Sunday, December 06, 2009


5307 Ballard Ave NW


As many of you know I love the French. I want to go to France and have sex with every last French citizen (provided they took a shower that day, which of course is iffy at best). The French are so fucking awesome, especially since we don’t have to call French Fries “Freedom Fries” anymore, and your mom can stop “Freedom Kissing” my asshole, and I don’t have to wear a “Freedom Tickler” when I fuck her. So I was excited when Bastille opened, even though I question the choice of name. The Bastille is a loaded term in France; that ancient and now- destroyed prison was the symbol of a decadent monarchy famous for cruel torture and unlawful imprisonment and which deserved to be overthrown. Naming a French restaurant here in the USA “Bastille” would be akin to opening a Southern food restaurant in France and calling it “Jim Crow.”

Usually when people talk about restaurants in the context of French food they discuss bistros. Well I’m going to discuss them too. Here’s a hint about Bistros: if the word “Bistro” ISN’T the first word in the name of the restaurant, don’t go there. If you ignore my warning, I can guarantee two things: 1. the food will suck, but not as much as you might think (just enough to aggravate you) and 2. the menu will have at least a paragraph about how the word “bistro” came into use.

The word “bistro” came into use during the French Revolution, but I don’t give a fuck about that. What I DO give a fuck about is the French Revolution itself. The French Revolution was totally fucking retarded. They claimed to have been inspired by our very own American Revolution, but I think those motherfuckers missed the point: after all, WE managed to overthrow the reigns of aristocracy without resorting to indiscriminate head chopping and ridiculous purple prose. The French had the right idea but ultimately fucked it up when the Revolution turned on itself; among the many innocent people who didn’t deserve to lose their heads were: winemaker Francis Bertrand, accused of producing “sour wine injurious to the health of citizens;” Mary Angelica Plaisant, a seamstress who was guillotined for exclaiming “A fig for the nation!” (I can sympathize with ingredient hatred but COME THE FUCK ON; I don’t like cilantro but I’d never want someone decapitated over it); and of course Antoine Lavoisier, France’s most famous chemist, who devised the metric system and discovered the principles of combustion, who was sentenced to his own ride on the “National Razor” after being accused of selling adulterated tobacco.

Just as arbitrary as the odds of having one’s head removed during the actual French Revolution are the odds of getting a reservation at Bastille. Your best bet is to use Open Table; if you’re computer illiterate you could give Bastille a call, but you’d have better luck trying to fuck a leprechaun (does wanting to fuck a leprechaun make you gay? Jesus I hope not). I called Bastille and repeatedly got their voice mail, which clearly states that if you leave your name, phone number, number of people in your party, and day and time of your reservation, they’ll call you back to confirm. Well guess what: like the Jacobin pledge to enact price controls on food during the famine following Louis XVI’s execution, my confirmation call from Bastille never materialized. I called and called Bastille and kept getting the aforementioned voice mail. When I FINALLY connected with a person I was told that I didn’t, in fact, need a 9:30 pm reservation on a Friday night, because “it usually drops off after 9 anyway.” So Friday I dutifully made my way over to Ballard, where I was greeted by a shrug and news of a two hour wait. Silly me, believing what I had been told by an employee of the business I wish to patronize!

Like I said, I’d rather take my chances with the National Razor. But what about the food? I daresay it was better than what was available when the Bastille still stood, at least. The Lyonnaise Salad ($12), with frisee and lardons topped with a poached egg, was fucking killer: the bitter fronds of the frissee was balanced out by a creamy dressing and the poached egg, which when cut into wept its golden tears of tasty yolk all over the salad. The lardons were chewy, salty, and smoky, and dropped into the fray like perfectly thrown Molotov cocktails of porky deliciousness.

The Soupe a l’oingnon ($11) seemed a bit expensive for a rather small bowl of soup, but Bastille’s rendition of this classic dish could have been the original template, for better or worse: a rich beefy broth swimming with caramelized onion threads, maybe a bit cloying but brightened up with the unexpected woodsy hue of rosemary, and topped with an unfortunate giant glob of congealed Gruyere or Comte or some other such stretchy white tangy cheese.

The steak frites ($18) was maddening: the steak had a good, seasoned crust, but the motherfuckers overcooked my medium rare into well done. This has NEVER happened to me before in a restaurant. The accompanying frites (in a cup) were all too short. I
only had 1 frite which was what I consider an acceptable French fry length of 3 inches. The frites were crisp outside but a bit mealy. If dudes could lose their heads for selling bad wine, SURELY someone deserves to be guillotined for these crappy frites.

The lamb burger, on the other hand, was a fucking thing of beauty. For $12 you get a luscious ball of ground lamb, topped with a bird’s nest of arugula and caramelized onions with some kind of spicy sauce on a sesame seed bun. And it wasn’t some pussy sesame seed bun like you’d get at McDonald’s, either: this bun was soft, yet somehow still as firm as the hand of Revolutionary justice meted out by the Committee for Public Safety. The bun had to have some substance to it to restrain the lamb patty, which was so juicy and sweet it was almost like a piece of fruit made out of flesh. And it comes with fries! Unfortunately, as previously mentioned the fries suck, which is ironic considering that they’re FRENCH fries (or not, for you “correct use of the term ‘irony’” Nazis).

Caille Grilee aux Lardons ($14) was a grilled quail, which arrived splayed open like a porn star, reclining on a bed of quartered Brussels sprouts and lardons in a creamy mustard sauce with lots of thyme. The pornographic quail was attractively cross- hatched in grill marks and had a wonderful charred smoke flavor while still remaining a rosy pink inside. The Brussels sprouts were tender yet not mushy. Frankly, the lardons struck me as overkill, even given the now- famous dictum that Bacon Makes Everything Better. This dish was ridiculous; it was so good I wish I could fuck it and make it have my babies, which I would then eat the way obsolete gods in ancient myths always seemed to eat their children.

Crispy Pork Belly ($10) was, as the name suggests, crispy. On top. So I guess that description is only 50% accurate. On the bottom it was soft and succulent, with gentle artesian springs of melted fat bubbling out from between the tender striated layers of meat with every forkful. Accompanying this perfect cube of pork-- at this point I’d like to formally define a “perfect cube of pork” as the act of fucking your mom 9 times—were a couple pink rings of pickled shallot and a pool of a mildly sweet plum confiture.

We finished things off with a perfectly serviceable lavender crème brulee ($6), with a crackly sugar crust that, like a broken light bulb, surprises you with how strong yet brittle it is. The crème beneath was as creamy as the breast of Lady Liberty herself, bare chested, arms raised, gun in hand, leading the French people to VICTOIRE over the Revolution’s enemies, like in the famous Delacroix painting.

I have mixed feeling about Bastille, just like I have mixed feeling about the actual French Revolution. The food is generally good, but the service sucks. And forget about setting foot inside that place on the weekends: Monday through Wednesday is your best bet if you want to go. And for God’s sake, man, make a fucking reservation.

In the best tradition of obnoxious food bloggers everywhere I went to Bastille twice. After the first disastrous time in which they overcooked my fucking steak, and I was too afraid to send it back because we were waiting FORTY- FIVE FUCKING MINUTES BETWEEN COURSES, I was prepared to suggest that THIS Bastille should suffer the same fate as its namesake. Luckily (for them) I returned to try it again, and my opinion of them, like history’s opinion of the French Revolution, has softened with time. So VIVE LA FRANCE, you fuckers, and, uh, Bastille is okay.

Rating: 5.5 sans- cullotes out of 10

Bastille Café & Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Rickshaw

322 N 105th St

Sit down, and listen to this, dear readers: on Thanksgiving Eve two old friends and I decided to have a few cocktails and raise a glass to not getting killed by a truck. After several tipsy rounds of darts we found ourselves suffering from the unnecessary hunger to which drunks typically succumb. We were in Greenwood and my friends kept talking about the awesome Chinese place down the street. As anyone who’s stumbled into the International District at 3:00 am knows, Chinese food always sounds good when you’re shitfaced so of course after several rounds of self- congratulatory high- fives we headed off to this awesome Chinese restaurant. It turns out the awesome Chinese place my friends were talking about was the Rickshaw.

The Rickshaw was largely deserted so we chose to sit in the bar. Apparently, counter intuitively, the Rickshaw actually takes reservations, which we found out the hard way, by trying to sit at a table that had been reserved. Our gracious bartender directed us to an adjacent table, in the process inadvertently starting what will go down in history as the Great Rickshaw Table Skirmish. The Rickshaw’s lauded karaoke hadn’t started yet, which is good because karaoke annoys the piss out of me. The bar inside the Rickshaw is a classic old- school Chinese cocktail lounge: dimly lit, with formica tabletops and vinyl chairs and plaster dragons and paper lanterns and the red/ black/ gold color scheme that used to indicate musty Victorian Chinoiserie but which has lately been replaced by the mod cutesy neon shit that somehow indicates “Asia” a’ la Boom Noodle or Kushibar.

Several scruffy bearded blue- collar dudes were at the bar, clustered like moths around the obligatory metaphorical flame: the bartender. For good reason, of course, because the bartender was smoking hot. She was a busty brunette, and the very personification of the Platonic ideal of T and/ or A. This woman looked like Nigella Lawson, if Nigella became a supernova. Her rack alone was capable of distorting the space/ time continuum: close inspection of her tits with a radio telescope revealed gravitational lensing around the slope of her breast. Her hips were bountiful enough to write a patriotic song about, and she had a glossy gushing brunette fountain of hair which could inspire a million years’ worth of Loreal commercials.

Allow me at this point to engage in an editorial aside (as if my breathless puppy- dog prose wasn’t enough of an aside) and thank the ghosts of all the Caesars that T&A is finally back in vogue. I think I speak for every straight guy in the world when I thank motherfucking Jesus that this fucking emaciated Kate Moss shit is finally out of style. Helen of Troy may have had the face that launched 1000 ships but women like Nigella Lawson and Christina Hendricks and the bartender at The Rickshaw have the racks that dropped 1000 megatons of thermonuclear warheads.

Setting aside my gushy starry- eyed prose for the bartender, the food itself is actually pretty solid. Egg rolls were $5.50 for 2, which seems a bit expensive. Sure, they’re a bit bigger than the ones you typically get around town, but those egg rolls weren’t really anything special: standard issue egg rolls, wrapped in rice sheets, fried to a crackly bronze, and filled with the usual stuff like shredded cabbage, little bits of sautéed ground pork, glass noodles, and julienned carrots.

The observant among us will by now have noted that there are TWO kinds of egg rolls: the rice paper kind and the kind of egg rolls I call “Cracker Egg Rolls.” I like Cracker Egg Rolls better. Cracker Egg Rolls are the kind you can buy in packs of 50 from Costco. Also available at malls, in airports, and at Shitty Chinese Buffets throughout the south, Cracker Egg Rolls have bubbly fried wheat wrappers and are usually filled with more meat. What’s the basis for the slight variation in egg rolls? I don’t know but I’ll hazard a guess and say that the different types of egg rolls come from different regions in China. After all, as everyone knows, China is full of regions.

While the egg rolls were okay, the pot stickers were actually quite tasty, AND a better deal. For $7.95 you got 6 of them: huge pillowy pot stickers the size (and shape) of croissants. The dough was sautéed a crunchy brown on the outside, though the interior layer of dough might have been a bit undercooked. There was a shitload of ground pork inside, juicy and seasoned with the usual diced scallion, ginger, and 5- spice powder, and the pot stickers were accompanied by a rather large bowl of the boilerplate sweet and salty dipping sauce.

The Mongolian Beef ($10.50) was also pretty typical: tender slivers of beef stir- fried with plenty of onion in a spicy and sweet reddish brown sauce. There were lots of Thai bird chilis here and there, and of course the saucy beef was ladled over a bed of those ivory- colored fried noodles that only ever seem to come with Mongolian Beef. I generally like Mongolian Beef, and the Rickshaw serves up a fine if unoriginal example of it, but something tells me that if Genghis Khan happened upon the Rickshaw he wouldn’t order Mongolian Beef. I don’t see real Mongols enjoying a plateful of delicately crisped pasta squiggles. Instead he’d probably pincushion everyone in the bar with arrows, then raid the place’s freezer and just hack off a frozen piece of beef and eat it raw. So if the Rickshaw REALLY wanted to be “authentic,” maybe an order of Mongolian Beef should just come with a jagged hunk of raw meat and a complimentary beheading.

The Szechwan Beef Noodles ($9.50) came in a vast bowl and it was also tasty and it was a very good deal. Chewy sliced beef, perfect rectangles of bamboo shoot, and zig- zaggy parallelograms of carrot that looked as though they’d been cut by an elf with pinking shears all floated in a murky tangy broth. This was the perfect dish, spicy and steamy, for a rainy chilly November evening. It was actually really spicy: orangey red droplets of chili oil floated visibly on the surface, and my nose was running after only a couple gulps of broth. My only problem with this dish is that the eponymous noodles were shitty grocery- store dried vermicelli. You can’t have everything I suppose.

The General Tso’s Chicken ($10.95) was one of those unexpected delights that make life interesting. Many of you have read my melancholic reminiscing about the best General Tso’s Chicken in Seattle. The Rickshaw’s Gen Tso’s Chicken wasn’t quite as legendary as the Broadway Wok & Grill’s but it was still very good. In fact it was way better than I thought it would be. Succulent chunks of fried thigh meat were doused in a sauce that, as befits the Rickshaw’s obviously spicy bent, featured LOTS of chilis. A couple florets of broccoli, lightly steamed to a vivid and commanding green, accompanied. With a very crispy batter and a spicy sauce with a splashy vinegary top note, the Rickshaw’s General Tso’s was almost like a plate of Buffalo Wings. Very intriguing.

Unfortunately our delightful evening was cut short by the opening shots of the aforementioned Great Rickshaw Table Skirmish. Remember when I said that our lovely and talented bartender escorted us to an adjacent table? At this point the party of 12 that had reserved the two tables nearest to us started to trickle in, and this is when the trouble started. They began to sit down. Eventually some old lady with a head of hair that looked like a lhasa apso’s ass appeared and told us to move. Apparently she was the karaoke lady. Well guess what: fuck you, karaoke lady, and fuck your furry shitty hairdo. We weren’t done eating. This fucking crystal- meth addict looking whore actually STARTED TO GRAB OUR FUCKING PLATES. I stopped her and politely stated the obvious, i.e. that we weren’t done eating.

Karaoke lady, with her pinched and puckered smoker’s mouth and her bushy mound of curly frizzy furry tricolor hair, shall forever hereafter be known as “Dog Ass Face.” Dog Ass Face said “Well you have to move right now because this table is reserved.” I just looked at her. There was NO PLACE for us to move. The Rickshaw had suddenly become crowded because Karaoke was starting: some Rick Moranis looking motherfucker was singing “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones in a pleasant mahogany baritone that seemed incongruous coming from his nebbishy mouth. My friend laughed at me and mentioned that I love the French too much. I don’t know if that was his way of insinuating that I was pussing out, but Dog Ass Face made a grave mistake when she agreed with my friend and said that I WAS in fact like the French. Time froze: who the fuck are you, Dog Ass Face? You don’t know me. And apparently you also don’t know a competent hairdresser. And your face looks just like my dog’s ass. Fuck you, woman. Die.

Before things could escalate our lovely and talented bartender intervened. She explained to Dog Ass Face that she, the lawfully ordained bartender, gave us the table. Dog Ass Face sputtered some vile verbal canine diarrhea from her anus/ mouth and made an obscene barking noise about how we should leave soon. Within clear earshot of Dog Ass Face I asked the bartender if Dog Ass Face was the manager. The bartender laughed. “She works here,” replied the bartender, “but she’s no one’s boss.” Dog Ass Face heard the rebuke and slunk away with her ass face tail between her ass face legs.

And just like that the bartender deftly intercepted all of the ratings points that Dog Ass Face had just caused the Rickshaw to shed onto the floor the way her shitty hairdo sheds. THAT is what I call customer service. Still, I don’t think Dog Ass Face’s brusque manner and shitty hairdo should go unpunished so I’m going to give the Rickshaw a rare 3- part rating.

Anyway, I hope you’ll forgive my bitchy screeching literary vomit which is worthy of the most arbitrary one- star yelp rating. I shouldn’t have let Dog Ass Face push my buttons, and I generally don’t hold service against any place I review, but Dog Ass Face is a total loon with ZERO skill. Still, I wasn’t going to let my run- in with a rude styleless douche ruin my day.

My trip to the Rickshaw and subsequently pleasant evening with friends reminded me, in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, about what’s good in life:


Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

Surprisingly non- disappointing General Tso’s Chicken.

Not getting killed by an oncoming truck.



My dog, whose furry ass was the inspiration for Dog Ass Face’s Dog Ass Face.

Happy Thanksgiving, fuckers, and if you go the Rickshaw, for fuck’s sake sit on the restaurant side.

Our super hot bartender with MAD PEACEKEEPING SKILLZ: 9.5 brunette quasars out of 10

Dog Ass Face: 0 stupid old ladies who mistake Karaoke management for any other sort of authority out of 10

The Rickshaw: 6.5 eventful evenings out of 10

Rickshaw Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Zippy's Giant Burgers

1513 SW Holden St

206-763-1347 (but don’t bother calling)

I fucking LOVE hamburgers. Hamburgers are the quintessential American food, and they fucking rock the ever living FUCK out of your FACE. They taste so goddamned good. Actually that’s a generalization. Not every hamburger tastes that great: for instance, the McDonald’s Corporation exists solely to fend off hangovers. Their beef tastes stale and dusty yet humid, like what I imagine a mannequin’s vagina would taste like.

I’m also less than enamored by the Costco- style mega- packs of frozen burgers, ESPECIALLY the ones that have an irregularly shaped perimeter, as though that wavy edge would fool anyone into thinking that their burger was a handmade patty. One big tipoff would be the fact that while the edges of the burger might not be perfectly circular, the top face of the patty is perfectly flat. Flat enough, in fact, for you to use the patty as though it were a writing desk. To paraphrase Lewis Carrol, how is a burger like a writing desk? Answer: when it sucks so bad that you write all over it instead of eating it. Because you see, my friends, the essence of humor is finding an unlikely link between two vastly different things. For example: the esoteric combination of tax- dodging aristocrats and huffy ignorant gasbags with an infinite wellspring of indignation is the reason the Republican party will always be more hilarious than the Democrats.

Like the Republican party, the long line to buy a fucking hamburger at Zippy’s would also be hilarious if it didn’t directly impact my life. Obviously Zippy’s, tucked into a corner of West Seattle and just a whore’s hair north of White Center, is popular, although the line wouldn’t be so long if the place wasn’t the size of a cubicle inside. You can allegedly call in an order in advance, but don’t bother: the one time I tried that, they put me “on hold,” and by that I mean they put me on “ghetto hold,” which means they just put the phone down with me still on the line, so I could hear them taking EVERYONE ELSE’S orders, while ignoring my own humble hamburger request.

Anyway, despite the cluster fuck inside Zippy’s, the hamburgers are so fucking killer it’s totally worth the wait. Despite its awkward name, the Zip Burger with Bacon and Cheese ($5.50) is a fucking classic: a huge sloppy monster on a bun. The patty, juicy and grilled to a lurid and unrepentantly pink medium, barely holds itself together with each bite. Bacon reinforces the smoky charred flavor. The usual vegetable suspects loiter about: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and red onions all jockey for position. A couple slices of melted cheese mortar the whole thing together.

The enigmatically named “No. 11” ($5.25) features the same obscenely juicy beef patty, along with lettuce, cheese, chipotle sauce, and pickled peppers. Although it doesn’t seem very spicy at first, with each bite the heat mounts progressively, until a sheen of sweat breaks out on your forehead and your nose begins to run. Instead of cryptically labeling it “No. 11” they should have called this burger “Sauna on a Bun.”

All of you hypocritical vegans in the audience should know that the (vegetarian) Zip Bean Burger ($4.75) is VERY GOOD: a black bean and mushroom patty nestles snugly into a bun amongst a big pile of lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and lots of pickles. The patty itself has a nice crusty caramelized char on the outside, while the interior is surprisingly chewy and moist with pleasant woody notes. The Bean Burger would actually be orders of magnitude better with bacon, which as everyone knows is a flavor multiplier. As everyone ALSO knows, beans and bacon go so well together. And I’m pretty sure the “Secret sauce,” a glossy orange concoction, has mayonnaise in it, so the Bean Burger ISN’T vegan. If you’re a vegetarian and you’ve made the tricky logistical commitment of setting foot inside Zippy’s overcrowded 3rd world cubicle, you may as well just go ahead and get bacon on the Bean Burger. Just do it. No one will know.

Fries and onion rings are each $1.50. For this price you get a good amount of rather bland but otherwise good fries. The onion rings are SPECTACULAR: the batter is nicely seasoned, not too thick, and so crisp it crunches almost like a Dorito in your mouth when you bite it. The onions themselves are sliced neither too thick nor too thin. And you get a lot of them. My only complaint here is that Zippy’s gives you a tiny cup of ketchup and “Secret sauce” to dip you rings into, and there’s no possible way it could fit: it’s like trying to shove a hula hoop into a shot glass.

If you’re thirsty there’s a variety of weird local sodas in the cooler (I counted 34 different kinds). Zippy’s is also renowned for its floats, malts, and milkshakes ($3.25, $3.75, and $3.50 respectively), which of course are made from real ice cream. Honestly, though, I don’t see the appeal of milkshakes. People who love to point out obvious things frequently say that the first dude to eat escargot must have been starving, but I posit that the dude who invented the milkshake must have been STONED. Why else would someone want to drink a cup of melted ice cream? Sure, it’s sweet, but a 10 pound bag of sugar is sweet too, and I don’t see people waxing nostalgic and craving handfuls of granulated Dixie Crystals.

I would say that Zippy’s rules your stomach with an iron fist, but it’s so chaotic and goofy that I don’t think an iron fist is an appropriate metaphor for Zippy’s administrative control of your digestive system. After all, an iron fist implies order, authority, and ruthless efficiency, and Zippy’s of course, has none of that. So let’s just say Zippy’s rules your stomach with some kind of floppy, brightly colored clown glove.

Rating: 8 clown gloves out of 10

Zippy's Burgers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Poco Wine Room

1408 E Pine St


There’s nothing quite like being an old- school, unrepentant lush. I wish I had the balls to pull this off, and become a modern day W.C. Fields, but I’m too much of a pussy. In the modern day, daily alcohol intake is frowned upon, with all of our “zero tolerance” bullshit and “three strikes” and other “law & order” type nonsense (except for the actual show Law & Order, which rules your face, especially the episode where Zack Morris played a gay porn star). But back in the days of W.C. Fields, sobriety was a mere suggestion, much like those so- called “Stop” signs I keep seeing everywhere.

Naturally, being an aspiring drunk, I thought I’d hit the Poco Wine Room. After all, nothing says “slow descent into alcoholism” like passing out in a restaurant, slumped onto the table, empty wine bottles rolling around and clunking against your head while you snore the heavy gurgling snores of the REALLY FUCKING WASTED.

Before I reached that level of intoxication, however, I thought I’d have something to eat. We started with the sausage, apple, and crimini flatbread ($7). “Flat” bread is a bit of a misnomer here since it was clearly three- dimensional bread. After all, if it was truly “flat” bread it would disappear from view if you looked at it along its edge. But this bread had far too much thickness for that. You got four squares of puffy, chewy bread. Each square was topped with a couple slices of grilled sausage, sautéed crimini mushrooms, and crowned with a razor thin halo of Granny Smith. The flatbread rested in a shallow pool of very good, very green olive oil, with a dusting of finely minced parsley for contrast. What this really looked to me was a “deconstructed” sandwich. And if you thought I’d mention a phrase like “deconstructed” without bitching about it, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention.

As you can probably guess, I’m tired of “deconstructed” shit. Who decided that this was a good idea? Let’s take a recipe with lots of components, cook them all separately, and throw them all over the plate. What a brilliant fucking idea! Why not serve someone a pile of sugar, a mound of flour, and a couple eggs and call it “deconstructed cookies?” “Deconstructed French fries” could just be a raw potato. Or better yet, you could sell a glass of milk and some salt, which you make the customer wait around for, for several weeks, before you serve them “deconstructed cheese.”

Or even better, the ne plus ultra of deconstructed bullshit: “deconstructed entropy.” Cosmologists predict that at some point in the very distant future, all matter in the universe will eventually unwind and, through one process or another, be converted into energy, which will then all dissolve into heat. This process is called entropy. So the truly “cutting edge” chef with a real vision of the future would just serve patrons a warm, empty plate. Deconstructed entropy. The end of the universe on a plate. Eat THAT, “foodies.”

Luckily the spiced butternut squash salad ($7) wasn’t deconstructed at all. In fact, it was well constructed, though it seemed a bit pricey for what amounted to a small mound of mixed greens. Fortunately there was a ton of flavor packed into that salad. As the name suggests, there were many cubes of roasted butternut squash in this salad, but there were also dried cherries, thinly sliced pear, and goat cheese, all coated in a light vinaigrette. This was a classically constructed salad, with the tart yet chewy cherries and dry crisp pear balanced by the chevre’s creamy milky tang. Unlike your mom’s creamy milky tang, this salad was not only edible, it was quite good. The squash was surprisingly spicy: while it wasn’t “5- star Thai” fiery, the squash definitely made its presence known. With its delicate balance of flavors and secretive unruly spiciness, this salad reminded me of something I’ve eaten elsewhere. It was so cute and so precious it could be on the menu at the Tilikum Place Café.

The truffled mac & cheese was on sale so we got some. It’s normally $8 but on Sundays they drop the price to $5. It being Sunday, we decided to get it. I didn’t have very high expectations for the truffled mac & cheese. After all, I’ve been burned by so- called “truffled” items before. Many restaurants treat truffles the way hard- core drunks treat vermouth: drunks try to call a glass of straight gin a “martini” just because you held the bottle of vermouth near the cocktail shaker. Shitty restaurants try a similar self- serving ruse and use as little truffle as is legally possible without violating false advertising laws. Seriously, sometimes truffles are like homeopathic remedies: they may or may not actually contain the active ingredient. Remind me to complain about homeopathy and Bastyr University at a later date.

Luckily the truffled mac & cheese at the Poco Wine Room is exactly the opposite of the preceding paragraph. The Poco Wine Room is not fucking around with the truffles. They are so serious about truffling stuff that I should go back and write that last sentence so that every word is capitalized: The Poco Wine Room Is Not Fucking Around With The Truffles. The mac & cheese was so truffled the fuck out that I could smell it before it even got to the table: the heady garlicky aroma of white truffle oil preceded the ramekin of macaroni by at least 20 feet. This dish was topped with a crunchy breadcrumb crust. The penne pasta beneath the crust was tender without being flabby, and the cheese sauce clung on lightly without coagulating into rubbery bits. Best of all was the aforementioned truffle flavor: deep, earthy, and muscular, like a delicious roundhouse punch to your tastebuds’ nuts, delivered by some kind of monstrous earth giant summoned by a chaotic evil geomancer. Honestly I don’t know how they did it. Having sat through so many shitty potluck mac & cheeses, this was like taking a breath of fresh motherfucking air after going down on your mom.

The shallow butter poached shrimp ($14) was delicious, though I don’t know why they needed to tell you the depth at which the shrimp were poached. You got four huge prawns, succulent and supple, gently poached in butter with some kind of puree. The shrimp were very good, but the leftover butter, mingled with whatever was in that puree, was so fucking delicious I kept licking it off the plate until we finally got some bread to wipe it up with.

The Poco Wine Room is an unassuming and cozy little place to get quietly, seriously fucked up. For a place which refers to itself as a “wine room,” the wine list isn’t very extensive, especially not compared to some place like Crush, which has a Grand Grimoire of hundreds of vintages. Still, the Poco Wine Room is cute and chill and the wine is fairly priced: the most expensive bottle I saw was maybe $50, and on Sundays all bottles are $8 off. The food is good, cheap, and classy. Unlike your mom, who embodies only one of those three adjectives I just listed in the preceding sentence. Guess which?

Rating: 8 truffles out of 10

Poco Wine Room on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


332 15th Ave E

Smith is tough to find. If you’re driving along 15th Ave E on Capitol Hill, you might miss it because the sign is so goddamned, motherfucking tiny. It’s a metal sign that’s maybe 6 by 12”. I always thought that a place of business would want to be visible, but I suppose I’m wrong. If it’s a tiny sign they want, I know an electron microscopist who can construct a sign made of rhodium atoms on a carbon background. This sign would be about 0.000000154 meters long, plenty big enough to be seen from the street.

But the outside of Smith isn’t the most puzzling part of the place: the inside is plenty weird, too. I’m a bit confused about what Smith is trying to do with its interior design. It’s dark, with varnished wood and tan floral print wallpaper everywhere. Taxidermied deer heads and ducks, and a bunch of naively painted portraits (including a crude painting of JFK!) stud the walls. It’s got a Wild West vibe, which is too bad because the Wild West was obviously a fucked up place. If movies are to be believed (and of course everything in the movies is accurate to within 1/ 100,000th of one percent), then the American West circa 1880 was a place filled with horses, saloons, gunfights, card games, and of course whores, all packaged in a couple Victorian storefronts on a dusty street in the middle of Assfuckville, Arizona. If Smith is trying to approximate some mythical Western stereotype, they don’t quite nail it. They need some card tables, some dude in a vest and arm garters plunking out Scott Joplin and Stephen Foster on a badly tuned upright piano, and whores. And syphilis.

What about the food? I might have been distracted by the tiny sign and strange décor, but the food is pretty solid. Duck rillettes, a smooth paste made from pureed duck meat, was $7 and was served in a glass jar, sealed with an ivory slab of creamy duck fat. The rillettes had a rich roasted duck flavor and came with a couple grilled bread slices, some cornichons, and a tiny ramekin of grainy mustard. Salt cod fritters ($6) weren’t that great. You got 6 of these fried balls of salty fish. They tasted like fish sticks, and were served with a zucchini and dill dipping sauce. The dipping sauce was very creamy and fresh tasting, and was much better than the thing that was supposed to be dipped into it, which was a goddamned shame.

The poutine was similarly disappointing, although not because of the price: $6 gets you a half order of cheesy gravy- coated French fries, piled into a gigantic mound the size of a man’s head on a full 12” dinner plate. I would sincerely hate to see a FULL order, although I suspect a full order of poutine is what killed John Candy. The fries themselves were okay, glistening richly with beef demiglace, but the coagulated rubbery cheese, which you could easily use to seal a bathtub, left something to be desired. Poutine is one of those things about Canada I just don’t understand. Just like the way I don’t understand how that socialist wonderland of the North, where health care is free and hookers, pot, and codeine are legal, can produce such shitty music (especially Nickelback, AKA the Auschwitz of Good Taste).
But enough about Nickelback and its boring artificial angst, since everyone knows Canadians have no angst; it’s one of many products they must import from the good ole’ USA.

On to the marrow bones: $9 gets you 3 huge chunks of beef bone the size of a brontosaurus femur, scathingly hot, the melted marrow bubbling up over the top of the bones like lava from a volcano. Spread onto the accompanying grilled bread, this luxurious beef marrow tasted like butter made of meat. The small side salad of mixed greens that comes with the bones has a light, tart dressing that cuts cleanly through the greasy beefiness of the marrow.

Just as delicious as the marrow bones was the chickpea, tuna, chorizo and arugula salad ($8). The aforementioned ingredients peeked out from a huge pile of baby arugula, dressed in a little olive oil. The chickpeas were obviously canned, and the batons of Spanish chorizo were a bit superfluous, but I won’t hold a grudge because the tender, oily, flaky tuna was the best canned tuna I’ve eaten in the USA. This is a solid fucking salad, and this dish could have only been more Iberian if they served it on a weirdly shaped, wavy plate, or put squid ink in it, or topped it with a cloud of some sort of flavored foam.

I was less impressed with the golden beet salad ($8). The name is deceptive because there weren’t that many golden beets in this salad: it was mostly chicory, with bleu cheese crumbles and hazelnuts. The chunks of the eponymous beets, when they made a rare guest appearance, were underdone, and the bitter chicory really knocked the flavor out of whack. When you could get a bite of the beets, cheese, chicory, and hazelnuts together, the flavors balanced nicely, but getting all of that shit together into one forkful was like herding cats.

The Cuban pork and ham sandwich ($8) featured a thin filling of black forest ham and pulled pork shoulder with caramelized onion and sliced pickles grilled and pressed on panini-style bread. The meat was good enough, and the pickle slices were an interesting twist, but the bread was a bit leathery. What really made this sandwich awesome were the chips that came with it: they were razor thin, lightly salted, and shatteringly crisp. These fucking chips were so thin they were TRANSLUCENT. The chef must have cut them with one of those infernally sharp microscopic glass knives that geneticists use to dissect cells. If I had such a blade I could vanquish my enemies with ease, slicing them into thin prosciutto slices and layering their flesh onto a sandwich of PURE REVENGE. But this isn’t about my enemies, or the delicious sandwich their deaths would make (the revenge sandwich also comes with chips, but they unfortunately aren’t as good as Smith’s chips); this is about Smith’s spectacular potato chips. Apparently you can get them by themselves for $3. Forget the Cuban sandwich; GET THESE FUCKING CHIPS.

We finished with the steak ($14). For this price you get a few grilled sirloin medallions atop discs of fried potato, with a side salad of mixed greens and chicory. The steak had a nicely seasoned grilled crust, and the salad was okay, if a bit aggravating with all the chicory in there, but what really got my attention were the potatoes: like the house made chips, they knocked it out of the park. The potatoes were sliced into ½” rounds and fried. The outside was super crispy, while the inside remained as steamily gauzy as the best baked potato you’ve ever eaten. Whoever’s cooking the potatoes at Smith knows exactly what the fuck they’re doing.

Smith is a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, with a side of awesome potato chips. I don’t quite get the western theme, especially since the food isn’t as “western” as you’d expect: I kept looking for venison, or rabbit, or some kind of stew on the menu but of course none of those things were available. Still, the food is delicious, and although it seems that Smith is primarily a bar, they obviously didn’t treat the food as an afterthought. With its weird décor, generous and competent bartenders, reasonable prices, and potato chips so delicious I wish I could puke them up right now and eat them again, Smith has earned the unlikely distinction of being my FAVORITE BAR (on 15th Ave E). Not since the Jack in the Box commercial about midget cattlemen has someone so perfectly captured the VERY ESSEENCE of the American frontier. Yippee ki- yay, motherfuckers.

Rating: 8 “Die Hard” quotes out of 10

Smith on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tortas locas

14912 Ambaum Blvd SW, Burien


Normally I dislike Mexican food. It’s not that I dislike the food itself as much as I dislike the people who REALLY LIKE Mexican food. This phenomenon is called “sucking by association,” and it’s the unfortunate reason I hate Pink Floyd.

A prime example of sucking by association is Rick Bayless: he’s so fucking smarmy. I detest the way he leers at those Mexi- paupers on TV. “I love Mexico’s vibrant culture,” Bayless always drools, “It’s so real,” which in his thinly veiled racist code means “These carefree Mexicans are lucky they don’t have the white man’s burden on their shoulders.” Bayless somehow manages to seem simultaneously simpering and superior: it's a perfect example of how Jean- Jacques Rousseau’s concept of the “noble savage” has been misinterpreted today. It's like how suburban white tardoes love rap music: they don't ACTUALLY like it; they just want to feel superior to the impoverished fucks who have to live the life they wish they could. But they don't REALLY want to live in the ghetto, they just want to say that they do.

Rick Bayless infuriates me. Noblesse oblige hangs limply from him like a sweaty bathrobe. If Rudyard Kipling, Cecil Rhodes, and Sean Penn had an orgy, and the resulting ass baby got the worst genes from all 3 of them, it would be Rick Bayless: a condescending poser; a thin gouache of liberal guilt dripping from a total imperialist dick.

But for all my criticisms of Rick Bayless, I will say this: he introduced me to the glory that is the torta. Several years ago I caught an episode of his PBS show Mexico One Plate at a Time, in which Bayless ventured into a Mexico City torta shop. The cook constructed a gigantically sloppy Mexican sandwich: the torta. I was instantly hooked on tortas. So when I discovered that Tortas Locas, a real, vibrant Mexican torta shop opened in Burien, I had to go there.

Tortas Locas isn’t cool, and it isn’t hip. The menu, which is printed on big yellow plastic sheets tacked up on the wall, isn’t in English, although the people who work there are extremely helpful and will offer an English menu to those sputtering gringos like me who try to butcher the Spanish pronunciations. That’s because the only Spanish I know is “ME GUSTA LA MUSICA DE WHITNEY HOUSTON!” which, whenever the mood strikes me, I bellow with the joyous gravitas of a Univision futbol announcer declaring “GOOOOOAAAALLLLLLLL!” You go up to the counter, order, and pay in cash (sorry pindahos, they don’t take credit cards). Then you sit down at one of the rickety tables inside and wait. And wait. The service takes forever, and in the afternoon the sun slants in through the windows and heats the place up like a greenhouse. The end result, with all the waiting around, stifling heat, and lack of English, is like an actual trip to Mexico. The illusion could only be more complete if they filled the place with diesel exhaust and threw in some urchins selling Chiclets.

The best torta on the menu is clearly the Cubana ($9.49). This disheveled monster, which was served cut in half and is easily enough for two, had FOUR KINDS OF MEAT: ham, sautéed chorizo, and (incongruously enough) a HOT DOG, which was sliced in half lengthwise and grilled. The fourth and final meat was steak, although it wasn’t real steak: by “steak” they mean the kind of steak you can buy with food stamps, but was still tasty because it was sliced very thinly, breaded, and pan fried. This carnivorous orgy was topped with “Mexican cheese” (which seemed suspiciously like process Swiss), AND queso fresco, lettuce, tomato, and sautéed onions, on a really puffy oblong bun, and if all of that isn’t enough to turn your arteries into a world- class logjam, the bun was slathered in mayonnaise, avocado, and REFRIED BEANS.

The toluquena ($7.49) is like the cubana except without the hot dog and steak: the main ingredients here are ham and chorizo. The only reason I got it was because a misprint on the menu listed one of the ingredients as “leg,” and I was curious to see exactly how they executed that. Would they serve you a sandwich with some dame’s shapely gam protruding from the bun, stiletto heel still attached? Answer: no. It turns out “leg” is just a very literal translation of “ham.” Still, it was very good, even without the hot dog and steak.

The chorizo con huevos ($5.99) was a roll filled with a raft of scrambled egg, studded with chorizo, and slicked with sour cream. This will kill your hangover as brutally as General de Santa Anna killed Davy Crockett. Even better than that was the pambazo ($6.99). The pambazo is a strange sandwich: it’s filled with mashed potatoes and chorizo. The bread is orangey- red and appealingly charred in places because they douse the OUTSIDE with hot sauce, then grill it. The pambazo is spicy, salty, and really fucking satisfying due to the double carb attack.

If you are a total Commie who hates sandwiches, then there’s other, more “Mexican” crap you could order: the quesadilla de picadillo ($3.49) was a huge fluffy hand- made corn torilla (they make the tortillas in house), filled with ground beef, diced carrots and onions, and glued all together with stringy melted cheese. This quesadilla is awesome, and I’m sure is what Taco Bell was trying to emulate when they invented the fucking “Mexi- Melt.” I have to say that the handmade corn tortillas are far superior to store- bought. Grocery store corn tortillas smell like rats, and if you’ve ever smelled a rat, then you know what I’m talking about: they’ve got that stale, sickly, vaguely grainy odor to them. Tortas Locas’ handmade tortillas, on the other hand, smell like the sweet bountiful corny riches of the Great Plains, like a mouthful of Nebraska in every bite. There’s other stuff too: gorditas are $3.50. You can also get smaller, cheaper tortas (5.99- 6.99) with only one meat, but why?

Dessert, if you want it, is a slice of what the dude at the counter kept calling “cheesecake,” but which actually seemed more like a pound cake to me: it had a dense, moist crumb, but wasn’t super sweet. Sorry, I forgot how much the “cheesecake” costs, but does it matter? If you’re still hungry, get another torta, you fucker, and wash it down with one of the many weird Mexican sodas (even Mexican Coke!) available for purchase.

I love this goddamned place. There would be a line out the door if it were in a more obvious location: if Tortas Locas opened up in Wallingford, for instance, satellite images would reveal a gigantic white pool quickly spreading to flood all of Seattle as the so- called “foodies” simultaneously jizzed all over the landscape. And no, I’m not fetishizing Tortas Locas the way Rick Bayless fawns over everything Mexican. It’s good but it isn’t perfect: the tomatoes are frequently mealy, and the chorizo often still has huge chewy pieces of casing stuck in it, so you end up pulling a long sinewy condom of pork casing out of your sandwich when you’re trying to look cool. Some people might also be put off by the utter meatiness of the Cubana. You might ask yourself “do you really need four meats on a sandwich?” Answer: yes, because you don’t always get every ingredient in every bite. Sometimes there’s a hint of ham, other times a spicy Zephyr of chorizo wafts into your mouth, or occasionally a cool puddle of sour cream will well up to soothe your pork- addled tongue. It’s like taking a stroll through an idyllic countryside made of meat. Who wouldn’t want to travel to this delicious carnivorous land?

Rating: 7 noble savages out of 10

Tortas Locas on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jack's Tapas Cafe

5211 University Way

Despite this place’s name, it’s NOT a tapas bar. It’s a Chinese restaurant. This sets a dangerous precedent: if a Chinese restaurant can call itself a tapas bar, then the adjectives you might use to describe any restaurant lose all meaning. An accurate description of things is the basis of language. Jack’s Tapas Café is obviously some Orwellian attempt to destroy English by rendering the descriptive powers of the language completely corrupt. After all, if a Chinese restaurant can use the word “tapas,” then what’s stopping Burger King from changing its name to “Sushi King?” Wendy’s could become “Jenny’s.” Pizza Hut could easily become “Delicious Hut.” Your mom could describe herself as “sexy.” Arby’s might be able to call itself “Food.” Don’t we have false advertising laws to prevent shit like this?

Fortunately, it’s easily apparent when you walk into Jack’s that it isn’t a tapas bar because there’s lots of Chinese writing (and people) everywhere. If it actually were a tapas bar there would be wine bottles everywhere and lots of overpriced almonds. And probably some dude with a ponytail. So if you really wanted tapas, it would be pretty apparent to you that you were in the wrong place, and then you could turn around and leave, although I’d advise against leaving because Jack’s Tapas Café is tasty as fuck.

We started with one of the house specialties, the Stir Fried Noodles ($9.95). Hand shaved noodles were sautéed with cabbage, onions, scallions, slivered carrots, and your choice of meat. We chose beef. The meat was cut into tender strips, nestled in among julienned shards of cabbage and onions which still had a little bit of crunch left in them. The hand shaved noodles were thick and doughy, irregularly shaped, with an almost leathery texture, yet very soft to the bite. It was almost like eating some kind of raw, savory cookie dough. You can substitute the hand shaved noodles for regular noodles in every noodle dish for $1 more, and why WOULDN’T you? If you turn down the hand shaved noodle option you should get an MRI immediately because something is seriously fucked up in your brain, and you are a retard.

The tea smoked duck was all right. For $12.95 you get shitloads of duck meat, chopped up into succulent chunks the way the Chinese like to do and piled up on the plate with a tiny ramekin of hoisin sauce. The duck had a subtle smoky flavor, but it was a little dry. The vegetarian green beans ($8.95) were just a cheesy name for a classic Chinese standby: green beans in garlic sauce. This dish had umami pouring out of its ass. The green beans were soft and pleasingly charred on the skins. Large soft brown chunks of sautéed garlic peeked out from between the beans, and everything was glazed in a rich soy glaze that was just a whore’s hair away from being too salty.

Except it didn’t really matter that the green beans were almost too salty if you got the sesame scallion bread, AKA the Best Motherfucking Bread I Have Ever Tasted, and I’ve Been to France (BMBIHETIBF bread for short). This fucking bread was a goddamned revelation: $9.95 gets you a giant round loaf of flaky fluffy layered bread, sliced into wedges, flecked here and there with little slips of scallion, and topped with a scattering of toasted sesame seeds. This doughy, flaky sesame scallion bread fucking rules, although it’s more like a biscuit than bread, but perfect: the perfect Platonic biscuit, the kind of lofty ideal of pure biscuity biscuitness, that if it actually existed would appear on your plate amid fanfare and electrical noise, like Voltron made out of dough, to rule the bread world with a cruel but just hand. You remember how good your grandma’s biscuits tasted to you when you were a kid? Well fuck your grandma. Fuck her biscuits too. Jack’s sesame scallion bread does not tolerate any challenges to its domination of the pastry universe, and it punched your grandma’s pussy biscuits in the face with its gigantic Voltron fist which isn’t just a fist, it also has LION’S TEETH on it so it punches AND bites your stupid grandma biscuits at the same time. Like I said, the green beans may have been a little salty, but if you split open the magnificent layered sesame scallion bread and piled some green beans and a little tea smoked duck in there, you could make the kind of badass makeshift sandwich that people usually throw together on the day after Thanksgiving.

We closed with the General Tso’s Chicken. Let me tell you motherfuckers about General Tso’s Chicken. This tale is long and melancholy, so grab a snifter of brandy and settle down into a leather wing- backed chair, and get ready to weep as rain patters the window, and the fire dying in the hearth casts shadows upon the wainscoting, for this is the Story of Seattle’s Best General Tso’s Chicken.

The BEST General Tso’s Chicken in Seattle isn’t available anymore. It was the specialty of the Broadway Wok & Grill on Capitol Hill, and at the Asian Wok & Grill in Fremont. Both restaurants were owned by the same guy, Danny Wong. When Danny died in 2006, his family sold the restaurants, and the recipe died with him. THAT fucking General Tso’s Chicken was an exemplar of its breed: they served it to you in a gigantic pile on an oval plate, crispy chunks of tender boneless chicken thigh meat in a tangy sticky sauce, bronze and gleaming like a pirate’s booty. It could only have been better if they served the chicken to you in one of those mini treasure chests you can put inside an aquarium. The sauce was complex: at once spicy and sweet, sugary for sure, but with a tangy peppery bottom note and an orange blossom finish. The batter was very light, probably corn starch- based, and subtly crunchy. Thai bird chilis poked their spicy red beaks up from this delicious menagerie. The meat was succulent and tender. Lightly steamed broccoli florets were wedged between the chicken chunks to remind you to eat some fucking vegetables. The dish as a whole was somehow much lighter and easier to eat than a plate of fried chicken with sugar sauce has any right to be.

But then Danny Wong unexpectedly died, and his mind- bogglingly awesome recipe for General Tso’s Chicken died with him. They buried him with a piece of General Tso’s Chicken to give to Charon instead of a coin as payment across the River Styx. Danny’s family sold his restaurants. The Broadway Wok & Grill became some lame Mexican place. The Asian Wok & Grill became a gym, as if the universe was trying to work off all of the calories that had previously been sent out from that location. Sigh. And then I had to settle for inferior General Tso's Chicken, like the one you can get from China First, which tastes like McDonald's Chicken McNuggets doused in corn syrup. Sigh. Such is life.

But how does Jack’s General Tso’s Chicken measure up? Not too fucking bad, though the Story of Seattle’s Best General Tso’s Chicken is a tough act to follow. Jack’s General Tso’s is expensive: for $10.95 you only got maybe 8 pieces of chicken, round golf balls of breast meat lightly fried and doused in thin syrup. The meat was a little dry. The sauce was a one- note clunker, like an out of tune piano, cloyingly sweet and drippy and not very spicy, like they took some Aunt Jemima’s and mixed it with a little 5- spice powder. Two or three limp spinsterly broccoli florets looked on from the sidelines, wishing you would eat them but knowing that you probably wouldn’t and then writing bad poetry in their notebooks about rejection.

Jack’s Tapas Café might have a misleading name, but the cuisine is solid. The sesame scallion bread, which pummels your taste buds into submission with its weapons- grade deliciousness, is by itself reason enough to go there. I’m going to start using that shit as my regular sandwich bread. I was vaguely disappointed by the General Tso’s Chicken, but that’s only because I’ve been spoiled by my shimmering idealized memories of past iterations of that dish. Probably the ONLY thing about Jack’s that actually really sucks is the “artwork,” and I use that term as loosely as your mom’s vag: for $30 you can buy these cheesy scrolls, upon which is scrawled some sloppy folk music lyrics of the kind which is usually written by chicks with bad teeth and huge tits who love to make sure that everyone knows they once lived in their cars. But I’d call that a minor quibble: it’s not an art gallery, after all. I doubt the Whitney or the Saatchi sell very good Chinese food.

Now I’m feeling pensive. My mournful reverie of the Broadway Wok & Grill has put me into an introspective mood, so forgive me: I must retire to my drawing room for some absinthe and a chaser of laudanum. Your mom will be providing the sodomy, and Black Sabbath will be providing the background music. God save the Queen, you fuckers, God save the Queen.

Rating: 7 strolls down memory lane out of 10

Jack's Tapas Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 03, 2009

Perche' no

1319 N 49th St

Perche’ no is located in a McMansion in Wallingford. The building is fucked up looking: gross salmon- colored stucco and pointless quoining indicate that they’re shooting for the “Six Flags Over Italian Food” conceit. It looks out of place in the neighborhood; it really looks like it should be located in a mall parking lot. The prerequisite replica of Michaelangelo’s David swings his disappointingly tiny marble pecker down at you from a corner of the roof. Why try to emulate the Olive Garden? That’s as fucked up as buying a Real Doll that resembles your own mom (note: I have a Real Doll that looks like your mom).

The first difficulty we encountered was the menu: it isn’t exactly written in the Queen’s English. It reads like the dialogue from a poorly translated Nintendo game circa 1988. In fact, with its awkward phrasing and vague subject- verb agreement, it’s more like a Chinese food menu than Italian. According to this menu the cappellini con sardine features “Chef flavor pasta.” As an upstanding citizen I object to being served pasta that tastes like a person; cannibalism is ILLEGAL, you motherfuckers! Another dish has the puzzling ingredient “spine shape pine nuts.” And I always thought they were oblong.

Once I stopped feeling superior to the menu we ordered stuff. The Salumi alla Perche’no was a trio of house- made prosciutto: for $12 you got 6 paper thin slices, 2 each of regular pork, wild boar, and lamb prosciutto, each slice smeared with a drop of olive oil and some diced garlic. This seemed expensive, but what offended me more than the price was the fact that all of the prosciutto was almost inedibly salty. The traditional pork prosciutto was salty but otherwise unremarkable. The wild boar prosciutto was interesting: it tasted like pork, but “porkier,” somehow, as if you genetically engineered a pig so that its legs were made of short ribs instead of ham. Man, would that be fucking delicious. I hope ConAgra gets cracking on creating some shambling, horrific mutant pigs made entirely of short ribs pretty soon. The lamb prosciutto wasn’t that great. Unfortunately for Perche’ no, all lamb prosciutto in this town must inevitably be compared to Salumi’s. Did it stand up? Nope: Perche’ no’s version isn’t even qualified to shake Armandino Batali’s dick after he pisses. It was salty, gummy, and tasted like an old pot roast covered in dust bunnies.

The spinacci della casa ($8) was a spinach salad with sautéed onions and crumbles of pancetta. The spinach was lightly wilted and shellacked with a warm vinaigrette made from the pancetta drippings. Staring up at you from the spinach was a pale areola of watery mozzarella, and the whole thing was garnished with a couple anemic slices of mealy unripe tomato. This salad was actually pretty good, if maybe a bit greasy. The vinaigrette was flavorful, the spinach was very fresh, and there were lots of pancetta bits for crunch. However, the almost flavorless mozzarella was totally unnecessary. And the tomatoes sucked. If you can’t find ripe tomatoes, then DON’T FUCKING INCLUDE THEM. A good tomato is a thing of beauty: sweet as a 1966 Chevelle SS and as enthusiastically juicy as a 30- year- old divorcee. An unripe tomato, on the other hand, is a bitter spinster driving a moped (your mom, in other words).

Next up was the cappellini con sardine ($13). As previously mentioned, this was a dish of “chef flavored pasta.” I guess this particular chef tastes like garlic, sardines, and powdered parmesan cheese, because that’s what the cappellini tasted like. Chunks of roasted garlic peeked out here and there from a bird’s nest of angel hair pasta, which was cooked to a confident al dente. The occasional caper popped its head up now and then, and there were many flakes of fresh- tasting sardine. This was actually pretty tasty except for all the cheese: the waiter unceremoniously dumped a giant snowdrift of powdered parmesan all over my plate which instantly dulled the other flavors. That sandy, dry, fake parmesan with its shitty bouquet of aluminum cans and puke belongs only on late- night pizza, and NOT in the hand of a waiter at any serious Italian restaurant.

The salsicce pizza ($13) had an ephemeral, chewy, and bubbly crust, but the sauce was weird: thin and oddly sweet, it tasted like some kind of Chef Boyardee bullshit. Slices of Italian sausage dotted this crust like meaty hay bales in an Ansel Adams pizzascape. The sausage was juicy and flavorful, when you could actually get a piece of it into your mouth: they tended to unbalance the frail crust, so that when you grabbed a pizza slice, the sausage rolled off, ricocheting off the wooden board upon which the pizza was served. And oh yeah, the pizza comes on a wooden chopping board, which is an apparently significant enough detail for them to mention it on the fucked- up menu.

For dessert we had the Ciocollatta Amaretto Mousse ($7). This was just a simple chocolate mousse, piped up old school in a glass sundae dish. This pretty much sucked. Little lumps of chocolate kept interrupting the consistency, and the amaretto flavor left a nagging aftertaste with each spoonful. The OTHER dessert, however, was really good: raspberries! The waiter kept saying we should get the “raspberries” for dessert. This was apparently a dessert special. The guy danced around with excitement, seeming like he was going to whiz in his pants if we didn’t order it, so I got the fucking raspberries. I thought he meant raspberry gelato, but no, it really was just raspberries: a whole mound of them, red, ripe, and sweet, piled into a cup made of dark chocolate. This sugary ship floated in a pool of crème anglais which had been decoratively spiderwebbed with chocolate sauce. The crème anglais was smooth and not overpoweringly sweet, but really, the raspberries hardly needed the sauce. They were so sweet by themselves that I found myself ignoring the sauce altogether and just scarfing down handfuls of berries.

Perche’ no is the very template of the kind of shitty generic Italian food that’s too big for its britches, a paper tiger, an empty suit. If restaurants were people, Perche’ no would be Sarah Palin. They should’ve called this place “Perche’ FUCK no,” because that’s what I’ll say if anyone ever asks me if I want to go back there. It’s not really THAT terrible, but if it’s Italian cuisine you’re after, Cantinetta is right down the street. I’m sure some people really like Perche’ No, but those people are probably retarded.

Rating: 4.5 raspberries out of 10

Perché No Pasta & Vino on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Top Pot Donuts

2124 5th Ave

An argument on Twitter about the best donut in Seattle resulted in a gauntlet being thrown down: I had to review Top Pot Donuts. I posited that Top Pot sucks; many people vehemently disagreed with me. These people are fanatic kooks. Top Pot is the Scientology of the breakfast pastry world.

My original plan was to try one of every kind they make. I didn’t realize, however, that Top Pot sells over 40 varieties of donut so I had to make do with a moderately gluttonous 16. I limited my choices to “regular” donuts. I didn’t want any of the ones with sparkles and sprinkles all over them; I was in no mood to eat the gastric equivalent of a My Little Pony doll. Having successfully obtained what I hoped was a representative cross- section of Top Pot's wares, I returned home, plopped down on the floor, and began working my way through them.

The glazed raised ring was only okay. The glaze was a little too sticky and humid; I prefer a drier glaze that crackles a little when you bite into it. The pastry itself had a good, classic donut texture, though it could have been lighter. The raspberry glazed raised ring was better, if only because the raspberry coating, with its slight tartness and occasional actual raspberry seed, was better than the regular sugar glaze. The raspberry glazed cake, by contrast, wasn’t as good: it was too heavy and greasy to be redeemed by the raspberry glaze. The raspberry old fashioned, on the other hand, was very tasty. The pastry was almost creamy, and the raspberry glaze seemed sweeter and thicker somehow than it tasted on the other donuts. Even better was the regular glazed old fashioned. Not overly sweet, the old fashioned was as creamy and cool as the raspberry version, with a tart hint of sour cream in the finish.

After the old fashioned I dragged my way through the cake donuts. These are like the fucking Battan Death March of breakfast. The plain cake was so fucking lame I couldn’t understand it: dry, crumbly, not sweet, and too dense to deserve the donut name. Only marginally better was the glazed cake, since at least it was (kinda) sweet because it was glazed. The cinnamon sugar blueberry cake donut was sugary for sure, but that doesn’t mean it was good. After all, Mountain Dew is sweet too, and I’d rather drink a pint of my own piss. The blueberry flavor easily overpowered the light dusting of cinnamon, and the pastry itself was stained an unappealing grayish- green by the berries. The cinnamon sugar cake donut (sans blueberries) was much better, lighter in texture, and sweeter, plus you could actually taste the cinnamon.

I tried to forget the misery of the cake donuts, but unfortunately the worst was not yet behind me: chocolate. The chocolate raised ring was pretty good: with a deep chocolate flavor and its heavy glaze, it tasted like somebody somehow enlarged a Cocoa Krispy. Better than the chocolate raised ring was the chocolate old fashioned; with its thick coating of glaze and a chocolate flavor so dark and rich it was like if you got in trouble with the mafia, and to punish you they threw you into a sinkhole on a deserted highway that they’d filled with chocolate syrup, and made you drink your way out. In other words it was okay.

What REALLY sucked were the chocolate glazed ring, the chocolate glazed old fashioned, and the double trouble. The chocolate glazed ring was a raised ring with a layer of chocolate glaze. The chocolate glazed old fashioned took the usually tasty old fashioned and draped it in the same chocolate glaze. The double trouble was a chocolate donut with chocolate glaze. In all three cases the chocolate glaze was waxy and tasted like they mixed Magic Shell with those weird clear crayons you get with Easter egg dying kits.

By this point eating these donuts had became a chore, baroque and fatiguing, a somnolent fugue in pastry, like a Philip Glass opera that someone had fried without using -trans fats. Still, I’m nothing if not dedicated (note: I’m not dedicated), so I soldiered on and ate the WORST of Top Pot’s wares: the plain cruller. The plain cruller was a weird and completely atrocious misstep. It sucked. It tasted like shit. Maybe I should clarify: it didn’t taste like shit per se, because it tasted more like a stale greasy piece of bread than actual shit (note: I don’t know what shit tastes like), but it didn’t taste very good. I’ve never referred to a piece of food as a “dumbass” before, but the plain cruller drove me to it.

The final stanza of this epic pastry poem concerned the filled donuts: a Bavarian crème- filled and a raspberry Bismarck. Honestly I have no idea what criteria distinguishes a Bismarck from a mere “jelly donut;” more puzzling is why you’d name a donut after a German leader, given the poor track record with German political figures in the popular imagination. I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that they wanted to call this donut “the Hitler,” but unfortunately that name had already been appropriated for a method of styling pubic hair. The Bismarck was luckily quite lovely, with a light dusting of powder sugar and LOTS of raspberry jelly inside. The Bavarian crème, on the hand, was lame as fuck: while the cream itself was smooth and not excessively sweet, the pastry itself tasted stiff and the whole thing was lacquered with a slab of the same shitty chocolate veneer that disgraced the other chocolate glazed donuts. Needless to say (yet mysteriously, I’m going to say it anyway), the cream filled churros at the Salvadorean Bakery make Top Pot look like as foolish as people who eat at McDonald’s in France (note: I ate at a McDonald’s in France).

In the final analysis, was Top Pot as bad as I’ve always claimed? I’m going to swallow my pride the way your mom swallows cock and say it’s not that bad. The old fashioned series, in particular, borders on masterful. Was it as rapturously delicious as Top Pot’s brainwashed masses of supporters claim? Nope. The true benchmark of donut superiority is the regular glazed donut, and Top Pot’s just isn’t good enough. If you somehow applied the Moh’s Scale of Relative Gemstone Hardness to snacks, the ideal donut would be ranked as only slightly more dense than cotton candy. A good donut should have a dry sweet glaze that crunches lightly when you bite it, but the pastry beneath should be just slightly more substantial than a shadow. Krispy Kreme’s regular glazed is a good shorthand for this style of donut, but the true grand master of donut density is the Donut Plant in NYC. In the donut universe, the Donut Plant’s crème brulee donut, with its crunchy burnt sugar glaze, gauzy pastry, and rich crème filled center, is Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, a blue supergiant which shines in UV and burns brilliantly until it blows itself apart, like Jim Morrison, if you’re the kind of douche who really thinks Jim Morrison was a tragic genius (and a donut). Top Pot, by contrast, is a brown dwarf: a sullen and unremarkable misfit which also happens to suck big time. Like your mom.

Rating: 5 glazed rings (AKA your mom’s mouth) out of 10

PS This is probably the most boring review I have ever written, so fuck you, Top Pot fans, this is your comeuppance.

PPS Here’s a rare photo of the donut aftermath, soon to be a new movie from Sony Pictures. Donut Aftermath: The Movie will star Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Professor of Donutology no one listened to until it was too late, Megan Fox as Princess Tam- Tam, and Ryan Gosling as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Megan Fox’s Thumb will be reprising her role as Quato, the mysterious Martian rebel leader, and I’ll be played by Jimmy Smits!

Top Pot Doughnuts (Belltown) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tilikum Place Cafe

407 Cedar St
(206) 282-4830

I don’t understand the name of the Tilikum Place Cafe. I always thought that the local Indian crap was spelled “Tillicum.” Bill Gates agrees with me because my spell checking software allows “Tillicum” but not “Tilikum.” So why don’t you assholes properly spell the restaurant’s name so I quit getting this squiggly red line underneath it?

Unfortunately for me, Urban Eats was going on, and the Tilikum Place Café was participating. In case you aren’t aware, Urban Eats is a local program here in Seattle where participating restaurants design a menu where you can choose 3 items, usually an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, for $30. It sounds like a great idea, but too bad it sucks. I’m calling BULLSHIT on Urban Eats. Urban Eats is a TERRIBLE program. The Emperor not only has no clothes, he’s walking down Main Street with a strapon hanging out of his ass. And the strapon is attached at the other end to Barbara Bush. Let me tell you about Urban Eats: the kitchens don’t like to do it. The chef at Crush comped us some appetizers once just because we DIDN’T choose from the Urban Eats menu. And even when the kitchen DOES like to do the Urban Eats menu, they don’t try very hard. The only people who really like Urban Eats are the fuckers who tip 10% and then have the stones to DEDUCT POINTS because the waiter didn’t refill their water glass in what their penny- pinching asses consider a timely manner. If you can’t afford it, save up until you can get the REAL DEAL from the REAL MENU. Fine dining doesn’t offer discounts. It’s gauche.

And so, liberated thusly from the tyranny of Urban Eats, we got stuff to eat. A cup of lentil soup ($3.50) was a delicious bounty: tiny green lentils were creamy, yet still firm to the bite, with chunks of carrot and celery. Minced parsley lightened up the flavor, and a drizzle of some kind of pepper oil sprung a subversive heat upon your tongue.

The sardine sandwich was so cute it could only have been more adorable if it were served by a leprechaun riding a Chihuahua. Large chunks of fresh sardine filets were served on a tiny baguette that somehow managed to be crusty WITHOUT at the same time shredding your gums the way a haughty Parisian will shred your French pronunciation when you ask the motherfucker a simple “Ou est le bibliotheque?” This sandwich was dressed with arugula, roasted tomatoes, and tapenade. It came with a side of pickled beets, cornichons, olives, lemon zest, and razor- thin onion rings. This was too much tanginess for me, even between bites of sandwich, because as you know the only ‘tang I like is your mom’s. And, at $9, the sardine sandwich cost about twice as much as your mom.

The butternut squash tart (also $9), had a moist, flaky crust and had in the center of it a giant mons venus of butternut squash so soft, sweet, and succulent it could’ve been apricot. The very center of this erotic pastry was veined with caramelized onion. A side salad of mixed greens played second fiddle with an evenly coated citrus vinaigrette.

The mint pea soup ($7 for a bowl) was as finely textured as suede. It tasted springtime fresh, with a mild minty top note. Scattered throughout the bowl were tiny cubes of apple or pear or something crisp and sweet, cut into such a miniscule dice that they had to have hired a fairy with a scalpel to be the prep cook. Like the lentil soup, the mint pea also had an unexpected heat. The soups at Tilikum Place Café remind me of a friend of mine from high school. He was a small, frail, quiet guy. I knew him for years and thought he was cool, but a total nerd. Then one day we were sitting at a bar, drinking. Apropos of nothing he just blurts out “Did you know that jizz burns when you get it in your eye?” He then went on to relate how he accidentally came in a woman’s eye while receiving a BJ, then suddenly began to ape the aftermath, jumping from his seat and running around in circles in the barroom rubbing his eyes and squealing in falsetto, “Somebody get me a towel!” That was the first and only time that I’ve laughed so hard I actually fell off of a piece of furniture. That story is about as fun to recount as the mint pea soup was to eat. And like the soup, that guy was secretly spicy. Moral of the story: when going down on a guy always swallow.

Speaking of things that I recommend you swallow, the grilled asparagus salad ($8) was a bit pricey but still good. Spears of really fresh asparagus were soft outside but still crisp within, dressed with a lemon oil vinaigrette that was as bright as a new penny, and garnished with a liberal snowdrift of REAL REGGIANO! This was simple yet very classy.

The grilled tri-tip steak ($19) was grilled an even medium, with a salty, crusty exterior. Usually ordering what I call the “loser steaks”-- tri-tip, flank steak, skirt steak-- is a gamble, since they sometimes have lines of gristly crap running through them. This tri- tip avoided the usual loser steak curse, and in fact was quite tasty and juicy and beefy. Accompanying the steak was a fluffy pile of silky mashed potatoes topped with batons of roasted carrots and parsnips. The whole plate swam in a comforting amniotic pool of rich red wine gravy. If you were some kind of 1950’s writer who smokes packs of cigarettes per day and only drinks two different liquids—coffee and whisky, often mixed together—this is the kind of shit you’d eat.

The grilled chicken breast ($16) wasn’t as good as the tri- tip, though I don’t know why I’m even bothering to mention that fact. After all, EVERYONE knows chicken isn’t as good as steak. Even vegans know that. While the chicken itself was juicy, it came with some weird spongy pastry things that looked sort of like hockey pucks and a rhubarb sauce that was so sour I couldn’t handle it. Whenever I got a taste of rhubarb sauce it really aggravated me. Finishing this dish was like trying to run the marathon with a piece of glass in your shoe. The pea vines that came with it were very tender and fresh at least.

Finally, a plate of 5 profiteroles cost $7. These pastry balls were so soft and flaky they were almost like croissants. They were filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a caramel rum sauce that could actually get you drunk if you chugged a quart of it, although if you’re going to go to those lengths to get a buzz, Ny-Quil and rotten fruit will also do the job, with far less cholesterol.

Speaking of being desperate to get drunk, I think I’ll stop writing now and do that very thing. But before I go, remember this: The mint pea soup, tri- tip, and profiteroles together were together only $33, and you get to choose EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT, and YOU GET A LOT OF IT. So for all you fans of Urban Eats, I hope you enjoyed saving $3.

Verdict: Urban Eats is for CHEAP FUCKERZ. The end.

Rating: 7.5 profiteroles out of 10

Tilikum Place Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 08, 2009


2319 2nd Ave

The first thing I noticed about Kushibar was the smell: hanging in the air was a mixture of greasy smoke and old fish that smelled like what I imagine a Viking’s funeral pyre would smell like. If you’d like a less theatrical example I’ll give you this: it smelled the way the alleys in the International District smell on a hot day. This wasn’t offensive to me; there are a million awesome seafood markets all over the fucking Cajun country that smell exactly like Kushibar: places that sell lots of seafood all day and then don’t mop the floors. Besides, with the rickety wooden porch seating they’ve got, plus all the blue neon, I’m thinking they’re trying to go for some sort of late- night back- alley Tokyo vibe. Plenty of tables were available, but we chose seats at the bar anyway to observe the action. We quickly placed our order, and the plates started trickling in.

Almost as soon as we ordered it, the Yakisoba Pan ($5) arrived. This was a sandwich of ramen noodles, stir fried cabbage, tempura zucchini, crispy bacon slices, and avocado, with mayo, on a toasted HOT DOG BUN, of all things. While this sandwich wasn’t bad, if I had one question to ask the guy who came up with it, it would be multiple choice. “Chef,” I’d say, “when you invented the Yakisoba Pan, were you: a) super stoned, b) totally wasted, c) bombed out of your motherfucking MIND, dawg, or d) all of the above?” I then wouldn’t wait for the chef to even answer, instead quickly filling in choice “d)” for him immediately (except I would never actually say the word “dawg”), because you’d have to be COMPLETELY FUCKED UP to put that much randomness on a bun.

In fact, the last foodstuff I have seen that even APPROACHED the ludicrous ingredients on the Yakisoba Pan really WAS created when someone was stoned: years ago my friends and I all sat around eating some pot brownies all night. When the munchies inevitably hit the best thing we could come up with to eat were burritos made of saltine cracker crumbs mixed with Thousand Island dressing, wrapped in flour tortillas. I personally didn’t eat one of the cracker crumb burritos, being too busy laughing at a Neosporin commercial, but I’m sure they were just as good as the Yakisoba Pan.

Next, the skewers we ordered arrived, lined up and resembling a picket fence of mediocrity on the plate. The negi ($1.50) was 3 or 4 short lengths of green onion, lightly charred on the outside and softly grilled all the way through. I wish they’d sliced these lengthwise before threading them onto the skewers; every time I bit into one, the slippery inner layers of onion skeeted out onto the floor. $2 got you the aspara, which if you haven’t already guessed, were a couple grilled slices of asparagus. Tasty, but I can grill asparagus at home, thanks, and $2 will get me HALF A POUND from the farmer’s market. The buta bara ($3) was a grilled slice of pork belly. I was hoping that they would have braised it first before grilling, so it would be all melty and yielding inside, like your mom’s crotch, but they didn’t. Instead, it tasted like a tough bland piece of thick bacon. The shiro maguro ($3) was a couple chunks of grilled albacore. This was unfortunately very fishy smelling (and tasting), like they went dumpster diving behind Shiro’s. Just as stinky was the reba ($1.50), grilled chicken livers dusted with toasted sesame seeds. The livers had a good creamy silken consistency, but they tasted the way a wet dog smells.

At this point a pause in the action allowed me, from my vantage point at the bar, to observe the kitchen action. And it was pretty goddamned, motherfucking action PACKED: the chefs skittered around, doing the soft- shoe routine that dudes who are accustomed to working quickly in a confined space with each other do. They slashed open plastic bags of ramen, scooping them up into sieves which they plunged into a roiling cauldron filled with either very rusty water or (hopefully) some kind of stock. Long skinny charcoal grills ran parallel to the bar, crowded with patiently roasting skewers. The grill directly in front of us seemed like it wasn’t in use; at least, I hope it wasn’t, since there was an ink pen stuck into it. Or maybe the ink pen was actually on the menu and I didn’t notice it: after all, everyone knows that ink is edible because it’s frequently served with pasta. Maybe the Yakisoba “PAN” was a typo on the menu, and it really read Yakisoba “PEN.” A Bic sandwich! What a great idea! You get your choice of size (fine point, medium point, or roller ball) AND your favorite flavor (red, blue, or black)!

A couple handfuls of the complimentary bowl of curried popcorn allowed me to cleanse my palette before the spicy ginger chicken ($7) arrived. This dish was awesome; a breath of fresh air after a shitstorm of disappointment. Tender chunks of chicken breast were sautéed in a flavorful ginger sauce with plenty of caramelized onions. It's subversively spicy; the heat sidles up to you like a chikan on the Tokyo subway and gropes you with its sweaty hand as if your taste buds were an innocent schoolgirl.

If I owned Kushibar I would have called it “The Great Northwestern Skewered Foods Company: Purveyors of the Finest Grilled Meats, Vegetables, and Seafoods,” but of course that doesn’t have the crisp mod “zazz” that everything in Belltown must have. I just don’t like the name of this place. “Kushibar” is a bad word, and it sucks to even have to SAY it. “Kushibar” is like “Zayda Buddy’s”: it’s one of those incomprehensible words that, if I hadn’t already seen it in print, if someone said it to me I would have to keep having them repeat it over and over again until they became frustrated and finally just spelled it for me. This is like the time a couple years ago when I got into an argument with some kids in a bookstore. I overheard them muttering something that sounded like “Sammasossa, sammasossa is so awesome.” “What’s ‘sammasossa?’” I asked. They looked at me, then turned to each other, incredulous that I didn’t know about Sammasossa’s awesome existence. Turns out they were discussing baseball legend SAMMY SOSA. I don’t follow baseball, so I didn’t know that Sammy Sosa had broken the single- season home run record. I told those little bastards to enunciate, next time. Needless to say, they heeded my request by clearly pronouncing the words “Fuck you.” Mission accomplished, at least.

Yet even though I hate the name, and most of the food stinks, I HAVE GOT to admit that Kushibar is a SPECTACULAR deal: two of us got out of there for $29 after tax and tip. That is fucking dirt CHEAP. They’re obviously aiming at the drunken last call crowd, and I have to give them credit for that because there isn’t enough late- night dining in Seattle because most restaurants are for pussies. The Yakisoba Pan is okay; it will obviously soak up lots of alcohol with its two- pronged, carb- on- carb assault. But if I were you I’d go with a couple orders of Spicy Ginger Chicken and be done with it. That’s because, if it’s 2 AM and you’re trying to head off a thermonuclear hangover, you’ve got to think strategically: which of Kushibar’s menu items will taste the best on the way back up?

Rating: 4 chikan out of 10

Kushibar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fresh Bistro

4725 42nd Ave SW

When I heard that this place had just opened, I thought it was called FRENCH Bistro. All day long I was skipping around, kicking up my fucking heels, a smile on my face like a leprechaun was hiding in my pants, tickling my asshole with a feather boa, thinking that an honest- to- Charles de Gaulle FRENCH BISTRO was opening up in West Seattle! You can thus imagine my disappointment when I realized that it was, in fact, run by the chumps who sell cookies at the West Seattle Farmer’s Market. Still, it would have been rude to dismiss their efforts without even trying the place, so off we went to Fresh Bistro.

I was immediately struck by the dining room’s interior. I don’t usually comment on a restaurant’s ambiance, but Fresh Bistro is OVER THE TOP. There’s too much stuff inside; too many clashing patterns like glass panels printed with bamboo, copper menus, weird lampshades that dangle like my dad’s nutsack, AND napkin rings that look like a scrunchie a robot hooker would wear (it’s obviously not a high class robot hooker), AND tiny planters of LEMON GRASS on EVERY TABLE. It’s like they wanted to be all sleek and modern, but also wanted to be “busy.” Some of you, my dear readers, are familiar with our local scion Elemental, a veritable how- to manual on the starkest of stark minimalism. Elemental takes its philosophy VERY seriously. If Elemental were a black metal band I’d listen to it ALL FUCKING DAY, even in the shower. Seriously, there are no curves inside Elemental, and EVERY angle is 90 degrees, and there are only 2 colors in the entire place: brown and light brown. Well this is what Fresh Bistro is like: it’s like Elemental and an Applebee’s fucked, and the baby that came out of Appleby’s face/ asshole, like some mythical Greek monster, was Fresh Bistro. It’s a visual riot that would drive an Aspberger’s Syndrome sufferer to commit seppuku. Plus they’ve got a cold, shady east- facing patio that won’t be much fun unless they start serving brunch, because on those brilliant Seattle summer evenings that make people want to sit outside drinking Mojito after Mojito, or whatever girl drink Sex in the City’s philosophical replacement told you to drink this year, Fresh Bistro’s patio will be in the SHADE!

Am I being too harsh? Not really, since as I’ve made clear many times, I don’t really care about ambiance. Then why complain about it for 500 words? Dude, I’m just saying.

Anyway, the food: we started with the asparagus soup ($9), which was a little fibrous but rich and creamy, especially once you got to the ball of melted goat cheese, sweet and hidden like a schoolgirl’s crush, at the bottom of the bowl. The asparagus flavor itself was bright, though the army- green color was a bit off- putting. The soup was garnished with a single tempura asparagus spear. This by itself was phenomenal: the batter was light and perfectly salted, ensconcing an asparagus spear that was still just a little crisp inside. I’d like to see these motherfuckers put tempura asparagus on the menu as a dish of its own.

The Caesar baby salad ($10) had a confusing name. It wasn’t little; in fact, the salad was a good portion. Nor did it have baby lettuce. So why “baby?” Do they think that if they sneak a cute word into each menu item, we won’t get mad if we don’t like it? After all, who besides a total psychopath would send a baby back? Not even me, although I might be tempted to sell my salad into white slavery in the Ukraine. Would I REALLY sell a helpless baby into slavery? No, but I would totally do that to your mom. Maybe Barrio could take a page from this play book and put “Magical Smiley Elf Tacos” on THEIR menu, both to justify the $11 price tag of their tacos (since as everyone knows, overfishing has notoriously driven up the price of elf meat), and to keep you from getting mad about it. But I digress; the Caesar baby salad was good, with soft leaves of Bibb or butter lettuce, glazed with a light coating of a mild Caesar dressing. There was one giant crouton, which was actually a piece of baguette sliced on the bias and all crusty with broiled parmesan and garlic. In an interesting twist, the ubiquitous Caesar salad anchovies were deep fried WHITE anchovies, with a muted fishy flavor and a crispy fried batter coating. All in all this was a solid, if non- traditional, Caesar salad with a dumb name.

Berkshire pork bellies ($9) had a straightforward, albeit misleading name. I was expecting a large chunk of succulently braised pork belly, yielding to the bite and melting its cholesterol straight into my aorta with seductive ease. Instead what you got was two perfect cubes of polenta cake, crusty outside but with a satin finish within, topped with a superfluous (but pretty) pile of shredded yellow and orange carrots. Where were the pork bellies? EVERYWHERE! There was a lot of it, strewn all over the dish, but it was cut up into tender braised lardons of soft yet chewy pork. The whole thing swam in an amazingly rich, glossy, salty demiglace, and perched on the very top was a pile of tiny amber spheres that could’ve been either some kind of roe or some kind of grain, but I couldn’t tell because the flavor of that powerful demiglace punched those tiny dots in their tiny faces. Which was what they deserved, for trying to barge in on this orgy of salty pork and creamy polenta.

The green olive and pecorino crusted halibut ($22) was as un- understandable as the Republican party platform. A filet of halibut was served atop a bed of fava beans, white beans, peas, and cherry tomato halves. Lurking on the bottom was some green eggy custard- like thing, which tasted rather watery. The halibut filet itself was juicy and tender inside, but the crust tasted like neither pecorino cheese nor green olives, although it was kinda salty, which makes sense given the alleged ingredients in said crust. The beans were okay but I thought the cherry tomatoes were bland and tasted washed- out and dragged down the other flavors.

Beef Wellington ($28) had some cutesy name that I forget, but it doesn’t matter because it was fucking AWESOME! A tender filet of medium rare beef, slathered in pate de foie gras, was wrapped in a shroud of puff pastry. The beef was so tender I thought it would evaporate if I didn’t eat it fast enough, which was why I wolfed it the fuck down. The puff pastry was flaky, doughy, and perfect, and the pate raised its voice just enough to be heard over the angelic chorus of divine virtue coming from the beef and pastry. It seems that lately foie gras is being overused; when even ice cream is made with it I think it’s time we all stood back and took a deep collective breath. After all, foie gras is a sword that shouldn’t be unsheathed lightly. Still, I’ve had lesser Wellingtons that used duxelles paste instead of pate, and it just isn’t the same. The Wellington was served in a pool of rich pan reduction sauce. Accompanying were a couple grilled young red onions. There was also a grilled mushroom, which was tender and satisfyingly meaty. It was also really weird looking: I’ve never seen such a mushroom outside of Super Mario Bros. Unfortunately, unlike the fungi commonly found in the various Super Mario games, this mushroom neither doubled my height, nor gave me an “extra man,” as my brother likes to call a 1up. The concept of the 1up is fucking weird: a MUSHROOM which gives you EXTRA LIVES. What sort of Satanic bargain did Mario have to strike in order to be provided with ANOTHER LIFE? It chills the very soul to ponder the ramifications. I prefer to think of the “extra men” as a mercenary army, chosen to be the same height, weight, hair color, and mustache thickness as the original Mario, sort of like the Rockettes. And you know times have changed when “Rockettes” triggers your spell checking software but “1up” does not. After all, who needs a row of sexy dancing dames when you’ve got Mario? Answer: obviously not anyone who works at Microsoft.

Dessert slid in under the radar with the Coffee & Cream with Sugar ($6), a cutesy name for a mocha flavored bread pudding. It wasn’t very sweet, and in fact tasted like bread that had been dipped in coffee, and to add an even deeper layer of cuteness, was served in a COFFEE CUP! How precious! Protruding from the center of the pudding was a glassy amber shard of brittle which had actual hazelnuts and whole coffee beans embedded in it. This made it look sort of like fly paper. I didn’t like this very much. Yet somehow, I liked the crème brulee ($6) even less. Normally, you may have noticed that I love crème brulee. Well, not with basil and tomatoes in it, I don’t. The menu simply said “seasonal crème brulee,” these motherfuckers didn’t even WARN me that they’d gone all faggy with it. I consider myself an adventurous eater, but after that Wellington, which was so old school you’re legally required to spell it “Olde Skewl,” I was ready for a glass of brandy and a classic end to the meal. But of course we can’t always get what we want. The crème itself was smooth and luxurious, with a good crackly sugar crust, but it wasn’t sweet enough. Plus there were cherry tomatoes on top, which leaked their limpid watery juices down into the custard below, and even –gasp!- some balsamic vinegar. Puzzlingly, despite all their proclamations of it being a “seasonal” crème brulee, tomatoes aren’t even in season yet! The sad thing is that I would’ve totally enjoyed this as an appetizer, but please, PLEASE don’t fuck with me on dessert. As a dessert it was too tangy and herbal to be an effective deal closer.

Despite my complaining about the décor (and other things), I’m actually optimistic about Fresh Bistro. The tomato- basil crème brulee shows that they’re shooting for high concept, which is sorely needed in West Seattle since Spring Hill currently has the monopoly on it. Yet they manage to pull off the Beef Wellington with ease, so they’ve obviously studied their history books and can do the classics as well. There might have been a glitch or two here and there, but they haven’t been open too long. I’m sure they’ll smooth the menu out shortly. But the glimmering memory of that utterly perfect Beef Wellington, the VERY DEFINITION of pure BRITISH STEEL, will definitely keep me coming back.

Rating: 7 extra men out of 10

Fresh Bistro on Urbanspoon