Betty in SeattleA few reasons to go to Betty for lunch today:

1) Half the price of dinner,

2) Delicious food,

3) No crowds,

4) It’s now or never. Perhaps because of reason 3 above, Betty is discontinuing lunch as of the 4th of July. What a tragic abuse of Independence Day.

Yesterday was my first visit to the new Crow spin-off on top of Queen Anne. I had a mouth-watering pork sandwich with a light aioli and pickled red peppers with a funny name I’ve forgotten. Having lived in Texas long enough to become hopelessly enamored of proper pulled pork sandwiches, I was skeptical of this barbecue-less rendition. One bite in and all concern vanished. It was tender, juicy, with the perfect bun-to-meat ratio. It was what you’d hope would happen to a sloppy joe if it grew up, cleaned up and moved to the city. The shoestring fries were also perfect, the service was friendly, and I finished full without being stuffed.

So imagine my disappointment when I discovered this was going to be my last time eating lunch at Betty. I was despondent. To be introduced to such a lovely experience, only to have it snatched away. Heart breaking.

I can think of only one way this tragedy may be averted. If you care, call Betty at (206) 352-3773 and beg, plead, wheedle, cajole — whatever you can to make them change their collective Betty mind. I implore you.

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Voilà

April 17, 2007

Voilà on UrbanspoonI had dinner at Rover’s a while back, and as we were walking out – stuffed beyond belief – I felt a twinge of envy watching the people at Voilà across the street. Don’t get me wrong, Rover’s has unforgettable food (and daunting prices), but there’s something irresistible about a simple French bistro.

So I was excited to finally try Voilà last night. It was a real treat, and my only regret is that I forgot my camera. I’ll do my best to recreate the meal.

Onion soup: rich, delicious broth, hot enough to burn your tongue and tasty enough to make you not care. Normally onion soup, capped with so much cheese, is a meal in itself. I was happy that this one was relatively light.

Chevre chaud: the chevre itself was delicious, but it was a tiny little puck on top of a salad that was pretty unexceptional. Not bad at all, just not great.

Boeuf bourguignon: a bistro classic, I only tried a bite of this, so I can’t really comment. The plate’s owner seemed very pleased.

Steak frites: sacre bleu! Delicious. Do what I did; when the waitress says something is the favorite of everyone who works there, order it. The French elevate hanger steak to a delicacy, and I was sopping up the shallot reduction sauce long after the steak was gone. The fries were great, too!

Coq au vin: another compulsory bistro dish, well-prepared and thoroughly enjoyable.

Profiteroles: I’d heard the profiteroles were a treat, and I wasn’t disappointed. A pair of puffed-pastries, packed with ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. If you like any of those things, try the profiteroles. If you don’t, please stop reading my blog.

Creme brulee: perfect carmelized crust, cream not too sweet. Another strong showing.

I don’t mean to gush, but they got it right. Simple, warm, homey, inexpensive with great food and friendly service. This is what a bistro is all about.

Late addition: Oh, for shame, how could I forget?! On Sunday’s they offer 50% off of all wines on the menu. 50% off. Think about it.

Gaudí

February 23, 2007

Gaud� on UrbanspoonLast week my friend John introduced me to Gaudí, a new Spanish restaurant in town that’s just opened in Bryant. Definitely worth a visit!

The restaurant is run by Jo and Joan Luna, veteran restauranteurs from Barcelona (so “Joan” is pronounced “zho-AHN” like Joan Miro, not Joan Rivers). They moved to Seattle a few years ago and have decided to recreate their homey little cafe here for us. They’ve only been up and running for a few weeks. The service was very friendly but the pacing was a little off, and it looks like they’re still moving in. Those little nitpicks aside, it’s clear they made sure everything was working right in the kitchen (where it counts) before opening.

We started with tapas. First up were garlic shrimp and Spanish tortilla. The shrimp were merely good, but the tortilla was amazing. Spanish tortilla has absolutely nothing in common with Doritos. It’s basically a glorious potato omelette, served in this case with red peppers and greens and a delicious aioli. Incidentally, Joan claims that the aioli (ai = garlic, oli = olive oil) actually originated in Catalunya. From what I tasted, that sounds credible to me!

g_tort.jpg

Next came some skewered chorizo. Oh ho good. I’m not usually into sausage, but this stuff would make a believer out of committed vegan. Rich, spicy, slightly crispy but tender. We ordered a second helping. Then a plate of white anchovies – excellent.

Chorizo

For the main course we had ling cod with a romesco sauce (indisputably Catalunyan) and the wild boar. The cod was the one disappointment of the meal. It tasted a little undercooked, and set next to all of these other strong and wonderful flavors it was too mild to hold its own. The romesco was good, but served cold it was robbed of some of its flavor.

g_cod.jpg

The wild boar, however, was splendid. It was sort of like a boar pot roast, served in a little miniature cast iron casserole, and by the time we were done we’d scraped the metal clean.

Wild boar

We could have stopped at this point, but the desserts looked tempting, so we ended the meal with a crema catalana and carajillos – rum-spiked coffee. All in all, an excellent and much enjoyed meal.

Joan with Paella

Joan with paella (we’ll have to try it next time)

Quiz Night

February 10, 2007

I’m usually not much of a bar guy, but I’m a total sucker for a trivia contest. Last week a group of us went to the Kangaroo and Kiwi Pub for the trivia, and lost. That colors my opinion of the place. A perfect trivia contest has a nice blend of categories: current events, history, sports, literature, geography, science, movies and pop culture, etc. Bad trivia is when the questions are too concentrated on one topic, or just too trivial. By this standard, the K & K gets a C.

Anyway, I was going to write a nice post about how hard it is to find quiz nights, since as of last Wednesday there was no good resource for finding them. But all that has changed. The Seattle Times scooped my post, and solved the problem. It would still be great if someone would actually rate the best and the worst quiz nights, but at least now you can see when and where to find them.

Le P…

February 8, 2007

Two French bistros, a few blocks apart, worlds different.

Le Pichet on Urbanspoon Le P'tit Bistro on Urbanspoon

Le Pichet looks exactly like we dream a French bistro should – charming setting, adorable little pitchers of wine, a chalkboard. Le P’tit Bistro, on the other hand, is what you really get in France. It’s not a precious, pretty, perfect kind of place. It’s small, simple, a little sparse. It feels like someone forgot to tell them that they’re in Belltown. The food is the kind of thing you’d find in a hole in the wall in France, too. Delicious dressings and sauces, but then everything gets a little pile of canned corn and sliced tomatoes.

I’m not sure which of the two I like better, but by chance I got to eat at both of them in the past week.

We had a “business” lunch at Le Pichet with Anna from Citysearch. I had the (French) onion soup, Anna had a salad with quail and avocados, and Adam had a salad with eggs and a hard boiled egg. It looked more interesting than it sounds. My soup was good and solid, but on scale of French onion soup it fell a little short. The toast was a little insubstantial, the broth not quite salty enough, the onions not quite carmelized enough, and the cheese not quite rich enough. Good not great. The quail, on the other hand, was great. I didn’t try Adam’s food.

Onion soup

My soup

Quail salad

Anna’s quail

Egg salad

Adam’s apple (and egg) salad


We went to Le P’tit Bistro for dinner. We started with chevre chaud – simple but tasty – and mussels. I had the duck in wonderful a green peppercorn sauce, with yams and apples. And more canned corn and tomatoes, of course, which doesn’t do much for me. The duck was succulent, the sauce wonderful. The apples were good but the yams undercooked.After we’d ordered, my wife noticed there was a whole side of the menu devoted to crepes, savory and sweet. This seems like the kind of place that would do crepes right. Worth a trip back to find out.

Chevre chaud

Chevre chaud

Mussels

The mussels

The duck

The duck

Monsoon

February 6, 2007

It’s nice to walk away from a meal with unqualified happiness. We went to Monsoon the other night. Wow, what fun.

Two pieces of advice. First, order family-style. There are just too many flavors worth trying.

Second, order the catfish claypot. The thick gooey sauce that’s left over in the pot when you’ve eaten every scrap of solid food is so good you will burn your fingers scraping it out. On a table heaping with wonderful food, this was the standout.

We also had the dungeness crab and shrimp spring rolls (delicious), the drunken chicken (ditto), scallops (good), a salad with palmellos and candied walnuts in sesame oil (yum), snap peas with oyster mushrooms (crisp and tasty) and tofu with shiitake mushrooms (tofu ho hum, sauce exceptional). Incidentally, shiitakes are a particularly mushroom. And cultivators simulate thunder and lightning to make them grow properly.

Sadly my camera was at home collecting dust. Fortunately our friends had a camera phone. A different style of food photography – these shots look like they were taken through the warm, happy buzz of great food and wine.

Monsoon catfish claypot

That’s the catfish there on the left side of my plate.

Dungeness crab and shrimp spring rolls

Fantastic spring rolls – they tasted better than this looks.

Palmello salad

A tasty salad.

Monsoon on Urbanspoon

Oceanaire

January 20, 2007

I went to my first ever “media event” on Thursday night to enjoy the cooking of Oceanaire’s new executive chef, Eric Donnelly. It was a lot of fun — kind of like an enormous free sample.

We’ll get to the food, but first I want to explain my newbie perspective on the whole concept of a “media event”. As I understand it, the restaurant invites various important food writers (and me), pours vast quantities of wine, serves ludicrous amounts of food, and sends everyone home buzzed, stuffed and happy to write glowing articles. It seems like a good strategy for the restaurant.

With that in mind, here goes.

The restaurant has a titanic space — meaning both that the room is enormous and that the decor is reminiscent of a turn of the century cruise boat. The food started off beautifully. I like eating food that I wouldn’t or couldn’t make at home, and the heaping tray of Oysters Rockefeller, the clams topped with bacon, and the escargot hit an easy triple. Normally I hate oysters, don’t particularly like clams, and I’d never tried a snail. Amazingly, shockingly, all three of these were delicious. The escargot, for those who like me have been too squeamish to try, was in a little dish of butter and garlic and topped with a miniature puffed pastry. The texture was a little unusual, but it worked.

The same starter tray included prawns and crabs in the shell. These were a little bland, but seeing big crab legs sticking out of the ice added to the general sense of decadence.

Next came the salads. Everything was served “family style”, which is a code word meaning, “more than any table could possibly consume without rupture”. The caesar salad was nice, good anchovies, but unexceptional. The bibb lettuce with walnuts and pears was better.

I have a confession. Past this point in the meal, I’d had far too much wine to be able to give an accurate accounting of the food. The problem is that the attentive waiters never let the glass get less than half full. I had to rely on my own wine-soaked judgment to determine how much I’d already had. That’s asking too much of my judgment.

The striped Atlantic sea bass was simply prepared, as was the Oregon “Kobe” beef with mushrooms. In both cases the ingredients were fresh and good, but all in all nothing to write home about (though apparently worth blogging about). For an event expressly designed to showcase the chef’s unique artistic creations, I was left a little disappointed.

The meal concluded with an assortment of desserts and schmoozing, both very sweet.

My one regret is that like an idiot I forgot to bring my camera. I saw Ron of Cornichon happily clicking away, so I’m sure you can see great images on his blog.

Oceanaire Seafood Room on Urbanspoon