Saturday, April 18, 2009

Restaurant Critic, Take two- on the road- Seattle

So, to begin with, did you all notice the CHEF of Barcelona commented on my last blog? Hello! HOW COOL IS THAT? Thank goodness I wrote a good review, huh? So I've been on the road traveling and have some quick tidbits from my journey... in Seattle

I had dinner with my Aunt Liz at the Tamerind Tree in Seattle WA

This place was really hard to find, tucked in the Chinatown International District in a shady looking strip mall. Once found, nearly missed by the white banner sign among Vietnamese supermarkets, this place is an oasis. It's so warm and gorgeous on the inside with burnt orange walls, tasteful decor and a fire pit. It was perfect for a dreary evening. The food was fine, I don't consider Vietnamese food to be spectacular but is always good. A standout was the dessert, 4 mini scoops of homemade ice cream. We opted for the poppy seed, ginger, coconut and chili. Yes, chili pepper. Be careful with this. It's fun to try but it's spicy and cool at the same time. The poppy seed was surprisingly delicious. It was my favorite. The ginger had some warmth to it too and coconut ice cream- hello, delicious! The service was too quick. It seemed like a place to get in, eat and get out. I would recommend this, and the outdoor seating area would be fantastic on a warmer day/night. I give it 3 stars.

I had lunch the next day at Purple Cafe on 4th Ave and Seneca (I think) in Seattle WA. Now this place is spectacular. Seriously, LOOK at the picture below. When you pull open the 8 inch thick metal door you walk into a wide open space. The ceilings are so high with woven metal sheets for the ceiling cover. There is a cement topped bar in the middle of the room and behind it is a tower of wine. It is a cylindrical wine tower, 14 shelves (standing bottles of wine) high and about 20 feet in diameter. There is a staircase around the wine tower to help obtain the luscious libations and according to the friendly bartender, at times it is necessary to scale the wine tower. But I didn't witness that. I grabbed a seat at the bar and a friendly woman a little older than me said, come on closer, I don't bite. (being from New England, I was skeptical but after a self pep talk in the bathroom I concluded she wasn't crazy and I'm fairly certain she wasn't hitting on me, so I went back out and we chatted, er, I mostly listened and she shared too much information.) Carol, that's her name, recommended the tomato soup and offered some of her wine to me. I declined tasting the wine but did order the soup. It was good. It wasn't bad and it wasn't fantastic. It tasted creamy without cream- when the chef blends the soup to provide nice texture. The spices and flavorings were done well. It tasted a lot like marinara sauce (and a soup I make at home). I also ordered the hangar steak with smashed loaded potatoes. With Carol deciding on dessert, she finally decided on the Tangerine Chocolate Tart, which sounded absolutely delicious, but unfortunately they were out of that dessert. At that, she decided to cancel her order of Drambuie and head out. She offered some more friendly chatter and then proceeded to give me her phone number if I had some free time this (or next time) I was visiting Seattle. I took it dumbfounded, unsure of how to respond. I smiled, took it, and went back to eating my lunch. The hangar steak was cooked well. Still juicy and heavily seasoned. It tasted almost too salty but it worked well with the potatoes. The potatoes were heavenly. I'm not one for mashed potatoes so I was surprised I ordered this, but it was a creamy cheesy potato smash. Red potatoes and red onions, cheese, butter, parsley spices. Really special potatoes. I decided to also order some coffee. This IS Seattle, after all, and the coffee was not a disappointment. (I will admit, I am a Coffee Snob. Self proclaimed. I'd prefer to drink tea rather than bad coffee. I don't NEED coffee, but I love it.) So this coffee (ordered to warm me up because I was quite cold every time the giant door opened) was out of this world. It was french press coffee. It comes in a lovely fantastic glass pot that you press the top and it presses the rich creamy coffee from the grounds into the pot and then it is poured into your cup. Oh dear, this was so delicious and JUST what I needed. Purple Cafe has an excellent atmosphere although it was cold in temperature when people came in. I would also imagine it could get loud at dinnertime. For lunch, there were various size groups, work folks, people heading to opening day Mariners game, friends, jeans and suits. The menu offered small plates, pizzas, salads and large plates. This was an excellent spot for solo dining. The barkeeper was super friendly but didn't hover. Plus, I got some digits! I wondered if I could convince any of my other meetings to move to Purple so I could eat here more. Though I would ask for a seat far from the door. This was fantastic and I recommend this with 4.5 stars.

This is a quick review. I wasn't that impressed with this place. The view is fantastic AND the restaurant spins. I think it's 1 rotation per hour. So on a lovely day like the night I dined there (also happened to be half price wine night and we took too much advantage of that) the view took your breath away. A waiter faux pas, like when they took our appetizers away along with our flatware but didn't bring new knives with or before our main dishes arrived. Then when we asked for some knives, they only brought 2 (there were 5 of us dining). We asked again, they brought two more. So we asked one more time and they brought 5 sets over. Just embarrassing. I ordered the halibut and it was forgettable- bland, unfresh (perhaps frozen?) and slightly unappealing on the plate. The standouts of the meal were the bread pudding which had a savory flavor to it (perhaps rosemary?) and the pancetta wrapped goat cheese which was decadently sweet and salty. I'd give this 2.5 stars for food and service but when you add in the view and atmosphere I would bump it to a 3.0. It's somewhere I think people should go to see what it's all about, but not a fine dining experience. Perhaps a fantastic spot for brunch!

Dinner at the Waterfront Grill, Seattle WA
I was requested to review this restaurant so here you are, Paul. When you walk into this restaurant you are taken by the clean open space and also the breathtaking view of the water. The piano is immediately upon entry with a lovely tune being played by a human (fancy). The bar runs along the front wall. There are decorated (not set) tables throughout the restaurant which is a great idea to make it look not-empty on a slower night. The hot tables are obviously at the water at the far/back wall. Many diners had their sun glasses on as the sun was setting. The waiters wear tuxedos and our waiter was TRULY fantastic. His name was Justin and he walked us through the menu, was courteous, friendly and respectful. He was patient with our questions and actually made me feel like I might actually belong in this schmancy place. Prior to that I was feeling a bit out of place. It doesn't have a hip/trendy vibe like Purple. This felt like an old money restaurant. Where those who have their chauffeurs drive them and their butlers make their reservations go. There were 4 of us dining, all ladies, and that made for an especially enjoyable evening. The wine was fantastic and we ordered the crab cocktail and the wicked shrimp, at Justin's suggestion. The crab was really delicious, clean and fresh in perfect little mounds. It was just crab, no mayo, no spices (not that I tasted) just a simple plate of sweet, fresh clean crab (with no work). It was really spectacular. The wicked shrimp came in a brown spicy sauce with some toasted rosemary bread to sop up the sauce. The sauce was startlingly spicy, quite thick and a tad sweet. The shrimp were cooked to perfection. Wow. I'm not sure I've had shrimp cooked quite right like this. They were soft and plush, not hard and firm. It gave slightly when you bit into it. Just delicious. The sauce was a little much, perhaps because the shrimp were in a bowl full of it. Perhaps a different plating option with less sauce allowing the shrimp to be more of the star would have been better for me.

I ordered the halibut. Again. I ordered it because I was disappointed with the meal I got at the Space Needle and Justin said the halibut was fresh and just in. It came with spinach and shaved fennel and an orange vinaigrette on top. When the plate came it looked better than the Space Needle, you could see some golden from the cooking and some of the crushed pepper used to season the fish. The fish tasted better than the Space Needle but I wanted it to have a little more carmelization from the cooking process. The salad under the fish was lovely however the vinaigrette seemed to be only on one side of the plate which was strange. I was so full I couldn't finish my meal (practically a first ever) but it was lovely. The overall cost of this meal was not outrageous. I think this could be a great place to go for business meals, to impress someone, first time meeting the future in-laws, mothers/fathers day etc. It won't break the bank but will cost a pretty penny. And if you can get a table at the window and a waiter like Justin, it'd be worth it. But probably not every weekend. I give this place 4 stars. This is excellent for an intimate dinner. Not good for large groups.

I am incredibly lucky to have a job which carries me all over the country and allows me to eat in fancy restaurants. Of this trip to Seattle, Purple was by and large the standout and I can't wait to get back there and try something else. Oh, and the business in Seattle was good too.

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