1408 E Pine St
There’s nothing quite like being an old- school, unrepentant lush. I wish I had the balls to pull this off, and become a modern day W.C. Fields, but I’m too much of a pussy. In the modern day, daily alcohol intake is frowned upon, with all of our “zero tolerance” bullshit and “three strikes” and other “law & order” type nonsense (except for the actual show Law & Order, which rules your face, especially the episode where Zack Morris played a gay porn star). But back in the days of W.C. Fields, sobriety was a mere suggestion, much like those so- called “Stop” signs I keep seeing everywhere.
Naturally, being an aspiring drunk, I thought I’d hit the Poco Wine Room. After all, nothing says “slow descent into alcoholism” like passing out in a restaurant, slumped onto the table, empty wine bottles rolling around and clunking against your head while you snore the heavy gurgling snores of the REALLY FUCKING WASTED.
Before I reached that level of intoxication, however, I thought I’d have something to eat. We started with the sausage, apple, and crimini flatbread ($7). “Flat” bread is a bit of a misnomer here since it was clearly three- dimensional bread. After all, if it was truly “flat” bread it would disappear from view if you looked at it along its edge. But this bread had far too much thickness for that. You got four squares of puffy, chewy bread. Each square was topped with a couple slices of grilled sausage, sautéed crimini mushrooms, and crowned with a razor thin halo of Granny Smith. The flatbread rested in a shallow pool of very good, very green olive oil, with a dusting of finely minced parsley for contrast. What this really looked to me was a “deconstructed” sandwich. And if you thought I’d mention a phrase like “deconstructed” without bitching about it, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention.
As you can probably guess, I’m tired of “deconstructed” shit. Who decided that this was a good idea? Let’s take a recipe with lots of components, cook them all separately, and throw them all over the plate. What a brilliant fucking idea! Why not serve someone a pile of sugar, a mound of flour, and a couple eggs and call it “deconstructed cookies?” “Deconstructed French fries” could just be a raw potato. Or better yet, you could sell a glass of milk and some salt, which you make the customer wait around for, for several weeks, before you serve them “deconstructed cheese.”
Or even better, the ne plus ultra of deconstructed bullshit: “deconstructed entropy.” Cosmologists predict that at some point in the very distant future, all matter in the universe will eventually unwind and, through one process or another, be converted into energy, which will then all dissolve into heat. This process is called entropy. So the truly “cutting edge” chef with a real vision of the future would just serve patrons a warm, empty plate. Deconstructed entropy. The end of the universe on a plate. Eat THAT, “foodies.”
Luckily the spiced butternut squash salad ($7) wasn’t deconstructed at all. In fact, it was well constructed, though it seemed a bit pricey for what amounted to a small mound of mixed greens. Fortunately there was a ton of flavor packed into that salad. As the name suggests, there were many cubes of roasted butternut squash in this salad, but there were also dried cherries, thinly sliced pear, and goat cheese, all coated in a light vinaigrette. This was a classically constructed salad, with the tart yet chewy cherries and dry crisp pear balanced by the chevre’s creamy milky tang. Unlike your mom’s creamy milky tang, this salad was not only edible, it was quite good. The squash was surprisingly spicy: while it wasn’t “5- star Thai” fiery, the squash definitely made its presence known. With its delicate balance of flavors and secretive unruly spiciness, this salad reminded me of something I’ve eaten elsewhere. It was so cute and so precious it could be on the menu at the Tilikum Place Café.
The truffled mac & cheese was on sale so we got some. It’s normally $8 but on Sundays they drop the price to $5. It being Sunday, we decided to get it. I didn’t have very high expectations for the truffled mac & cheese. After all, I’ve been burned by so- called “truffled” items before. Many restaurants treat truffles the way hard- core drunks treat vermouth: drunks try to call a glass of straight gin a “martini” just because you held the bottle of vermouth near the cocktail shaker. Shitty restaurants try a similar self- serving ruse and use as little truffle as is legally possible without violating false advertising laws. Seriously, sometimes truffles are like homeopathic remedies: they may or may not actually contain the active ingredient. Remind me to complain about homeopathy and Bastyr University at a later date.
Luckily the truffled mac & cheese at the Poco Wine Room is exactly the opposite of the preceding paragraph. The Poco Wine Room is not fucking around with the truffles. They are so serious about truffling stuff that I should go back and write that last sentence so that every word is capitalized: The Poco Wine Room Is Not Fucking Around With The Truffles. The mac & cheese was so truffled the fuck out that I could smell it before it even got to the table: the heady garlicky aroma of white truffle oil preceded the ramekin of macaroni by at least 20 feet. This dish was topped with a crunchy breadcrumb crust. The penne pasta beneath the crust was tender without being flabby, and the cheese sauce clung on lightly without coagulating into rubbery bits. Best of all was the aforementioned truffle flavor: deep, earthy, and muscular, like a delicious roundhouse punch to your tastebuds’ nuts, delivered by some kind of monstrous earth giant summoned by a chaotic evil geomancer. Honestly I don’t know how they did it. Having sat through so many shitty potluck mac & cheeses, this was like taking a breath of fresh motherfucking air after going down on your mom.
The shallow butter poached shrimp ($14) was delicious, though I don’t know why they needed to tell you the depth at which the shrimp were poached. You got four huge prawns, succulent and supple, gently poached in butter with some kind of puree. The shrimp were very good, but the leftover butter, mingled with whatever was in that puree, was so fucking delicious I kept licking it off the plate until we finally got some bread to wipe it up with.
The Poco Wine Room is an unassuming and cozy little place to get quietly, seriously fucked up. For a place which refers to itself as a “wine room,” the wine list isn’t very extensive, especially not compared to some place like Crush, which has a Grand Grimoire of hundreds of vintages. Still, the Poco Wine Room is cute and chill and the wine is fairly priced: the most expensive bottle I saw was maybe $50, and on Sundays all bottles are $8 off. The food is good, cheap, and classy. Unlike your mom, who embodies only one of those three adjectives I just listed in the preceding sentence. Guess which?
Rating: 8 truffles out of 10