Monday, April 20, 2020

Menu of the Plague Year: Le Coin

Our third Menu of the Plague Year is Le Coin.

Le Coin, which means “the coin” in French, is a charming French restaurant located in the building that previously housed Roux, and before that, the legendary malignant dive bar of pre-gentrified Fremont, the Buckaroo.

I’m a sucker for classical French cuisine, though it’s difficult to come by in Seattle because everybody insists on northwesting it up, but fuck it: in this post apocalyptic wasteland in which we live, beggars can’t be choosers. After all, yesterday I fought a raccoon for a pizza crust and traded one of my kids for a Clorox Wipe. Not a container of Clorox wipes. A wipe.

So by these wretched standards of living, Le Coin, naturally, was a real treat.

A salad of leafy greens ($7) included a lush underbrush of the eponymous flora, along with a dusting of crushed walnuts, and radishes sliced razor thin into diaphanous discs that practically floated into my mouth. This salad was doused in a transparent vinaigrette, sharp as a saber. Atop the bushy bushes of salad was a drift of microplaned pecorino or some such cheese. This was a pretty well-composed salad, all things considered, but the radishes weren’t an ingredient; they were a literary device: foreshadowing.

Truffle potato cream soup ($9) was creamy and smooth with a not overwhelming truffle flavor, but the soup was speckled with suspicious black flecks: maybe it was pepper? buckshot, suitable for reloading the shotgun shells necessary to ward off marauders? spores that will turn you into a zombie if consumed? No sweat, brah; it was probably pieces of truffle. A swirl of bright green oil on top and a few herbs lightened the proceedings, but then, incongruously, there were radishes lurking beneath the surface. Why the fuck? The crunchy, spicy little submarine mines disrupted the silky pool of what was otherwise a delicious soup.

Cassoulet ($18) was super beany: under a crunchy blanket of bread crumbs was a slumbering menagerie of beans. There were like six kinds of beans in there: chickpeas, gigante beans, lima beans, flageolets, navy beans, I don’t fucking know. Every kind of bean was represented except red beans and, I suppose, jelly beans. Amid all these damn beans were big stubbed toes of braised pork shoulder and gigantic chunks of carrots and celery: if normal-sized carrots and celery are mirepoix, then these big motherfuckers qualify as maxipoix. For some reason, there were radishes in this dish too! Like seriously, guys: stop.

Why is Le Coin so horny for radishes? Maybe they bought a fuckton of radish futures which they were unable to unload before the stock market crashed, and now they’re stuck with them. Accompanying the cassoulet was a stack of sliced rustic bread, made with the same care and attention that a toothless grandma, who dropped out of third grade, wearing a kerchief tied around her head and a brown wool skirt, would bake on a Sunday for her religious freak family.

Le Coin Burger ($16) was A BIG FUCKING HAMBURGER, easily a quarter of a cow, as juicy as a sordid secret, with a loose texture and unapologetically pink from edge to edge. I actually don’t know how they cooked it: the surface of the patty was hidebound with a delicious crust, mailliard as fuck, but the interior was pink through and though, from edge to edge. This outrageous burger was topped with a melted skein of cheese, mixed greens, and a couple slices of confit tomatoes which, by the way, are far better than the limp watery tomatoes of winter. With it was a bale of crisp and salty frites, the salt crystals glittering like sodium sparkles or whatever. Strangely, there were no radishes. But you probably thought that my foreshadowing about radishes meant that the radishes would be trespassing into every dish we tried. After all, as Anton Chekhov famously said, if you talk about shitloads of radishes in the first paragraph, you better talk about shitloads of radishes in the second. Unfortunately, real life doesn't follow the rules of literature. If it did, I would've written a story about me finding $1,000,000,000 dollars by now.

A little dessert described as a “sweet bite” ($2) was basically a quarter round of ganache with a smear of raspberry coulis or jelly or something, and a couple tiny spheres of crunchy chocolate thingies of unknown origin.

Le Coin is a glimmering gem, a bright spot in our otherwise dim world. With the plague raging outside the antiseptic confines of our homes, many restaurants will go out of business. For fuck’s sake, don’t let Le Coin be one of them! Hopefully Ruth’s Chris, the steakhouse with the puzzling possessive proper noun, didn’t steal all the government cheese.

Rating: 8 Surly’s Gourmand reviews out of 10

Le Coin is located at 4201 Fremont Ave N

To order takeout call 206-708-7207 or email them at info@lecoinseattle.com (they require you to include your phone number in the email, so if you want to fuck with them you can place a gigantic order via a burner phone and then bail on it, but don’t do that because you’re an asshole if you do).

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Menu of the Plague Year: Homer



This bust of Homer (the famous Greek poet, not the Simpson) depicts a leatherfaced geezer with a big alcoholic nose and a helical cascade of whiskers, tightly coiled like the cord of an old touchtone. He looks like a guy who got trashed and saw something amazing, like an explosion or a nipple. However, historians debate whether or not Homer was even a real dude. Was The Iliad actually written by this wizened, curly-bearded bard, or is “Homer” just the personification of the literary tradition of drunk guys telling bullshit stories to each other? I hope my anecdote about the time I tried to put on an Indian condom has the staying power of The Odyssey.

Anyway, if somebody told you that there was a restaurant named Homer, what kind of food do you think it would serve? If it’s named after Homer the Simpson, then I’d say it would probably be an all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet. Or maybe a Krispy Kreme. But if it’s named after the legendary ancient rhymester then it’s probably Greek food.

And Greek is what Homer is. Sort of. It’s not weird Greek food like spinialo or deep fried octopus ink sacs. It’s not even mostly Greek. It’s more Mediterranean, really, but I needed some kind of intro to this and that’s the best I could come up with so fuck you.

Like every other restaurant trying to survive the plague, Homer is bravely offering takeout. After all, they can’t close shop because if they did all their employees would be unable to pay the rent and if Trump gets reelected every American will be required to stay at Mar-A-Lago once a year and literally actually kiss the ass of a bronze Trump statue located in every city in every state or you go to jail without trial or protein until you die shivering in a pool of your own vomit. We wanted to avoid that situation from coming to pass. So as patriotic Seattle citizens, we did our part to keep Homer afloat, and ordered a few things to try.

A cabbage salad ($10) featured bigass chunks of roasted cabbage, charred on the edges with a juicy center that melted like a crayon on a minivan dashboard in the sun. A diaspora of pepitas, pickled mustard seed, sesame seed, dates, apple slices wandered this culinary landscape.

The lamb stuffed pita ($11) was, and I say this without the slightest miniscule trace of hyperbole, that this was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. A Persian rug of braised lamb shoulder was folded along with sliced fennel, a sweet and garlicky sauce, and lots of cilantro into a pita so fluffy it would float away into the sky with a gust of brisk spring wind. Prometheus, with his altruistic desire to enlighten mankind with the secret knowledge of how to make sandwiches, thought that the punishment, being chained to a cliff and having his liver nibbled by Dr. Hannibal Lector for eternity, was worth it to teach us mortals to become Sandwich Artists. Obviously, the mysterious founder of Homer restaurant was the first in line to be blessed with this skill, to create such a delicious sandwich.



A rack of lamb ribs ($17) which, by the way, a rack of lamb ribs is much smaller than you might think, was gamy and tender, with mint leaves, thinly sliced pears, and a speckle of pistachios.

Finally, an extremely silky and sweet hummus ($8) was topped with a crimson puddle of spiced oil with a couple chickpeas in the center. And if you want more of the aforementioned ultralight pita to dunk into this masterful hummus, a half dozen of them costs $6.

Nobody knows the true identity of the founder of Homer. And there is no way for us in the modern day to find out, because all the business licenses and tax forms and shit filed by Homer, were lost in the fire of the Library of Alexandria. Some say he was raised by a she-wolf and used her milk to ferment into feta. Some say he killed the Cretan Bull and ground its flesh into gyro meat. Still others say that he sowed a dragon’s teeth and after vanquishing the bronze eggplants that sprang up from the ground, he made them into a bitchin’ baba ghanoush.

We must look after one another in these times of pestilence. If you care about fine dining, throw your sourdough starter in the trash and go out to a struggling restaurant. Be a hero for humanity.

Rating: 8 hydra heads (one of them got cut off) out of 10

Homer is located at 3013 Beacon Avenue South.

Takeout can be ordered by calling (206) 785-6099 or through MobileBytes.

*In the spirit of Cinema Verite, I have to admit that I ate a bunch of edibles before I wrote this and that’s why there are so many non sequiturs and run on sentences. Sorry brah.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Menu of the Plague Year: Buddha Bruddah



Months ago I decided to start reviewing restaurants again, but then I didn’t: complacency settled into my lap like a curled up cat, warm and purring, and you don’t want to move for fear of making her leap annoyedly away.

But my procrastination was shattered by the arrival of the pestilence of our time: COVID-19, the coronavirus, the creeping death, whose appearance has heralded a massive blow for the service industry. Starting Monday March 16th, 2020, by emergency decree of Governor Inslee, every restaurant in Washington state has been closed for dining in.

This is a culinary apocalypse.

However, restaurateurs are resourceful. The emergency closure declared by the Governor includes a provision for restaurants to continue to offer takeout and delivery, even if the dining room must remain closed. So, like scrappy cockroaches, scuttling about the crater of the atomic bomb that failed to eradicate them, restaurant owners across the state have doggedly begun to do just that.

One such enterprising restaurant is Buddha Bruddah. I don’t have the bandwidth anymore to make fun of Buddha Bruddah’s dumb name, buuuutttt... maybe one jab: the AP style guide frowns on spelling a business’ name in dialect. So frustrating is the word “bruddah,” my spellcheck software committed suicide in protest, all the squiggly red lines inching across my laptop screen like a herd of caterpillars, to throw themselves, lemminglike, into the recycling bin on my desktop.

But is the food at Buddha Bruddah as bad as its name? Answer: no, not really.

Spicy Fried Chicken Wings were kinda sorta like a variation on Korean fried chicken. Bigass wings, which I actually think came from an eagle and not a lowly hen, were coated in a brittle panko breading, fried, and then splashed with a sweet and spicy sauce. The wings were speckled with finely chopped cilantro and studded with what I would call a confident amount of pepper flakes. The chicken meat was succulent. The spice level, despite the herpetic pepper minefield dotting the crust, was not as tastebud-obliterating as one might expect. However, the sauce was cloying, especially after eating 10 of them. I don’t actually know how much these cost because the menu says a 5-pack costs $8, so I guess 10 cost, I don’t know, $16?

Chicken katsu ($13) wasn’t bad. Once again, I question the species of bird that Buddha Bruddah refers to as “chicken,” because the breast they gave us was so enormous that even Christina Hendricks was scandalized. Seriously, it was a fucking ostrich breast, dusted in panko and fried. The coating was so thick and crunchy that it could cause tinnitus if you chomp down too hard, but sadly had trouble clinging to the slab of poultry below, instead sliding off of the meat to pile up in a humid sheaf on the plate. This was disappointing.

Included with the katsu was a double pile of rice that looked like tits, a scoop of macaroni salad, and a bale of slaw. Let me say this: I fucking loathe macaroni salad. Nobody wants a bunch of cold, flaccid pasta elbows drowned in a mayonnaise pool amid a stupid constellation of peas. Luckily this macaroni salad was nothing like that. The pasta was somehow al dente. The sauce clung unobtrusively to the macaroni, and was deceptively light, with a savory lift courtesy of celery seeds and cilantro. The slaw featured juliennes of (mostly) green and (rarely) red cabbage, lightly glistening with a crisp sesame vinaigrette of some kind. Circles of sliced scallion completed this grassy heap.

Phad Thai ($10) was a solid, generally middle-of-the-road effort. The usual tangle of rice noodles was stained a pleasant ochre by Thai dark soy sauce, flavorful enough. Not bad. You can instantly tell whether or not I’m going to be mad about an order of pad thai just by looking at it: if it's got enough tamarind paste to make all the noodles pink, then I’m going to complain. Phad thai should be beige, not pink. After all, Poor Richard’s Almanac has this to say: “If your phad thai is brown, then scarf it down; if your noodles be red, then off with its head.”

Finally, a whole chocolate cream pie ($30) was a creamy and soothing balm after the barrage of salt and sweet. When I opened the box I swooped my finger through the whipped cream topping and licked it off impudently and then shouted in outrage: the whipped scream wasn’t sweetened!

I eventually realized that they left the cream unsweetened on purpose: its blandness counterbalanced the stratus of chocolate filling beneath, a thick cocoa pudding more akin to ganache than mousse. Note: the preceding is the most pretentious sentence I’ve ever written. Guarding the perimeter was a sweet and sandy graham cracker crust.

Buddha Bruddah is a hyperlocal neighborhood restaurant. And the food is interesting. That having been said, I wouldn’t bother to risk the zombie horde by driving all the way down to Rainier Valley unless you happen to be in the area. But if you live south of I-90, and you didn’t die of coronavirus, and you’re looking for something to pick up for dinner, you could certainly do worse than Buddha Bruddah. In fact, I’m so impressed by Buddha Bruddah’s inspiring tenacity, I’m going to start a Buddha Bruddha tribute band.

Called Sidhartha Sista.

Rating: 7 Steppenwolf Stepmoms out of 10

Buddha Brudda is located at 2201 Rainier Ave S. To order call 206-556-4134 or order on their website.