Saturday, December 27, 2008


806 E Roy

Everybody knows that Spain is super funky! From their whimsical buildings like the Guggenheim Bilbao, to Cervante's bizarre satire, to Picasso's quirky bullshit, Spain is the funkiest place in the goddamned, motherfucking universe! If you were to rate a nation's funkiness by comparing it to a band, Spain would be George Clinton. France would be Cradle of Filth. Britain, of course, would be Coldplay. Burn! You suck, Britain!

Another funky Spanish innovation is the “small plates” trend, about which I've previously complained. You can ultimately thank chef Jose Andres, Spain's unofficial Minister of Funk and Patron Saint of combovers, for bringing small plates to the USA. Olivar is yet another Spanish restaurant that serves small plates, but with a twist: their plates are not only small, they're all really fucked up shapes.

We started with the apple salad ($7), which was a neat pile of julienned apple tossed with shredded manchego cheese and finely diced chives. The apple was very crisp and snow white, and the sweetness was contrapuntally balanced by the tang of the manchego. The serving dish was just a plain white rectangle, but the curvy saucers provided to each place setting really BROUGHT THE FUNK!

The pumpkin soup ($7) was very smooth, pleasant and mild mannered. Floating like an island in the center of the bowl was a tiny garlic flan. While the flan itself was creamy and proficiently prepared, the garlic flavor was mute. I found this to be a lame gimmick. Added as an afterthought was one of those very long, skinny, gnarled, crispy breadsticks that I'm constantly comparing to a wizard's wand. What the fuck are you supposed to do with these things? They're too hard to sop up any remaining soup, and while they could be possibly used as a swizzle stick, the soup was pretty homogeneous and didn't need stirring. And they're clearly not useful as spellcasting equipment, so why bother? Really, this forgettable dish was created solely as a vehicle to showcase Olivar's FUNKIEST BOWL. The bowl the pumpkin soup came in was RIDICULOUS: it was about 12 inches in diameter, but the well in the center that actually held the soup couldn't have been more than 4 inches across. Which means the rim was TWICE AS WIDE as the bowl itself! This of course instantly begs the question: why stop there? How about a bowl whose rim covers the entire table? You could provide the customer with an extra long spoon to scoop the soup out of the center, and you could serve all the other diners directly onto the rim, thus dirtying less dishes. Or a gargantuan bowl with a rim the size of an Olympic race track. Racers line up on the huge rim, run the race and the the winner, instead of being awarded the gold medal, gets to eat the soup in the center of the track.

But enough about the pumpkin soup and its handicapped bowl. The Serrano salad ($9), while tasty, should probably be renamed on the menu as “Big Ass Pile of Serrano Ham.” Don't get me wrong; I love Serrano ham and in fact I think it's the best air cured ham, even better than the legendary Prosciutto di Parma. But I wouldn't consider a plate entirely full of luscious coils of thinly sliced ham to be a salad. It did come with a small mound of pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley, but if that tiny amount of plant tissue qualifies this dish as a salad, then a 42 ounce porterhouse steak topped with sauteed onions is also a fucking salad. Still, 9 bucks is a great price for that much Jamon Serrano. The only thing funky here was Olivar's idea of what constitutes a salad.

The patatas a lo pobre ($10) were sauteed with onions and bell peppers into a brown, fluffy, and crisp heap. Sunburn pink slices of chorizo spiralled up this hill, and the whole thing was topped with a perfectly fried egg, sunny side up. The yolk was still runny, so when you cut the egg it ran down into the potatoes. A bit of egg and potato, when eaten with a slice of tangy chorizo, was a match made in the funkiest corner of Funk Heaven, which is where James Brown, Rick James, and Curtis Mayfield all went when they died. But not Issac Hayes: when he died his Thetan flew away to Jupiter to live with 95 virgins, or whatever the fuck it is that Scientologists believe.

The Grilled pork Belly Grenobloise ($7) wasn't very funky. The pork belly itself was salty, peppery, chewy, crispy, and all of those other great qualities a properly cooked belly should have. However, the crumbled boiled egg, diced onion, and capers which came with it were all lined up in neat rows, as if the chef who prepared it suffered from OCD, or else had recently done lots of coke, and everyone knows that straight lines are never funky.

For dessert we got the Albondingas de Crodero ($9). Yeah, I know that lamb meatballs are not a dessert, but fuck it. Three large meatballs, crusted with savory brown fond on the exterior but still juicy and pink inside, were served atop a pool of green tomato puree. Roasted hazelnuts scattered across the plate gave a crunchy contrast. These meatballs were FUCKING TASTY, but unfortunately we had to wait for gratification because the plate was too hot. The funkiest thing about this dish, and by “funky” here I mean “dumb,” was the temperature of that plate: the waiter warned us that it was a hot plate but DAMN! We couldn't even touch it for 15 minutes. They had somehow heated that plate to the temperature of the sun. It must have been made from some space age ceramic compound, like the kind of porcelain that they use to make metal- detector proof guns. That plate was so hot it gave my face a tan just sitting there on the table. I understand that you don't want the food to get cold but hot food is overrated. Why can't it just be WARM, so that it doesn't puddle the roof of my mouth in blisters the moment I take a bite? Is not getting seriously injured while dining too much to ask?

I don't like funk, especially the funk that wafts from your mom's crotch. Yes, everyone tells me that funk is “fun,” and that you can't spell “funk” without “fun,” but as you've probably surmised by now, I hate fun. That having been said, I really enjoyed my meal at Olivar. While the presentation sometimes annoyed me, every dish was perfectly prepared, and the prices are reasonable. But don't take my word for it, you funky assholes: put on your pimp suit and gangsta- lean over to Olivar, post haste. Did I just type the word “gangsta?” Oh Heavens!

Rating: 8 aspects of black culture that white people have unsuccessfully tried to co- opt out of 10

Olivar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


2319 E Madison St

It's appropriate to compare dining to a military campaign. Many dishes are named after military or political figures: Beef Wellington, the Napoleon pastry, and Oysters Bienville are only a few. The food service industry is, after all, a fierce battle, since competition is stiff, profit margins are razor thin, and success or failure is often left up to the fickle whim of a restaurant- going public filled with dickheads.

So which restaurant would win if all of the restaurants in Seattle got into a fight? Crush is a contender for sure. Crush is so goddamned awesome, it's like they created some kind of evil dictator restaurant the way they created the genetically- engineered warlord Serpentor on the GI Joe cartoon: evil culinary scientists mixed up the DNA of great leaders like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ivan the Terrible, Ghengis Khan, and General Tso. The resulting uber restaurant was then named Crush by a secret committee of elders, because it can CRUSH your hunger with an iron fist.

I met Crush on the field of battle fully prepared, my stomach completely emptied by all the puking from the previous night's drinking. I dared my adversary to conquer my appetite. Who would win this battle of wills? Read more, and find out!

Crush's first salvo was a diversionary tactic: too many choices. There were maybe only 15 things on the menu, but I wanted each and every one of them. The wine list is like 50 pages long (the most expensive bottle is $3200! HOLY FUCK). There's a 9 course tasting menu ($135), which tempts with the delights of the chef's unleashed creativity, but which from a practical standpoint is more difficult to review because you can't crib the descriptions of the dishes from a convenient online menu. Then to add another layer of choices, November was the “Dine Around Seattle” bullshit where you get 3 courses for $30.

We decided to eschew the allures of both the chef's tasting menu AND the Dine Around Seattle, and just picked a bunch of stuff off the regular menu. To reward us for NOT choosing the Dine Around Seattle stuff, the kitchen sent us a FREE AMUSE BOUCHE. Unfortunately, it wasn't that great, which I guess is why they gave it away: a cauliflower- flavored flan was topped with tiny cubes of raw scallop, crème fraiche, and diced chives. If what I just described to you had been on the menu I would have laughed those motherfuckers out of town, but unfortunately it wasn't listed. The flan was warm, which in turn warmed the scallop until it was humid and balmy, the two adjectives you do NOT want to use to describe raw seafood. The cauliflower flavor was muted, and the flan by itself would have been pretty good, but hot raw scallops just don't do it for me.

Next up was octopus ($12), which was slowly braised in pork stock until it was soft and creamy, then flashed in a pan to crisp the skin. What we got was a delightful pile of tentacles on top of white beans that had been cooked with the octopus in the stock. The beans were just as tender as the octopus. This dish was really good. I haven't been so impressed by tentacles since I read “The Call of Cthulu” in 8th grade.

Hamachi Crudo ($24) was so motherfucking delicious I can't believe that it isn't banned by the Olympics as a performance enhancing drug. Creamy celeriac sauce was pooled beneath slices of rare seared albacore which were so goddamned tasty I've run out of adjectives to describe it. And as if it wasn't good enough already, they put BLACK TRUFFLES on it. And not just a few microscopic black flecks, like some places do when they brag about having black truffles as an ingredient: no, a ruthless gastronomic police state like Crush can only properly intimidate your stomach with GIANT TRUFFLE SLICES. We had at least four whole truffle cross sections on top of the albacore. I've had this flavor combination before, and it impressed me no less this time. The earthiness of the celeriac is always a great complement to the visceral diesel perfume of the black truffle. They could have given me just a pool of that sauce with truffle chips floating in it, and I would have been happy enough. The albacore was ultimately so decadently unnecessary, it was as if you could somehow combine pussy, race cars, cotton candy, the PS3, and guns into some fast sexy tasty killing machine that lets you play Castlevania. The previous sentence is an illustration both of how awesome that albacore was, and of how juvenile I am.

The gastronomic assault continued unabated with the foie gras ($24). Again, it was so tasty that words fail me. A hunk of foie gras the size of a baseball was seared to a rich mahogany. An appealing criss- cross was scored into the skin. Accompanying the liver were sweet cubes of quince, toasted cinnamon brioche slices, and some julienned white crispy things that were maybe apples, or celery, or something. Forgive me for not paying full attention, because I was distracted by the foie. It was so good, it's unfair that my taste buds had to go back to tasting the Lucky Charms I had for breakfast the next morning.

By this point I was beginning to feel weary, but we soldiered on. A rabbit loin ($24) was shrouded in rabbit forcemeat and wrapped in a chard leaf. The meat was so juicy and delicate, it had to have been poached in a stock, the way you'd cook a galantine. The rabbit galantine was served with sauteed chard and chanterelles in some kind of rich syrupy demi- glace or reduction, and was accompanied by a tiny chip of smoky, salty, crispy meat the menu described as “rabbit belly bacon.” This was so fucking crazy, and so fucking classically French, it was like something Auguste Escoffier might have dreamt up while on an acid trip.

At $42, the lobster and coral sauce is one of the most expensive menu items I've ever ordered, but it was well worth the price. Clearly Crush was pulling out the heavy artillery for a last desperate push. Succulent chunks of lobster tail peeked out from a nest of thick cut pasta in a white truffle and coral sauce. The pasta upon closer inspection revealed whole chervil leaves PRESSED INTO THE DOUGH, giving it a mottled green floral design like Rococo wallpaper.

When it became clear that my stomach wouldn't be conquered, they resorted to chemical warfare: a $12 Valrhona hot chocolate was complex: bitter, spicy, and creamy all at once. A scoop of chocolate ice cream on the side rode a cushion of house made marshmallow, and a stream of salty caramel meandered through this sugary landscape.

Finally, the demoralized partisans of Crush fired a few parting shots in the form of CANDY that arrived with the bill: cocoa dusted marcona almonds, a strawberry peppercorn marshmallow, and a lemon poppy Madeleine.

Because I managed to eat it all, I emerged the winner in this gastric Battle of Verdun. Yet like that famous engagement, it was a pyrrhic victory. After all, we couldn't ignore the fact that we still had to pay for all this shit, much like the Iraq War. Other than the shitty scallops and flan amuse, which was obviously Crush's Abu Ghraib, everything was well worth it. And like the mercenary group Blackwater USA, Crush is extremely good at what they do, but they're really fucking expensive. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the taxpayers foot this bill. War, dear readers, really IS Hell.

Rating: 9.5 legendary warriors out of 10

Crush on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 13, 2008


5100 S Dawson St Suite 100

Writing restaurant reviews is hard fucking work. “Cry me a river, asshole,” you might be thinking, and in a way you might be right, but in another, more accurate, way you'd be a dumbass. Common frustrations include not getting into the place (or having to wait in line with thousands of colostomy bag wearers and Rascal riders), the prices being too fucking expensive, getting too drunk to finish on deadline (this actually happened when I wrote the review of the Steelhead Diner) and spell checking software that thinks that when I'm trying to type the word “prix fixe” I actually mean “prig five.” Actually “Prig 5” sounds like a great name for one of those genetically engineered, wholesome, sexually nonthreatening teen pop bands Disney continues to manufacture. Bands like Prig 5 make Keith Richards roll over in his leathery, debauched, cocaine- dusted grave. Keith Richards isn't dead, you say? Oh yes he is: where I come from, disheveled, dessicated, shambling, mumbling cadavers are called zombies and they eat your brains. And then they wash down a hearty serving of your brains with the perennially popular Chinese restaurant drink which bears their name. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the hurdles one must jump when writing reviews.

I encountered many of these hurdles when we went to Saffron. They don't have a website. Why not? EVERYONE has a website, even people who think that cameras steal their souls. Even shemales have websites, and I should know because 95% of those are bookmarked on this very laptop upon which I'm typing this review. “What about the other 5% of the shemale websites?” you may ask. Those are actually Jesus-y websites that try to lure you in with hot pictures of sweet Thai ladyboys that eventually blink away to be replaced by an image of a scowling Jerry Fallwell. Even your mom has a website, if you count her profile page on Yet Saffron hasn't joined the rest of us in the year 1995, for some reason.

Saffron's location is also rather difficult. I didn't drive there, so I have no FUCKING CLUE where it is. It's at a weird 5- way intersection, across the street from an abandoned laundromat, in one of those rich neighborhoods where a lady can jog, standard poodle at her side, with no fear of being gunned by paint- ball happy hooligans or pelted with McDonald's bags filled with used tampons. In fact, US Census statistics indicate that Saffron's ritzy neighborhood has a much lower bandit population than my own 'hood. We also have a high percentage of outlaws, footpads, confidence men, brigands, highwaymen, and the occasional scofflaw. That's why, despite the economic downturn, local sales of black masks, black and white striped shirts, and bags marked with dollar signs continue to be robust.

Also, they don't take reservations. I don't think I need to expound here because my disdain of this is well documented. In this case, however, it didn't matter because even at 7:30 on a Saturday, we were able to walk right in and sit down.

So we sat right down and started with the Saffron Prawns. For $12 you get 6 prawns in an orange butter sauce, garnished with basil leaves and orange slices. The prawns were juicy and yielding to the bite, but the sauce was rather bland, without very much of the distinctive saffron flavor. You could definitely taste a bright hint of orange juice in the sauce, but it could have been spicier, or saltier, or something.

The lentil salad ($8) was much better. A compact pile of green lentils was topped with razor thin shreds of red bell pepper and crispy fried lardons. A small pool of bright green olive oil seeped out from beneath the lentils. This was really fucking tasty. The lentils weren't dusty tasting, like they sometimes are. The lardons gave up a salty crunch which was a great contrast to the mild creaminess of the lentils, and the pepper shards provided a sweet top note.

A cup of the soup of the day was $8. It was a potato and carrot cream soup. It was rich and hearty without being too heavy, and the carrots made it subtly sweet. A little swirl of pesto on top was pretty, but basil is such an ephemeral flavor that I really wasn't able to taste it against the rest of the soup's earthy creaminess. Still, as far as potato cream soup goes, it was fucking awesome.

The Cassoulet de Poulet ($19) was damn tasty. Saffron's version of this classic Basque casserole included succulent shredded chicken breast and creamy white beans in a red bell pepper and tomato sauce. The secret weapon was slices of grilled chorizo, which was just smoky and spicy enough to make the cassoulet interesting without dominating the flavor. I can easily say it was the second best cassoulet I've eaten: the best, of course, was at a wedding I attended in St. Jean de Luz which featured duck confit, sausage, and ground beef in addition to white beans, peppers, and zucchini. That Basque wedding cassoulet, about which I have wet dreams to this day, basically gives a culinary nut- check to the one I had at Saffron, though Saffron's cassoulet is very good.

Beef tenderloin medallions ($22) were amazingly tender and so soft you really didn't need a knife to cut it. I know, I know, numerous jackasses love to brag about steaks they've had that were tender enough to cut with a spoon, but those jerks are usually lying. THIS steak actually WAS tender enough to cut, maybe not with a spoon, but with a spork for sure. I'm just not ready to commit yet to being one of those douchebags who like to say that you could cut something with a spoon. As an aside, how come sportscasters never make spork analogies? When two teams are playing, and it's a clear blowout, they'll typically say something about the losing team like “Stick a fork in them; they're done.” But what if the score is pretty close? They should say “Gently prod them with a SPORK because they MIGHT be done.” So when I finally ascend to the director of NBC Sports, I'll probably order all of the commentators to say that. The tenderloin medallions were well seasoned all the way through and glossed with an extremely tasty demi- glace. Accompanying the steak were a few slivers of steamed carrot and green beans which were still crispy and fresh tasting.

The crème brulee ($6) was very unusual: it was devastatingly creamy. I've never had a more unctuous crème brulee, and I've eaten a lot of them. It was more like ice cream that they'd somehow managed to keep solid at room temperature than custard. The crème brulee was mild, not too sweet, and utterly delicious. I really have never had one quite like it. The raspberry sorbet, on the other hand, wasn't quite as awesome. For $5 you got 2 HUGE scoops of the sorbet, which was smooth, sweet, and without a trace of iciness. The problem I had with it was that it hadn't been strained, and while I appreciate the chunks of real raspberry, all the fucking seeds in it were way too distracting. If I had dentures I would've been one pissed off geezer for sure.

Saffron is a difficult restaurant to review. The food seems to be too good for how deserted it was, but maybe it's because they don't have a website, so no one knows about it, and plus there's no way to find it without a GPS, or at least a sextant (Note: if you don't know what a sextant is, I'll have to break the news to you that it isn't actually as sexy as you would think a word that contains the word “sex” should be. You might think it's a masturbation device for sailors on lonely nights at sea, but it's not, though if I wrote the dictionary it would be). Maybe Saffron wasn't crowded because of the economic downturn, since all of the pensioners who would usually pack a place like this to the rafters just got to experience the unique despair of seeing their 401K plans decline 40% in value last month. I heard that it's owned by the same owners as Dulce's, but it's definitely not as swank as that place. It's really more of a neighborhood joint. The prices are maybe a little steep, but the food is solidly prepared. The flavor combinations they use at Saffron are mature, and by that I mean confident and bold without being flashy or trendy. It's cool, the wine list is extensive and pretty cheap, the service is prompt and knowledgeable, and as soon as I figure out how to extract my cock from this sextant, I'll go back.

Rating: 7 sporks out of 10

Saffron on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


1531 14th Ave

What's the most rustic thing in the world? Is it a rocking chair made of rough- hewn pine logs? A leather wine flagon? A scarecrow? A cabin in a Bob Ross painting? An overturned, antique wheelbarrow in a front yard with flowers growing in it? Bread made by orphans? Anything that comes from Tuscany? Sarah Palin?

Answer: Spinasse is, in fact, the single most rustic item in the world. It's somehow even more rustic than the screenplay I wrote about the quest for the world's most rustic sandwich. It's so fucking rustic.

Spinasse takes reservations, but when I called they were booked, so I dutifully waited in line outside for a seat at the bar. I'd actually recommend NOT getting reservations so you CAN sit at the bar. A bearded, vested gentleman (who I presume is the owner) was methodically making the restaurant's fresh pasta for the night, right there on the bar in front of us. He was kind enough to answer questions while he shaped the pasta with different decorative rollers and cutters. I had tons of questions about his pasta tools. There are tons of rustic pasta tools on the walls inside Spinasse, and unlike at Bucca di Beppo, they aren't just for “kitsch”: those crazy pasta savants use every one. Even the one that looks like a homonculus. Even the one that looks like a speculum.

While we chatted with the owner, the waitress brought out 2 kinds of crostini. One was spread with ricotta and topped with a cherry pepper which had been stuffed with anchovy paste and a caper. The ricotta was light and fluffy, and the stuffed pepper was tangy and spicy. The other crostini was spread with a rabbit liver and porcini pate with a drip of thick balsamic vinegar. The pate was rich and smooth. The balsamic tasted like grape jelly. A fucking fine amuse bouche, and it was FREE.

Spinasse has a fantastic prix fixe menu with lots of options: we chose the “Menu Principale,” which allows you to choose 2 appetizers, 1 pasta, and 1 entree for $47 (per person). The first appetizer (known as “antipasti” in the rustic Italian tongue) was anchovy fillets in Piemontese sauce. The sauce was green and tasted like pesto, and was dotted with bits of crumbled boiled egg yolk. The anchovies were the Platonic ideal of anchovies: salty, fishy, and everything else an anchovy is supposed to be.

The second appetizer was a fennel and beet salad. This was a pretty standard beet salad, with chunks of roasted chioggia beets, slivers of fennel, and chopped fennel frond. The beets were creamy but the whole thing was cloyingly sweet. It could have used a vinaigrette or something to balance the flavor.

The pasta dish was an enormous platter of maltagliatti, which is literally “badly cut.” These are basically random shapes. How very rustic! Everyone knows that rustic things are usually random, like a giant roadside ball of twine, or a Stonehenge made of tits. The random pasta had razor thin slivers of porcini mushrooms, olive oil, black pepper, and maybe a few shreds of romano or reggiano cheese. It was also without a doubt the BEST PASTA I HAVE EVER EATEN. I'd almost go so far as to say it's the best thing I've ever put in my mouth (at least until I figure out how to suck my own dick). It was a huge platter, and I didn't think we could eat it all, but no: that maltagliatti was astonishingly light. The pasta didn't even taste like it was made of flour: it was as if they somehow condensed sunlight into random edible shapes. It was so thin the individual pasta pieces were translucent. A huge plate of pasta went down like your mom, and if it was the goal of Spinasse's vested owner to create a pasta to make the ghosts of all the Caesars themselves weep with envy for the living, then mission accomplished.

In case you didn't understand the main idea of all the aforementioned hyperbole, the maltagliatti was a tough act to follow. But the crafty insane artisans at Spinasse obviously know this so they played it conservatively with the secondi: a simple, roasted rabbit. The rabbit was tender, juicy, and farm raised, and was smothered with a menagerie of roasted red and yellow sweet bell peppers. No, it wasn't as good as the maltagliatti. But does it have to be? Does anything?

Dessert was a roasted Bosc pear with whipped cream and honey. The pear was soft, sweet, and spiced. The cream was creamy (I suppose). The honey had a complex flavor, with all kinds of notes, but I was still too distracted thinking about the pasta to concentrate on the flavor of the honey, so I suppose I'll have to go back. But if I go back, then I'll again be too flabbergasted by the maltagliatti to pay attention to the honey, again. What a terrible problem to have.

Usually when people say that something is “rustic,” they mean “crappy.” But Spinasse clearly bucks this trend. Those motherfuckers are mad, driven, and intense about pasta: they're the Colonel Kurtz of conchiglietti, the Beethoven of bucatini, or the something else of something else that begins with the same letter. So you can stick that up your rustic ass. And by calling your ass “rustic” this time I really DO mean “crappy.”

Rating: 9 rustic farmhouses inhabited by anti- government kooks out of 10

Cascina Spinasse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Zayda Buddy's Pizza

5405 Leary Ave NW

What. The. Fuck. That's not a question. It's a command. It's a command to the owner of Zayda Buddy's Pizza to explain that fucked up name. Zayda Buddy's. Zayda. Buddy's. Zayda Buddy's. That's really the name of the place. Zayda Buddy's Pizza. What does it mean? Is Zayda Buddy a guy's name? Or is the guy's name ONLY Zayda, and the place is owned by his buddy? Or would that actually be “Zayda'S Buddy's Pizza?” I hate it the way I hate Ruth's Chris Steak House, because it's grammatically imprecise, and it makes NO GODDAMN SENSE. Actually, it probably makes perfect sense to Sarah Palin. You should not have to do sentence diagrams on a restaurant's name. Just call it something like “Cafe Maximillian Robespierre,” or “Restaurant Iron Maiden” (I wish) and be done with it already. Comprehending the name “Zayda Buddy's Pizza” is like trying to honestly comprehend your own death: it just doesn't compute. We were programmed by evolution to not understand nonexistence; our brains are similarly hardwired not to understand dumb pizzeria names.

The only thing that's more nonsensical than Zayda Buddy's name is its menu: they claim to serve “Minnesota style pizza.” Allow me to reiterate: What. The. Fuck. Personally, I didn't know Minnesota style pizza even existed! That's pretty random. But not as random as the robot I invented which points out fall foliage: the robot rolls down the street, and whenever it detects the orange and red wavelengths of light emanating from tree leaves, klaxons sound, a warning light blinks, and the robot squawks “FALL FOLIAGE ALERT! FALL FOLIAGE ALERT!” in its retarded Stephen Hawking voice. And if you actually think that the FoliageBot 5000 is a good idea, too bad: patent pending, bitches.

The best part about mocking Minnesota style pizza? No one will complain. That's because the people of Minnesota are famously nice. This seems maladaptive to me from an evolutionary standpoint, considering that only the bastards survive, and retards are usually docile. If you ever meet someone with Down's Syndrome, you'll find them to be SUPER NICE. In fact, Down's Syndrome patients are just as nice as Minnesotans, only Down's Syndrome sufferers eat their boogers more. If I was Bill Gates, I would undertake a philanthropic venture to toughen up the citizens of Minnesota: take all of the people of the meanest state, which I would presume is New York, and take all the Minnesotans, and make them meet somewhere in the middle, like Indiana. Then make them fuck, and hopefully the meanness and niceness will cancel out and the resulting offspring would all be children of even temper. Then you could repopulate Minnesota with normal people. You may ask yourself “Why would Bill Gates spend money on such a bizarre, unfeasible, and unethical plan?” Answer: because he can. After all, if you've got the wealth and power of a Roman emperor, like Bill Gates has, shouldn't you act like one? At least Bill Gates would PAY those Minnesota assholes to do this. Caligula would have simply forced them at the point of a sword.

I guess I'm done making fun of Minnesota, so perhaps I should get to the point of this review, which is Zayda Buddy's. They don't take reservations, which is fine, because it isn't that kind of place. It's more of a bar than a restaurant anyway. Cans of shitty beer cost $3, which in my mind is too expensive. I haven't paid that much money for a CAN of beer since I bought one just so I could piss in a strip club in the French Quarter in 1996. Yeah, yeah, I know, inflation has raised prices, but still.

We started with Mipo's Sweet Potato Salad ($5.95). Like the name of the restaurant, the sweet potato salad could have used some well placed punctuation. I thought it would be a salad of sweet potatoes, which seemed like a great idea. However, they weren't the soft, earthy, bright orange tubers we all know as sweet potatoes. Rather, they were regular potatoes that had been SWEETENED somehow. The dressing was curried mayonnaise, with sweet pickle relish, and a generous dusting of paprika. The dressing tasted fine but the potatoes were undercooked enough to still be crunchy.

A cup of the beer cheese soup ($4.95) had nice sharp cheese flavor, and was flecked with thin slices of onion and carrot. It was creamy and hearty, but perhaps they could've thinned it with some more beer because it was like spooning up a cup of melted Velveeta. I would totally dip bread or a chip into the beer cheese soup, but spooning up a whole cup is a little much, even for me, and I revel in saturated fat so much that I would mainline foie gras if I could.

Speaking of reveling in saturated fat, the Tater Tot Hot Dish ($9.50) set the bar pretty high. It seemed to be a mixture of Stove Top stuffing, cream of mushroom soup, and ground beef, topped with a couple of Tater Tots and melted cheese. Those ingredients combined to give me a glimmer of what it was like to grow up in Minnesota 20 years ago. If they'd seasoned it with road salt and covered the whole thing with snow, it would probably be a slam dunk. If nostalgic comfort food is what they were shooting for, then mission accomplished. While the Tater Tot Hot Dish didn't taste that great, I would eat this with FUCKING GUSTO if I were hungover. Unfortunately, it came with a lame side salad of green leaf lettuce and spinach, which was topped with a glossy maroon pile of pickled beets, onions, and garbanzo beans, which I largely ignored.

Finally the vaunted Minnesota style pizza appeared and I was pleasantly surprised. And by “pleasantly surprised” I mean “completely fucking astonished by how good it tasted.” The 12” Eric the Red ($14.95) featured a crispy thin crust, a rich sweet tomato sauce, salami, pickled peppers, and crumbled Italian sausage. The pickled peppers were vinegary and gave a subtle heat. The flavors were pretty well balanced. The crust shatters when you bite it. Minnesota style pizza is so delicious that I would almost feel bad for ridiculing it earlier if I had a conscience. Luckily I don't, which saves me lots of time. It's so damn good I won't even complain about the retarded way they cut the pie up into squares, instead of wedges like normal pizza.

I'm out of put downs about Zayda Buddy's at this point, which I think is some sort of milestone, so I'll just close with this: while the mythic Minnesota style pizza is very good, I'd probably only go back to Zayda Buddy's if I happened to be in Ballard for some reason. If I lived in Ballard, I'd probably frequent this place, if only for the pizza, but since I don't live around there, they can all go fuck themselves. In the nicest Minnesota way possible.

Rating: 5 bitterly cold Minnesota winters out of 10

Zayda Buddy's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


622 Broadway Ave E

Despite the waitress's adamant insistence to the contrary, Poppy serves INDIAN FOOD. It looks like Indian food. It smells like Indian food. Which isn't a bad thing because Indian food rules. Part of the fun is in the retarded names like "saag paneer," "galub jamun," or "rogan josh" (the latter is the funniest because it could ALMOST be a dude's name if the order of the words were reversed, like the way a guy named Josh Rogan's name would be printed on driver's license).

In fact it's almost too bad that Indian food is so good because the rest of that subcontinent sucks, and I've seen some pretty shitty subcontinents: it's disease ridden, it's poor, they actually enjoy eating rats, they DON'T enjoy eating cows, and they suck extra because the British ruled their asses for 182 years. Plus Indian chicks don't know how to fuck. It's such a letdown, and all because of the fucking Kama Sutra. You go into it thinking “All right! I heard they make the school kids MEMORIZE the Kama Sutra over there! Kama Sutra! Kama Sutra! The Kama Sutra is India's Constitution!” Well I've got news for you: it's nothing but a scam. Please tell me what page of the Kama Sutra they tell women how to retch, gag, and complain loudly when going down on a guy. I bet that move is called “the Spitting Cobra.”

But anyway: Poppy. The format is unusual. All the appetizers are $5 each. You pick a couple, then from there you're stuck because there's only one main course, a large platter of smaller plates called a thali. There's a vegetarian thali option, and a thali with a smaller number of items on it (cleverly called a “smalli.”). And the price is fixed: a thali is $32. A smalli is $22. But other than that you can't choose the dishes that come with a thali, so if you're not an adventurous eater, and if your idea of an exotic spice is black pepper, then you should probably fuck off in advance.

We started with the shoestring eggplant with honey and salt, and the curry leaf vadas. The tender eggplant slices were coated in a crispy flaky batter. These were pretty good but there didn't seem to be ANY honey on it, which is as blatant a case of false advertising as is India's claim to be some sort of endless erotic paradise garden. The best way to describe the curry leaf vadas is to call them donuts made of falafel. They were spiced with curry and cilantro and came with a dill yogurt dipping sauce. Very tasty, even though the vadas didn't need cilantro, otherwise known as THE WORLD'S MOST PLAYED OUT HERB.

After the appetizers came the thalis: a large platter upon which is a constellation of small plates. And by “small plates,” I mean REALLY SMALL: the largest plate we got was an oblong one about 4” long; the smallest was a soup bowl the size of a shot glass. I think we're at the logical conclusion of the “small plates” trend, unless some scientist comes up with microscopic plates made up of carbon atoms only a few angstroms in diameter, upon which is served a single meat or vegetable cell. They'll call this style of service “nano plates.” You'll carve the chicken to be served on a nano plate with an electron microscope, and one drumstick will be capable of serving over 2 million customers. If the restaurant charges only $1 per nano plate, the profit margins could be immense! Unfortunately for you losers the nano plate idea is mine. Patent pending, bitches.

Yet despite my scorn of small plates, the food served on these tiny plates was generally pretty good. A romano bean (which I personally couldn't distinguish from a regular old green bean), hazlenut, and fennel pollen salad featured crisply blanched beans, crunchy toasted hazlenuts, and absolutely no fennel flavor whatsoever. It's possible they forgot to add the pollen to my salad, or maybe pollen doesn't actually contribute that much flavor. Either way I must call bullshit on the current vogue of name- checking the most exotic possible ingredients, especially if they don't taste like anything. Why not blanch the beans in tritium? Or salt them with some of the salt inside a mummy that the Egyptians used to preserve the dead pharaoh's organs? At least then you'd have a good story to tell, about how you braved a mummy's curse to flavor the customer's meal.

One thing that didn't need any extra mummy salt was the carrot salad. It was a bowl a carrots shaved into long ribbons, scented with clove, and heavily HEAVILY salted. It was a shame, really, because without so much salt this could have been a GREAT dish. Clove and carrot together really tastes like Thanksgiving to me, and it could have been a cute culinary tip of the hat to the coming holiday season, but they blew it because I couldn't finish it because it was TOO GODDAMNED SALTY.

Poppy's poor showing on the carrot salad was redeemed, however, by the meat dishes. The pork belly was magnificently succulent, and nestled opulently in a bed of sauteed cabbage. The belly was tender throughout, crisp on the outside, and perfectly seasoned. Seared albacore slices served with peppers and fennel were equally well- executed. Unlike the romano bean salad, this time you could actually taste the fennel, and in my book being able to taste ingredients is a plus, unless the ingredient in question is excessive salt, like in the fucking carrots.

The melon pickles were tart and sweet, but again were polluted with too much cilantro. However, the melon gaspacho (which came in the shot glass- sized bowl) was FUCKING DELICIOUS! It's a pity there wasn't more of it, because it was sweet and creamy, and as an added bonus had a couple ripe, bright red cherry tomatoes swimming in it. A small bowl of garbanzo beans in yogurt sauce was okay, but like an afterthought: smooth, creamy, and over all inoffensive.

Roast fingerling potatoes were fancifully dusted in an herb called ajwain, which I'd never heard of. When asked about this mystery spice, the waitress was nice enough to bring out a bowl of it for us to smell and taste in the raw. It's a little like thyme and a lot like black caraway seeds, but it has a fresh woody flavor. I can't quite put my finger on it but ajwain smells like what it would smell like if you put a sprig of mint through a pencil sharpener and then smelled the pencil sharpener. Needless to say, this strange herb made plain roast potatoes much more interesting.

A mound of steamed rice in the center of the platter rounded things out. The rice was light, fluffy, and just sticky enough. The rice bowl was topped with a perfect plank of naan which was crusty, sooty (in the good way), studded with caraway seeds, and chewy inside.

After all of these mini plates it was time for dessert. Like the appetizers, all of the desserts cost $5. I was surprisingly full by this point, so we went with the plum tart. It was fine. The pastry was flaky but maybe a little too crisp. And the plum flavor didn't really catch my attention, but by this point I hardly cared because I was really fucking stuffed.

One thing you'll notice when dining at Poppy is that the portions are deceptive: it doesn't seem like you're getting very much, but it really is a lot of food. Some of the dishes suck but the place did, after all, open YESTERDAY. Overall I'd call their unique idea a(qualified) success. The food is good. The prices are reasonable. The service is really friendly, and they do in fact take reservations. Still, I'd wait a while before going there for them to work out all the bugs. If there's a take home message to all this it's that Poppy, unlike all of those Indian women who allegedly know all there is to know about the Kama Sutra, never fails to satisfy.

Rating: 7 Dalits out of 10

Poppy on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Corson Building

5609 Corson Ave S

It’s much harder to write good reviews than harsh reviews, at least to me. When I feel like trashing a place the venom flows forth from my pen like the eternal wellspring of blackest hate; when I’m trying to say something nice the prose dries up like your mom. Unfortunately, Astroglide doesn’t make a lube for writer’s block. So bear with me while I hack out this love letter to the Corson Building.

The first thing I noticed about the Corson Building is its name: no tricks, no subtle references to obscure texts, no clever plays on words, no overly sentimental schlock that’s named after someone’s kid with Down’s Syndrome or a deceased pet (about Down’s Syndrome: you’d think someone with an EXTRA CHROMOSOME would be a super genius, but sadly the opposite is true. Normal human cells have 46 chromosomes. Down’s Syndrome patients have 47. Mules have 63 chromosomes, and shrimp have 254, so obviously the more genes you have the lower down on the food chain you’ll be). The Corson Building is literally what the building itself is named. It’s on Corson Avenue South. It’s a building. Simple. I haven’t seen anything more self explanatory since that generic beer that used to be named “Beer.”

The other thing about the Corson Building is that it’s super fucking convenient. It’s the exact opposite of inconvenient, in fact: unlike many of today’s trendy restaurants that don’t take reservations, the Corson Building ONLY takes reservations. As we sat dining many fuckers drifted in, only to be DENIED because the Corson Building is only open from 7:00 through 11:00 pm, and there’s only one seating for dinner, and YOU HAVE TO HAVE RESERVATIONS. So unlike many of my other columns in which I lament having to wait in line with old people, this time I just walked right in like a real person. I don’t see why people hate making reservations. What could be easier than making a phone call? Laying your mom, I suppose, but she doesn’t cook one sixteenth as well as the Corson Building's proprietor Matt Dillon.

Dinner starts at 7:30, but the rusty gate in front swings open at 7:00, so you get a half hour to wander the grounds. When we walked in they handed us a glass of rose champagne and an amuse bouche: a crostini spackled with satiny smooth chicken liver pate and a razor thin slice of cucumber, topped with a pickled fava bean. Normally I find fava beans more trouble than they’re worth to make at home, but when someone else is taking the time to peel them- twice- I’m more than happy to eat them. So we had something to munch on while we wandered around. The train tracks are directly behind the building, and yes the train does pass back there, blasting its horn of course. Old geezers and gaywads who hate noise will find it tiresome, but the racket is intermittent and besides, it’s definitely no louder than a Pantera concert (RIP Dimebag! I miss you still, old man).

One thing I noticed was that these motherfuckers at the Corson Building are HARD CORE. They grow their own crops on the premises. Yes, the herbs and vegetables are THAT fresh. A chicken coop provides eggs and chicken meat, and they even have PIGEONS. And in case you think pigeon meat is gross, I’ve got news for you: I’d rather eat 1000 pounds of squab than ONE shitty fucking Hot Pocket. And that’s not only because I’m an elitist jerk (though that is pretty far up the list); it’s also because pigeon meat RULES YOUR FACE TO THE MAXX. It rules your face so much, in fact, you’re legally required to spell “max” with TWO X’s (don’t blame me; this was written into 40 CFR part 136 by the EPA in 1997).

After we’d gotten an eyeful of the Corson Building compound, they hustled us inside. It’s got a weird, old timey elegance, but the architectural period is difficult to pinpoint. There are plaster lion heads on the walls. There’s a fireplace in the direct center of the room. The windows and doors are arched. I have no fucking clue what this building was originally constructed for, but as a dining room it’s pretty goddamn fantastic.

The first course was a salad of yellow watermelon, pickled red currant berries, and salted tuna. The currant clusters were still on the stem and were the single biggest pain in the ass to eat of anything I’ve ever eaten. When you tried to scoop them up with your fork, they just rolled around on the plate, mocking you, and when you tried to stab them with the fork they ejaculated a squirt of tie- stainingly bright pink juice. When it was possible to get a bite of all three ingredients together, the tart berries and salty tuna meat contrasted well against the melon, but it’s easier said than done to get all of that shit on your fork at once. So my complaint against this dish is its structure rather than its composition.

Next up we had a caprese salad, of sorts: red and dark red heirloom tomato slices were tossed with buffalo mozzarella, some kind of bitter greens which could have been kale but were probably some other shit, purslane, and sautéed chanterelle mushrooms. Fucking tasty. I’d never tasted purslane before. It’s a thicker leaf, more like a jade plant than lettuce, and tart. This tasted pretty good with the mozzarella, which tasted home made and was as creamy as a princess’s thigh, and of course the chanterelles provided the meaty kick to the nuts for which they’re known. The only thing I don’t like about chanterelles is when people over enunciate the name and say “chan-ter-elles,” instead of “chan-trells.” Those motherfuckers sound like Katherine fucking Hepburn when they talk like that. It’s unbecoming.

Course number three was a melange of sautéed shrimp, yellow wax beans, green beans, and cauliflower. The whole thing was tossed in an anchovy, roasted garlic, and parsley paste. This was REALLY fucking good. The anchovies were “fruit forward,” as the forward fruits in the wine industry would say, but I didn’t care because I love anchovies. But I love shrimp even more than anchovies, and in this dish there were many. The beans were lightly sautéed and still crisp.

With the appearance of the next dish, we were halfway through this gluttonous marathon. Grilled eggplant was served with sautéed okra, artichoke hearts, and 2 kinds of beets. I began to see a pattern. Each of the last three dishes had TWO DIFFERENT COLORS OF THE SAME VEGETABLE: red tomatoes and dark read tomatoes; green beans and yellow beans; red beets and pink beets. Obviously this was some secret code planted by Leonardo daVinci to let me know that Jesus fucked someone, and all of Jesus’s other secrets can be revealed if you’re only willing to destroy Westminster Abbey. How’s that for a plot synopsis of a shitty book, assholes? And by “shitty book” I actually mean “shittiest book of all time.” And by “shittiest book of all time” I mean, of course, The DaVinci Code. Forgive my digression, and let’s segue to the one vegetable that’s as shitty as The DaVinci Code: okra. I don’t like okra, even though I’m from the south. Okra is, in fact, one of the reasons I left. But the presentation here was so masterful that I didn’t mind chowing down on those slimy slivers.

The fish course was a halibut cheek, braised in tomato sauce with chickpeas and topped with a brief squirt of béchamel sauce. This dish is the “your mom” joke that writes itself, because I once gave a brief squirt of béchamel sauce onto your mom’s halibut cheeks. But this halibut was much better than that. The halibut disintegrated beneath the fork and the chickpeas were soft and buttery. I ate this dish as quickly as I just described it. But the meat barrage was just beginning, because following the fish was an extremely tender chicken: it had been braised with apricots and anise hyssop, which as the name suggests is vaguely licorice flavored.

Before I could catch my breath after scarfing down a drumstick and some apricots, out comes LAMB. The shock and awe flavor bombardment continued with a leg of lamb, roasted rare, with a parsley and carrot slaw and stir fried zucchini tendrils. A word about the lamb: it was so fucking succulent you probably could have spread it across a piece of bread. The parsley and carrot slaw was dominated by too much parsley, though, and the zucchini tendrils were sometimes tough.

After packing in SEVEN COURSES they made us eat dessert, though I would expect no less. Dessert was a sticky glutinous rice pudding, very dense yet somehow simultaneously light, with blackberries and apricots. It wasn’t too sweet, and was accompanied with an herbal mint tea and, as if I wasn’t fucked up enough after 8 glasses of wine, a shot of OUZO. Shock and awe, indeed.

The total bill is a prix fixe of $110 per person, which might sound pricey, but it was for 8 COURSES, all of which came with at least one but usually TWO glasses of wine. Not all of the dishes hit the nail on the head (e.g. the parsley/ carrot slaw), but fuck it. If you don’t like a particular ingredient, I suggest you man up and just fucking TRY IT. You may be surprised to find that the same rule governing anal sex also improbably works for fine dining. The whole point of the Corson Building is elegant experimentation, and if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else for dinner. I hear the Cheesecake Factory serves the same 80 pages of dog shit 365 days a year. Fuck.

Rating: 9 precision gustatory assaults out of 10

Corson Building on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 18, 2008


1423 34th Ave

Like the French, I'm a pompous dick. Also like the French, I love French food, so I went to Cremant.

I started with the Oeuf en Gelee au Porto ($9). It sounds so lovely in French, but what is it? A soft boiled egg encased in ASPIC! Aspics are savory Jell-O molds, and they haven't been in style since the 50's. It takes me back to that bygone decade when you could smoke in a maternity ward. Not just in the waiting room, but inside the nursery that contained the babies! You could blow smoke into the newborn's face and even offer the infant a cigar of his own. “Congratulations,” a hypothetical man of the 1950's could tell the baby, “It's a... you!” Then he and the baby finished their cigars, knocked back some whiskey, and talked about the Brooklyn Bombers, whoever they are. Of course, not everything was so peachy in the 1950's. For instance, it was very difficult to get two chicks to make out and let you watch.

But I digress. The Oeuf en Gelee was tasty. Inside a round ball of wine- flavored gelatin, shrouded mummy- like in thinly sliced ham, was a soft boiled egg. It was served atop a small bed of greens, so when you cut into the egg the yolk ran down and became a dressing for the greens. The Gratinee des Halles ($12) is Cremant's take on the classic French onion soup. It's astonishingly rich, and the layers of flavor are built up by the onions being grilled first before caramelizing.

The Salade Verte Aux Fines Herbs ($9) sucked. This was an enormous mound of mixed greens, and in case you think quantity always beats quality, I remind you that while there are many sets of 36DD breasts in this world, very few of them are worth ogling. The “Fines Herbs” in the salad's name weren't very “fines,” and the champagne vinaigrette was too thin. I wasn't impressed, since the basic demonstration of a restaurant's style is in the green salad. It was all bland, and would have benefited immensely from the culinary equivalent of a reach around: plain old salt and pepper. My fortunes changed when I ordered the Gateaux de Foie de Volaille ($9). This was a satiny smooth chicken liver terrine, served in a small mason jar, and sealed beneath a layer of the same aforementioned aspic.

The Jarret d'Agneau au Vin Rouge ($22) was a lamb shank, braised in red wine until it fell off the bone. It came with a ramekin of aoli (mental note: complain about aoli in a future review) and was served atop a smashed Yukon Gold which was so lightly smashed that the smashing didn't look intentional. It was barely dented. In fact, that potato looked as though someone started to step on it, then realized they were stepping on a potato and jumped off before they could totally crush it. Still, it was good. The skin was crisp and the flesh was creamy. What more can you ask of a smashed potato? I guess you could ask it to grant you wishes, but something tells me that would work as well as my revisions to Keynesian Economic Theory.

The Steak Tartare ($17) was, like Lucky Charms, magically delicious. Raw beef chopped with capers, onions, and a beaten egg. If you've never eaten steak tartare because you're afraid of raw meat, get over it. If you'll put genitals into your mouth you'll eat steak tartare. You're guaranteed to feel like a caveman when you eat it. But you won't just feel like any old caveman, you'll feel like a FRENCH caveman: the kind of caveman who invents wine and confuses religious fundamentalists by existing 4000 years before they claim earth was created by Santa Claus. As for dessert, try the Cognac au Chocolat ($4). It comes in an aperitif glass and it's like an alcoholic chocolate mousse.

All in all, I'd say Cremant is good, but its rating is hampered by its prices. Plus they've got a big problem: Le Pichet. Any discourse about French food in this town has to include Le Pichet, the best restaurant in Seattle, which has set the gold-- no, fuck that, what's better than gold? --the BRAZILIAN WAX standard for French food. Le Pichet is delicious, cheap, and authentic. I suppose Cremant occupies a different market niche from Le Pichet, so perhaps they can't compare. After all, if Le Pichet is a country bistro, Cremant is a Parisian brasserie. Le Pichet is brightly lit and utilitarian, while Cremant is dim and sexy. Le Pichet is Jerry Lewis; Cremant is Barry White. In fact, Cremant is so sexy that the sexy radiation emanating from Cremant reanimated Barry White, who became a zombie, dug himself out of the grave, picked up Anne Bancroft's cadaver, and took her rotting corpse out to dinner at Cremant. Why would the management of Cremant tolerate the presence of two stinky zombies? Answer: they couldn't help themselves. That's how cool Barry White is. Even as a decaying corpse he still WOWS you.


7 dead R&B superstars (but not Isaac Hayes because he's a Scientologist) out of 10.

Cremant on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 28, 2008

Burning Beast

Burning Beast
at the Smoke Farm

Burning Beast isn't a restaurant; it's an event. The idea was to get Seattle's best chefs, stick them in the countryside, and make them cook sundry varieties of meat. Sounds like a great idea to me. What I didn't like was the name. They were trying to pattern it after the Burning Man Festival, which was dumb because there were very few similarities between the two events: Burning Man is expensive; Burning Beast is, at $65, what I would consider a bargain. Burning Man takes place in the desert; Burning Beast took place at the Smoke Farm, a non profit farming and art facility in the woods near Marysville. Burning Man is for douchebags who stink; while Burning Beast featured no bad smells. In fact only delicious smells could be detected, by my nose at least. Plus there were surprisingly few douchebags in attendance.

It was a “Who's Who” of the local culinary scene (I'm cringing as I type that sentence because it sounds so gay, but it really was an A-list event. Besides, I'm on a deadline and I can't be bothered to come up with a turn of phrase with more “zazz” ). Various restaurants were set up in camps all around the farm. Each camp was roasting something. All the grills were improvised, mostly out of cinderblocks with rebar for the grill.

At the Tilth station a one armed man stoked the fire under a couple of roasting ducks. They were making duck tacos, cooking the duck over the open fire and baking flat breads in those conical Moroccan pots that resemble a wizard's hat and from which come such delicious delights that it's as if the Tasty Wizard of Magical Taste conjured them himself. Because those Moroccan pots resemble a wizard's hat, get it? Because wizards pull shit out of their hats, like rabbits, doves, that kind of shit. Right? Aw, fuck it. You know, it's not easy being this lazy. Anyway, the duck meat was tender, smoky, and pleasantly spicy, and the flat bread was soft and chewy. It was easily the best taco I've eaten since I ate your mom's tuna taco.

The Culinary Communion cooking school was making a lamb confit. A high school intern squatted in the dust near their grill, tearing roasted flesh from bones and tossing the meat into a hopper. He told me he wasn't getting paid, and the only thing he'd had to eat all day was the leftover cartilage from the lamb roast, which his boss described as being like “meat bubblegum.” Note to the high school intern: if you're looking for something to do that won't make you any money and won't get you laid, might I recommend writing restaurant reviews? But the lamb confit was tender and rich, and totally worth forcing an undernourished teenager to sit in the heat for 16 hours tending it. They even made their own crusty, chewy pita bread, triangles of which were served with a small chunk of confit on top and a drizzle of tzatziki over the whole thing.

Le Pichet was roasting mackerel. The fish skin glittered in the sun like brushed steel as they slowly swung from a metal teepee over low coals. Skewers of sardines and a melange of calamari and octopus waited their turn for the fire. I was sadly disappointed by their offering, especially since Le Pichet is without a doubt, hands down my favorite restaurant in Seattle. Everything was bland. But at least the calimari was tender.

The Serafina camp was grilling corn and these plump rabbit sausages, which strained at their casings and periodically leaked rivulets of juice onto the charcoal below. These sausages were by far my favorite dish at the Burning Beast. They were succulent and flavorful, and the casings gave the most delightful snap when bit you bit into them.

Brasa had a whole (or mostly whole) pig on a rotisserie. The pig's backbone, legs, and ribs had been removed, so it was really just like a giant pork loin roast with the head still attached. This ghastly apparition lolled lazily around and around on its axle, the rotisserie halting and jerking occasionally under the strain of its delicious passenger. They were also roasting mussels and oysters, which weren't quite as unsettling because the oysters couldn't fix you with their piercing dead eyes. The oysters were really fresh and tasted like brine and smoke. The pig meat was tender and juicy, and was served on sandwiches with onion jam, pepper relish, and arugula.

Sitka & Spruce had butterflied two goats and sewn them together, with a stuffing of herbs and meats between the two carcasses. This, I think, came the closest to capturing the apocalyptic atmosphere of the Burning Beast, especially when Sitka & Spruce proprietor Matt Dillon fisted the cavity between the goats to check the cooking progress. Yes, he really did stick his hand up to the wrist to check the temperature. It's that willingness to go the distance for quality that has made Dillon the darling of the chumps who care about things. Someday he'll be rich. Richer than Tom Douglas, even. Matt Dillon is so goddamned motherfucking awesome that one day he'll be so rich, he'll shit diamond studded turds. He'll shit diamond studded turds because he'll be so rich, he'll be able to afford diamond studded corn on the cob, which he'll eat, then shit turds studded with diamonds. And corn. But enough about Matt Dillon's turds. That goat was tender, juicy, and flavorful. Perfectly cooked.

Sitka & Spruce is a tough act to follow, so I felt extra sorry for the Jones Glassworks crew. Not only were they the only amateur chefs there, but they were cooking the same thing as the legendary Matt Dillon, whose awesomeness is aforementioned. Their roast goat looked good enough, but they gave me a really gristly piece which was as tough and crusty as an ancient mariner. In fact, a recently discovered manuscript by Samuel Taylor Coleridge references the Jones Glassworks goat meat. That's how crusty it was. But in defense of Jones Galssworks, the stuffing of rice, organ meats, and pine nuts they served with the goat meat was creamy and flavorful.

Last AND least, some guy who used to work for Stumbling Goat was grilling carrots, beets, and green onions. He admitted it was a thankless task, to be stuck with veggies when everyone else was serving up a decadent Roman orgy of meat, and I agree with his assessment. I don't know how this poor asshole got stuck with the vegetables. That job sucks as bad as the guy who has to mop the floors at a peep show, or the guy who has to artificially inseminate tigers. I didn't eat any of the vegetables, so I really can't comment, though I still feel as much pity for that guy as I do for the guy who has to translate episodes of “The Family Guy” into Spanish. Because I doubt it translates very well.

The Burning Beast was like a backyard barbecue, if the most famous chefs in a major city were the grill masters instead of your uncle with erectile dysfunction. At $65, it was a pricey buffet, but definitely worth it, if only because you could pick the brain of your favorite chef, who was usually standing right there tending the grill. Which got me to thinking that fine dining is like rock-n-roll in some ways: the chefs are like rock stars, except they don't get paid very much. Plus no one cares about cooking. And the people who DO care aren't smoldering hot young vixens, they're either old chumps with nothing better to do, or snarky writers looking to diminish their efforts. My, my, this issue of The Surly Gourmand has somehow turned as introspective as that episode of Magnum, PI where Magnum gets trapped under the airplane!

Rating: 7 Emmy- winning episodes of Magnum, PI out of 10

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Spring Hill

Spring Hill
4437 California Ave SW

People who live in West Seattle are a sad, sorry bunch of shit fuckers (except those who live on “the good side” of 35th, who drive solid gold rocket cars and fuck their French maids). For years the downtrodden people of West Seattle have had to deal with culinary bullshit: Shadow Land sucks. Ama- Ama is good enough, but it would be better if the topless girl in their logo was totally nude. Talarico's is pretty good but turns into a giant frat party after 9 pm. Blackbird tries too hard. Mission, packed to the gills with yuppie scum, wants to be Fremont West; plus I only like Mexican food that comes out of a truck, so Mission sucks extra.

But now, finally, high concept has entered the scene: Spring Hill. I don't generally follow “restaurant politics” like some whores do, but apparently the owner of Spring Hill has in the past worked for Tom Douglas. Great. I have a bone to pick with Tom Douglas ever since I got a curdled bearnaise sauce at the Dahlia Lounge, so if one of his disgruntled former employees wants to make a few bucks I'm all for it.

After I got over the initial shock induced by the sight of our waitress's mullet, we ordered some food. The fried veal sweetbreads ($10) were everything that a cow's pancreas should be: crisp on the outside, tender inside, and very mild tasting. It came with three perfectly executed dipping sauces: an espresso barbecue sauce, a ranch dressing with lots of dill, and a hickory smoked honey mustard. All three sauces were good, though in my mind the barbecue sauce was the clear winner. The only problem was that they only gave us four sweetbreads, and there was too much dipping sauce left over, so it went to waste. You know how many starving African chumps, with bulging bellies and flies strolling across their sunken eyeballs, would love to eat that leftover sauce that we fat Americans just callously throw away? Uh, I forgot the question.

The roasted beet salad ($7) was delightful. Wedges of red beet were roasted until creamy, then tossed with cubes of pear and toasted hazelnuts. The pear was crisp and tart, and contrasted well with the crunchy smokiness of the hazelnuts and the earthy beets. The only problem with this dish was a spatter of half hearted green basil infused oil, the delicate flavor of which just couldn't be detected amidst the menagerie of other tastes and textures.

Next up was the duck egg raviolo, which is, of course, the singular form of the word “ravioli.” Which means you got ONE raviolo. For $9. And although the raviolo itself was really tasty, and the duck egg filling was smooth and creamy, and it came with three thin slices of salty duck breast prosciutto, $9 is still too damn expensive for ONE FUCKING PIECE OF PASTA.

Steamed manila clams ($11) were served in some kind of spicy, creamy broth with garlic and little chunks of pork belly. The clams were juicy and tender, and best of all there were a LOT OF THEM. Unlike the raviolo, it was a pretty large portion. The broth was so fucking good I ended up spooning the rest of it out of the bowl like soup after we'd eaten all the clams. They provided ONE flimsy piece of grilled bread to sop up at least a pint of broth, so that sucked.

The Rainbow Trout was the most expensive thing we ordered ($22). I wasn't offended at the price this time because it was a pretty big plate. A fried trout fillet was garnished with roasted artichoke hearts and served on a bed of fluffy herbed spaetzle. The trout was delightful, flaky and tender, and nicely seasoned. The artichokes were maybe a little too tart. The spaetzle was chewy but not tough, and this is the last time I'm going to mention it because I'm sick of trying to type the word “spaetzle.” Stupid Germans and their retarded words like “Spaetzle” and “Gotterdammerung” and “Kristallnacht” and all those other fucking words with too many double consonants and that weird loopy “S” thingy that looks mostly like a Greek “beta.” But enough about the Germans and their bizarre language. The trout was anointed in a nutty brown butter sauce. This dish was utterly tasty and easily the best thing we ordered.

After all of this we were still hungry. Our majestically mulletted waitress seemed astounded that we ate so much, but that still didn't keep her mullet ass from bringing us the menu again so we could order some more food. We went with the Steak Two Ways ($12). This was a comically tiny portion of steak tartare, which came with some weird but strangely fluffy chips. The tartare was okay, and seemed pretty traditional with chopped capers and onions, but the menu promised steak TWO ways. The steak the second way was a small chunk of some variety of grilled beef (the piece was too small for me to identify the cut). It was kind of tough, but at least tasted like it had been grilled over a real fire. Avoid this one unless you like tiny dollops of raw hamburger and chewy mystery meat.

We closed out the night with ice cream. For $8 you get three scoops. We had the vanilla bean, chocolate ovaltine, and a grape sorbet. The vanilla bean was creamy and obviously had lots of real vanilla bean in it. The ovaltine was good enough, but seemed like the kind of treat a pedophile would use to lure his victims into his white panel van for a good old fashion molesting.
The grape sorbet tasted like fresh grapes but was too icy.

I'd call Spring Hill a great first stab at introducing the back- country rubes of West Seattle to some high concept dining. Still, the proprietors of Spring Hill seem to be under the faded idea of nouvelle cuisine that fine dining should come in tiny portions. Many of the dishes are microscopically small, and I'd love to see the riot that would ensue if a company of lumberjacks happened upon Spring Hill. Eventually I hope that they'll EITHER reduce the prices OR increase the portion size. Or at the very least, ban all the wait staff from growing mullets.

Rating: 7 mullets out of 10.

Spring Hill on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jasmine Provincial Vietnamese Restaurant

This is my entry into The GastroGnome's Restaurant Review 360. Enjoy, fuckers.

Jasmine Provincial Vietnamese Restaurant
2822 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way S

This place is fucked. When you walk in the door the first thing you see is a humidifier which spits a thin ribbon of steam into the room. I foolishly thought it was a rice cooker until I realized that a high volume restaurant could never get by with a rice cooker the size of a toaster oven. Plus, why would the rice cooker be on the bar, and not inside the kitchen? Why do they even need a humidifier? Is it not humid enough inside Jasmine? Is Seattle’s famously soggy air not muggy enough to remind those Vietnamese fuckers of home? And if it’s home they’re longing for, shouldn’t they strew about some 40 year old landmines? Another authentic touch would be a bamboo tiger cage containing a life size mannequin of John McCain.

The walls and furniture in this place are a lurid shade of “fuck-me” red, the shade of crimson you used to see inside every Chinese restaurant but don’t anymore. A wavy papier- mache thingamafucky hangs from the ceiling. A plasma screen TV on the wall scrolls through images of impressionist paintings. There’s a baby grand piano in the corner, on which a dude occasionally plunks out Mozart. The spiral- bound menu is 20 pages long, and has some crepe flowers pasted to the cover so that it looks like a wedding invitation. The décor is so goddamned random I felt as though I’d walked into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I half- expected an Oompa Loompa to appear. Don’t you hate when someone says they “half- expected” something? I do. That’s because I don’t do ANYTHING halfway, not even expecting things. So you can imagine my disappointment when a normal man, and not an Oompa Loompa, appeared to take our order.

We started with the Grilled Prawns on Sugarcane ($6.75). Three lengths of sugarcane are served wrapped in shrimp paste. I still haven’t figured out how you’re supposed to eat this dish. Do you pull the shrimp paste off of the sugarcane and eat it with chopsticks? Or do you nibble the shrimp directly off of the sugarcane like a popsicle? Do you eat the sugarcane? Actually I know the answer to that one: you can’t eat sugarcane. Cows can; people can’t. It’s too fibrous. It’s mildly sweet, but tough and stringy, and sucking on a piece of sugarcane is like sucking on a wet rag. Fresh sugarcane is supposed to be a treat. I guess it WAS a treat of sorts, in the 1930’s, in Louisiana, before Gummy Bears were invented, and then only if you were too poor to afford REAL candy. Anyway, the shrimp was good: the paste was finely textured and seasoned lightly, so you could really taste the shrimp. The sugarcane in the center lent a subtle hint of sweetness. Some kind of sweet and salty dipping sauce came with the shrimp, but it was totally unnecessary.

Next we got the Vietnamese Egg Roll ($5.75). This was just an order of three crispy spring rolls. They were pretty typical and seemed to be filled with the usual stuff that egg rolls are filled with: pork, vegetables, noodles. The egg rolls were tasty enough, but not nearly as tasty as the Green Papaya Salad ($7.50). Slippery chunks of papaya were tossed with julienned carrot and daikon, topped with ground peanuts and slivers of crispy fried onion. The charm of this dish is in the contrast of textures: bites of smooth creamy papaya give way to crunchy carrot and daikon, punctuated by the crisp crackle of fried onion. The flavors are refreshing, though the ground peanuts were by this point quickly becoming unnecessary, especially since they came with EVERY dish. Even the egg rolls had ground peanuts on top of them.

The Tamarind Roasted Quail ($7.75) had crisp skin and rich flesh, but it was a little tough. The quail could have benefitted from a longer, slower cooking to make the meat really fall off the bone. The meat was well seasoned and the tamarind glaze was sticky and spicy. The worst part of this dish was the tiny bowl of seasoning that came with it: it appeared to be some kind of granular paste and when touched felt exactly like wet sand. The flavor of this paste was shocking: it was a mixture of salt, pepper, and lime juice. You could probably use that stuff to clean bicycle parts. I put some on my quail. Predictably enough, the salty acidic grit overpowered the meat just like Charlie overpowered the ARVN on the Fall of Saigon.

The Happy Beef ($10.75) was a little overpriced for what it was: cubes of grilled beef stir fried with onions and bell peppers. I liked it though, because it was simple and tasty, though not quite as simple or as tasty as the sugarcane shrimp (although to be fair, shrimp ALWAYS have an advantage, since everyone knows the people love shrimp. The people love it.). Oddly, the menu gave us the option of choosing rice or bread with our Happy Beef. I chose bread, because I fucking LOVE that crusty, flaky, Vietnamese French bread. It’s delicious. It’s light as cotton candy, and it delivers a swift gustatory kick to your taste buds’ nuts. Between the bread and the masterful cream puffs for which Vietnamese bakeries are known (but which Jasmine cruelly doesn’t sell), they should jump out of bed EVERY DAY and sing the fucking Marseillaise in thanks to the French for colonizing them. That having been said, don’t bother ordering the Crispy Fish with Orange Sauce ($12.75). It wasn’t very crispy, and the orange sauce obviously had too much corn starch in it: it was gloopy and stringy, as though the state of Florida itself jizzed on the fish. Gross.

Dessert was an adventure. I tried to order the Jelly Soup with Lotus Seeds ($6.50). Yes, it’s really called that, and even more ridiculous than the name was the fact that THEY WERE OUT OF IT. How could something called “Jelly Soup with Lotus Seeds” be so popular? Does it come with your own Vietnamese hooker, who conveniently utters quotes from Full Metal Jacket (including perennial favorite “Me so horny”) while doing obscene things with Ping- Pong balls? I have no fucking clue, because as a consolation they brought me a selection of four shitty ice cream flavors: coconut, mint, coffee, and mango. It was garnished with canned fruit cocktail and one of those tiny paper umbrellas you find in a pina colada. But I don’t think they charged me for the ice cream, which was nice.

Jasmine is a strange motherfucking place. It’s mostly good, but some of the menu items aren’t that great, so it’s like being forced by Vietnamese people to play Russian Roulette, just like in The Deer Hunter. Maybe they’re still sorting out what works and what doesn’t. I’d go back if I was in the neighborhood, but I’m not in Jasmine’s neighborhood very often, so the next time I really need a Vietnamese fix I’ll probably just do some opium and rent Apocalypse Now.

Rating: 4 Errand boys sent by grocery clerks out of 10

Jasmine Provincial Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Steelhead Diner

Steelhead Diner
95 Pine St
(206) 625-0129
Normally I hate all things that are “meta.” When someone describes something as being “meta” they’re talking about something that describes itself or which references itself. Like a dude videotaping himself jacking off. A better example is the time I was in a bar and a chick came up to me, inexplicably wanting me to READ AN ESSAY SHE WROTE. I thought it was a pretty original pickup line until I actually read the essay, which was about how much she likes to write. No doubt she expected me to skim her work and instantly say “Hey, you’re a great writer! Let’s fuck!” Unfortunately for her, she picked the wrong dude. I started drunkenly comparing her to Michel de Montaigne, deriding her unoriginal verb choices, and reminding her that now even Stephen King is writing about writing, which means YOU SUCK!

Anyway, self referential bullshit is pretty common these days, but how can you tell the difference between masturbatory congratulation and mere description? Answer: no one knows. Not even me, because I constantly engage in both masturbation AND self congratulation. But I had to figure it out so we went to the Steelhead Diner. Refreshingly, they take reservations, so I didn’t have to hang out with the geriatric set.

After 2 Sazeracs I was pleasantly buzzed in time for the caviar pie ($12.95). It was too gimmicky for my taste: a huge wedge of cream cheese dotted meagerly on top with a scant spectrum of differently kinds of caviar. Scattered about the plate were diced onion, capers, and chopped boiled eggs. You were expected to scoop up a huge glop of cream cheese with some of the caviar, mix it with eggs and capers and other shit, and spread it on the provided toast points. I won’t say the flavors were bad (it tasted like oniony cream creese), but giving top billing to the word “caviar” in a recipe that featured so little actual caviar is kind of disingenuous, just like how that girl I met called herself a writer.

The bresaola ($11.95) was, unlike the caviar pie, worth every penny. For that price you got 3 large slices of rich beef, topped by creamy rounds of mozzarella, frisee, and a long thin rosemary bread stick which looked like the magic wand a culinary wizard would use to cast delicious spells. Note: the preceding sentence was the literary equivalent of a Pontiac Firebird with a unicorn airbrushed on the hood. Or maybe this restaurant review was actually written by Ronnie James Dio.

Next up was the beet tartare ($8.95). Diced golden beets glazed in a gorgonzola sauce were crammed into a cylindrical mold with a side bowl of fried yucca chips. Even though I’m really tired of cylinders, it was superb. The beets were crunchy and sweet, and the flavor was nicely offset by the tangy gorgonzola sauce. The yucca chips were crisp and dusted with cinnamon and paprika. Tasty, but not as tasty as the smelt ($9.95). I’d call it a good deal for a huge pile of about 30 of these tiny fried fish. The batter was flaky, and the smelt were fresh and accented nicely by the accompanying mustard sauce.

For $18.95 you get HALF a fried chicken, which means a breast, a drumstick, a thigh, and a wing. Shit, for that price you can get four times as many pieces of chicken from Popeye’s. But the juicy, flavorful fried chicken from the Steelhead Diner, with the same crispy crust as the fried smelt, was easily four times tastier than Popeye’s, so I guess it evened out.

The black cod ($19.95) was creamy as fuck but luckily not as fishy as your mom. A small square of fish swam in a salty sea of kasu broth with shiitakes, carrots, bok choy, and ginger. The cod was meltingly tender and was a refreshing change of pace after a huge plate of fried chicken.

What came next more than made up for all the relatively pricey stuff we’d eaten so far, and was possibly the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time: the Rich Boy Sandwich ($11.95). It seems the dude who owns the Steelhead Diner is from Louisiana. So am I. Ever since I moved here I’ve had trouble finding a decent poboy. If you don’t know what a poboy is, allow me to explain: it’s a delicious sandwich. This may seem like a simple concept, but believe me, it’s very difficult, like explaining “yellow” to a blind guy or “women’s suffrage” to the Mars Hill Church. Here in Seattle they either cheap out (by putting TWO shrimp on a poboy), or try to use wacky condiments like red leaf lettuce or sunflower seeds or a copy of Microsoft Vista. But the Steelhead Diner fucking NAILED it. The Rich Boy Sandwich is what we in the bayou would call a sausage poboy: slices of grilled sausage were piled onto French bread (NOT the mouth shredding classic Parisian baguette with its stern Gallic crust, but the fluffy, flaky Vietnamese variety) with shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and dill pickles.

What more do you need, besides air, water, blowjobs, and poboys? The answer, my friend, is NOTHING. The poboy is the answer to life’s mysteries, balm of all wounds, the Platonic Ideal of the perfect sandwich. It’s the Ozzymandias of all sandwiches: “Look upon my condiments, ye mighty, and despair!” And unlike me, a poboy never ever gets drunk and turns in poorly written restaurants reviews at 3:00 am on the day it’s due. How’s that for “meta?”

Rating: 7 things that are “meta” (except Metallica) out of 10 (NOTE: the Rich Boy Sandwich gets its own separate rating of 9.5, that’s how badass it is)

Steelhead Diner on Urbanspoon

How to Cook a Wolf

How to Cook a Wolf
2208 Queen Anne Ave N

One of the occupational hazards of reviewing restaurants is having to wait in line with lots of old people. This is especially true when the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, which unfortunately is the case with How to Cook a Wolf. The inevitable queue usually congeals around the place’s door about a half hour before it opens. Whenever I find out that a restaurant I’d like to patronize doesn’t take reservations, I typically skip lunch because I know it’s going to be an Early Bird Special. So there I was, dutifully lined up at the top of Queen Anne Hill at FOUR THIRTY IN THE AFTERNOON on a Saturday to await How to Cook a Wolf’s opening. Luckily it was sunny. Sadly, we were the SECOND party in line, behind some overachieving geezers. More dessicated pensioners showed up after us.

The door finally opened, but not before an employee of How to Cook a Wolf felt the need to take a picture of the line. I waved. I think he deleted that picture from his phone and took another. I didn’t wave this time, and so he saved the picture. We went in and sat down. You should know that the inside of How to Cook a Wolf looks like a basketball court designed by M.C. Escher. I don’t usually care about ambiance: I’ve had some of the best meals of my life in places that look (and smell) like the emergency room in a charity hospital. But the décor inside How to Cook a Wolf is really unique.

We started with the Hamachi Crudo ($16). Six thin slices of raw sashimi grade yellowtail were drizzled with olive oil and lime juice, and peppered with finely diced jalapeno. It was very refreshing, mildly spicy, and perhaps BEST of all they resisted the clichéd urge to ruin this dish with cilantro. The olive oil was SUPERB, the jalapeno was piquant without overpowering, and the lime juice was a bright top note. It felt like a shorthand version of something vaguely Iberian, maybe Mexican, possibly Sicilian, but probably all three.

Next came the polenta ($13). Two hockey puck- sized discs of polenta, crispy on top but creamy beneath, were served in a shallow dish of a silky béchamel sauce which was so grandma fuckingly good I sopped the rest of it up with bread. After polenta the spaghetti arrived. For $15 you get a bowl of spaghetti anointed with plenty of the same bright green extra virgin olive oil they put on the hamachi, plus garlic, anchovy paste, and red pepper flakes.

In rapid fire succession came the Bucatini ($15). Bucatini is one of the few pasta shapes I hadn’t tried: it’s like really long macaroni, or maybe like thick spaghetti with a pinhole through its center. Either way, it’s awesome. The bucatini was dressed in a light tomato sauce with oregano and guanciale. Guanciale is an air dried pig jowl. Yes, jowls, just like Queen Elizabeth has. The guanciale was diced and seared crisp, and dotted the sauce like little salty porky flavor mines.

Following the bucatini was the Duck Salad ($16). Yes, the salad came out last. One quirk of How to Cook a Wolf is that the dishes seem to come out at random, so you pretty much HAVE to share with whomever you’re dining with, or else your bucatini may come out early while your companion waits for her duck salad. But anyway, I should point out here that How to Cook a Wolf’s duck salad is the first dish I have ever had that really didn’t need the duck, and it’s my opinion that EVERY dish needs some duck in it because I love duck. I’d eat duck ICE CREAM if it existed (which it probably does, thanks to all the Ferran Adria imitators who think they’re “molecular gastronomists,” when they’re ACTUALLY in fact turd burglars). But I don’t need to prove my duck loving cred to you losers. The duck salad was a mix of beets, orange wedges, and thinly sliced rings of red onion, and really didn’t need the roast duck breast which topped it. Don’t get me wrong, the duck was delicious: seared rare, it was juicy and expertly cooked. Still, the salad’s flavors were balanced enough without it. But fuck it, I’ll never turn my nose up at duck because, as the saying goes, if it walks like a duck and fucks like a duck it’s a duck, and that means it’s damn tasty.

By this point we were stuffed like motherfucks, so we wrapped it up with the cheese plate ($8) and the sorbetto (also $8). The cheese plate was a thick triangle of La Tur, which is a mildly pungent Italian soft cheese. A dollop of tomato jam accompanied the cheese, which was a great match because the tomato jam wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and was tart enough to cut through the creaminess. The sorbetto was of three scoops of mango, and was easily as creamy as the cheese, and also not too sweet. Altogether it was a fine ending to a delightful meal.

Unfortunately I have a complaint: the name “How to Cook a Wolf” is dumb because it takes too long to type. It references the title of some 1950’s book where the author talks about, among other things, how to create the cheapest possible nutritious meal, which I guess is some kind of hamburger gruel. This is ironic because my other complaint is that the food is expensive. Fifteen bucks is a lot for a bowl of pasta, especially since the waiter admitted that the pasta wasn’t made in house. That having been said, the dishes were masterful and the uncluttered palette of flavors seemed almost architecturally designed, as mod and crisp as How to Cook a Wolf’s interior. If only they could reduce the prices just a little and change the name to something cool like “Lucifer’s Dining Room,” which is the literary equivalent of a tattoo of a skeleton riding a dragon, I’d have nothing to complain about. And THAT, gentle fuckfaces, would be a FIRST.

Rating: 8 geezers (except Geezer Butler) out of 10

How To Cook a Wolf on Urbanspoon

Shadow Land

Shadow Land
4458 California Ave SW

Why did they name this place “Shadow Land?” Seriously. It sounds like the title of a mid 80's sci- fi thriller, like Dreamscape or Runaway. Runaway is so fucking rad because it's got Tom Selleck, Gene Simmons, and POISONOUS ROBOTS. How random is that? Answer: as random as Shadow Land's menu. But not even poison robots could get me to eat at Shadow Land again because it sucks.

Everyone has seen menus at restaurants where below each menu item is listed a key ingredient or two, so you know what's in each dish. But Shadow Land ridiculously apes this practice by listing irrelevant ingredients. For instance, I don't need to be informed that fried Marcona almonds ($5) have sea salt and olive oil in them. Salt? and Oil? on something FRIED? No shit, Sherlock. Likewise, if I was on the fence about ordering the hummus ($7), I doubt that letting me know that the hummus contains PAPRIKA would be a definitive selling point. And why mention that the pulled pork sandwich ($7) has pickled red onions on it? Is it because they think pickled red onions is the BEST ingredient of the pulled pork sandwich? Why not print “A Bun” below the listing for the pulled pork sandwich? After all, a bun is clearly a crucial part of a sandwich. Or “Pulling,” which I would argue is the most important ingredient besides the pork because without any pulling it wouldn't be pulled pork.

They also name drop exotic ingredients. I know this is in vogue right now, ever since the beginning of the arms race about who has the oldest balsamic vinegar, or the most rustic bread, or the ham which came from the breed of pig which is the closest to becoming extinct, but as usual Shadow Land takes this already ludicrous conceit to an even more ludicrous extreme. The carpaccio ($6) has truffle oil on it, and the seared Ahi tuna comes with a boiled quail egg, but I guess that isn't fancy enough because the management of Shadow Land would like to inform you that the marinated Crimini mushrooms ($7) have black LAVA SALT in them. Perhaps most pretentious of all is the nebulously named ”Cassie,” which is ostensibly macaroni and cheese but which for the low low price of only $8 comes with the rarest and most intangible ingredient in human existence, LOVE.

The weird fucking menu isn't the only thing wrong with Shadow Land. I could forgive a quirky, poorly written menu if the food was really good or really cheap, but unfortunately it's neither. Some things seemed irrationally expensive: pork chops cost $28, while the ribeye is $32. For $12, the rare seared ahi tuna is a very tiny portion (about the size of the slice of tuna you would get on top of a piece of nigiri sushi, maybe a half ounce) and comes with a gimmicky cylindrical mold of green beans topped with the aforementioned boiled quail egg. The flavors here are light and well balanced, but 12 bucks is too expensive for a tiny fleck of raw fish. And while the carpaccio is a large portion for the price, the crispy fried squiggles of potato that top it are WAY too salty. The salad costs $9 and yeah, that's all it's called, “salad,” like the old black- and- white label generic grocery store products, and it seems like when they made the “salad” they just threw leftover shit together. Soggy mixed greens were topped with sunflower seeds and orange zest, which was completely and utterly overwhelmed by a massive dose of tarragon, of all things. Tarragon is not a salad herb. It's best suited to a dense or creamy substrate like roast chicken or an egg salad or in a bechamel sauce. Lettuce and orange zest are just too ephemeral to stand up to tarragon's muscular flavor assault. And don't get me started on the abomination that is poutine ($7). Poutine is a bowl of French fries with cheese curds and GRAVY on it, and in case this dish isn't funny enough, you should know that it's the NATIONAL DISH OF CANADA. I'm tired of bitching so feel free to insert your own joke about Canada here: . The fries were okay, and Beecher's cheese curds are always delightfully creamy and nutty, but the gravy was (surprise!) too salty and gloopy and tasted canned.

Anyway, Shadow Land is at a shitty nexus where the food is too shitty for it to qualify as fine dining and not cheap enough for it to be good bar food. The service is absent minded at best. The drinks are expensive. The menu is really, really pompous, and like every other goddamn shithole new bar the plasma screens are always tuned to ESPN. Even Shadow Land's fake movie title name is shitty. I'd rather have one of Gene Simmons' poison robots from Runaway inject me full of H2SO4 than go back there. If Shadow Land really WAS a movie it would be written by Kevin Smith, which means it's shitty, unrealistic, trendy, and tries way too hard. Can I say the word “shitty” once more in this review? Sure I can.

Rating: 0.0001 poisonous robots out of 10

Shadowland on Urbanspoon

Ama- Ama

4752 California Ave SW

Heath Ledger is dead. Who will play the Joker now? More importantly, whom will I dream about? In consolation we went to Ama- Ama, a self described “oyster bar” in West Seattle. I was surprised by the décor: with all the starburst clocks and wood paneling, Ama- Ama would be an exact facsimile of my great aunt’s house, if only they had more doilies, a Sacred Heart, and a velvet painting of JFK. It’s a perfect tableau of 1963, frozen in amber. I don’t know what the fuck they were thinking. Perhaps they were trying to bring back some kind of mythical past that never existed in which Elvis movies DIDN’T suck ass and people DIDN’T eat recipes that somehow contained corn flakes AND canned tuna fish AND gelatin.

We started with the Mojo Shrimp Salad ($11), which was fucking tasty. Three large prawns skewered and grilled with some kind of sweet spice rub, served over a bed of frisee, watercress, and avocado, although the avocado was a little too firm for my taste. I prefer avocado to melt in your mouth the way my heart melted for Hollywood heartthrob Heath Ledger.

Next came baked oysters. For $9 you get a half dozen oysters, baked in the half shell in a Pernod cream sauce and dotted with bacon bits. This was pretty good, though I personally couldn’t taste any Pernod. The fried oysters (also $9) were breaded in Japanese panko crumbs and served with a fucking BRILLIANTLY AWESOME slaw of cabbage, red onions, and red bell peppers in a citrus- tasting vinaigrette. I should point out here that the oysters were REALLY FRESH. They tasted as though they had died as recently as Heath Ledger.

The lamb sliders ($9) were awesome. A globe of ground lamb the size of a tennis ball came served draped in melted gouda and doused with chipotle sauce on a brioche bun. When you bit into the slider the lamb gushed forth a lurid torrent of juices down your chin onto your hands and down your forearms. How’d they make the lamb so juicy? ice chips? pork fat? stem cells? I don’t know, but the BRIOCHE BUN was somehow the best part. What’s brioche, you ask? Answer: a French dinner roll. They’re light, eggy, as soft as a comforter made of vaginas, and utterly superior in every way to the shitty 3 X 4 grids of dinner rolls we get here in the USA for Thanksgiving. How awesome is brioche? Allow me to frame the answer in this convenient S.A.T. style analogy: dry shitty pre packaged American dinner rolls are to brioche as Monica Lewinsky is to Nicolas Sarkozy’s SMOULDERING HOT mistress. In other words, the French do everything better. Yet even the mighty French cannot bring my beloved Heath Ledger back from Death’s cold embrace. Sigh.

One pound of steamed Penn Cove mussels cost $15. The mussels came in a big bowl, steamed in a sauce that the menu claims is “tomatillo” but which looked and tasted like plain old Hunt’s tomato paste, which would be fine with me because the tomato sauce flavor was a good complement to the mussels, except they had to put on airs and claim that a common ingredient was fancier than it actually was. After all, if you’re willing to fake tomatillo paste with tomato paste, why not go all out? Serve chicken liver and call it foie gras. Claim beef brisket is “Unicorn Roast.” A side dish of crack rocks could be billed on the menu as “Professor Cornelius Fantabularius’s Magic Pebbles.” Still, I must point out that like the aforementioned oysters, the mussels were fresh and very tender. Almost as tender as the tender love I once shared with dearly departed hunk Heath Ledger.

The New York strip steak was a mistake. At $24, it’s the most expensive thing on Ama- Ama’s menu. It was a calculated risk, but I have a test: at steak houses I always get seafood, and at seafood restaurants I try the steak. If they can get it right they pass because it’s supposed to be extra difficult because everyone knows a cow is the opposite of a fish. After all, the Metropolitan Grill’s crab cakes are awesome. When I order a rare steak I expect it to come out a dark crusty brown outside and bright red inside. But Ama- Ama’s New York strip wasn’t that great: it was barely seasoned, and grilled to a watery blonde color, as though the grill wasn’t hot enough. It was just sad: as sad as the untimely demise of promising young actor Heath Ledger.

The meal limped to a close with dessert: the Praline Dream ($8) was some sort of chocolate mousse thing which resembled a real praline only in its sugar content. The lemon tart (also $8) was okay, but the most depressing thing about these desserts was that the menu ADMITTED they came from Bakery Nouveau, the Parisian style patisserie across the street, as if that were a selling point. I’m not saying Bakery Nouveau isn’t good; quite the contrary. What I’m saying is this: when you run a restaurant, you can’t buy stuff made by someone else. After all, if you can do that, then I too can own a fucking restaurant! Please bear with me, faithful patron, because it’ll take a while to fulfill your order, since when you choose a steak from the menu I’ll have to drive to the Metropolitan Grill, order the steak, wait for it to come out, get it to go, then drive back to West Seattle to serve it up to you.

Ama- Ama is an easygoing neighborhood joint. The seafood is really fresh and the lamb slider is superb, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there, mostly because the name is too dumb. And now it seems I’m out of clever asides about Heath Ledger so…. Heath Ledger Heath Ledger Heath Ledger. There. Satisfied?

Rating: 5 Heath Ledgers out of 10

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