal and enjoyable. Just nice to eat izakaya.

SAMURAI NOODLE: I have loved this place in the past, but found the broth to be overly salty and ramen served a little cold this time. I'm going back again and hoping it's better

Kind of disappointing:

SEATOWN: Really not that great. I was disappointed. Aside from the smoked sturgeon appetizer, I generally thought the food was just okay. Crab was super high quality, but was served with Hellman's mayonnaise - I guess (see below) having had the same thing at Etta's with totally delicious butter, I would have thought "why not pursue an execution you know is better." Instead they served it wih Hellman's MayoService was ABYSSMAL - guy had zero knowledge of the wine list, and was just generally kind of unpleasant. Roast chicken was good, but not nearly as memorable as I would have expected.

STEELHEAD DINER: Just not that good. Poor execution all around. Food was generally poorly prepared

RED LANTERN: This place was recommended by the Seattle Met magazine and a couple friends. It was totally disappointing. If I'm wrong, it could be because I am really not that great at ordering Chinese. Anyone got recommendations for things to order there or elsewhere in the ID for chinese?

BOAT STREET CAFE: So we went here for brunch, and the ingredients were excellent. I could tell that this place had the capacity to be excellent. But the service we had was truly terrible - got my entree wrong, failed to deliver a biscuit we ordered, and our server acted like my pretty polite questions along the way were totally out of line. My scrambled eggs with mushrooms were pretty bland and disappointing. I was not that impressed - especially when I could tell that the food could have been pretty great.

Still on the list - while i have a smidgen of money and haven't gained enough wait to immobilize myself:


Maybe something else, if I can still eat.

Matt's In the Market
94 Pike St Ste 32, Seattle, WA 98101

Cafe Presse
1117 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

622 Broadway E, Seattle, WA

Steelhead Diner
95 Pine Street, Suite 17, Seattle, WA 98101

Etta's Seafood
2020 Western Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121

Serious Pie
316 Virginia St, Seattle, WA 98101

Boat Street Cafe
3131 Western Ave Ste 301, Seattle, WA 98121

La Carta De Oaxaca
5431 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

Jade Garden Restaurant
7th S King S, Seattle, WA 98101

Samurai Noodle
606 5th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

Paseo Caribbean Restaurant
6226 Seaview Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

Ventana Restaurant
2323 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

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  1. Great resto reviews, Ben! I agree with most, although I would have put Serious Pie in the seriously good category.

    Thanks for bringing us up to date with your info!

    Serious Pie
    316 Virginia St, Seattle, WA 98101

    1. Thank you for the great write ups. I haven't been to brunch at Boat Street in years, but I continually hear negative things about it. I do go there for dinner 6 or 7 times a year and love it. I suggest giving it a try for dinner.

      Boat Street Cafe
      909 NE Boat St, Seattle, WA

        1. re: Kelly

          I am glad you enjoyed Savatdee Thai. It is close to my house and I was worried that they wouldn't survive at first but they seem pretty busy now . The cooking is quite meticulous with dishes that are not available elsewhere. i enjoy the other two Lao places in town, Thai Palms and Viengthong, but this is my favorite.

          Thai Palms
          6715 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Seattle, WA

          2820 Martin Luther King Jr Way S, Seattle, WA 98144

        2. When the money gets low, call up several friends and have them set a huge table with lots of dishware. Go to Paseo and buy as many different TOGO dishes as you can handle (platters, or meals offer more than sandwiches, but go ahead, get one or two of those, too). Do not forget a side of grilled onions. A hundred bucks will take you a very long way, here.

          1. I was especially intrigued to hear about your experience at Willows Inn. I went there right after they reopened with the new kitchen in February and was blown away. I can't wait to go back -- especially once we reach the peak of the growing season. I'd love to hear your whole menu from the chef's table dinner. I would place my Willow's Inn dinner right up there with some of the best meals I have ever like Celler Can Roca.

            1 Reply
            1. re: klsalas

              Klsalas -

              My descriptions will not do this justice, but here's the quick version of our Willows Inn menu:

              Smoked salmon (two small bites), each dish served in a cedar box with cedar smoking chips. Tremendously beautiful and engaging presentation.

              Black cod with house-made sauerkraut and dill served on a potato chip

              Baby spring radishes served with Angelica aoili and crushed hazelnuts, served on a large flat stone. This was beautiful and tasted exactly like spring in the Northwest. Amazing flavors.

              Fried dough (sort of like a thin, planar churro) topped with foraged wildflowers and honey butter.

              Oysters with green onions, herbs, and some type of tapioca, served on a bed of frozen pebbles and seawater.

              Poached dungeness crab with asparagus-like seaweed and lettuce-like seaweed in salt water broth. This tasted like the ocean. Very much evocative of walking on the beach outside the Inn.

              Whole-Roased Beets with tarragon butter, fresh cilantro and anise bloom, flax seed, coriander, anise seed.

              Local spot prawns - served almost sashimi style - served with fried shredded mussel, kale, cabbage, mussel butter.

              Potatoes with havarti mashed potatoes, buttermilk whey and dill sauce

              Slow roasted pork should with grilled onions

              Green apples with licorice greens and buttermilk ice cream

              To me the brilliance and beauty of the menu was how much the tastes and presentation reflected the immediate surroundings of the Inn. Staying up at the farm, and walking to the Inn with a detour by the beach on the way to dinner, we saw and smelled almost everything we ate. And without exception, every course was superb.