Thursday, December 04, 2014

Damn the Weather

I’m pretty much done with craft bartending. If I walk into a bar like the Diller Room or Tavern Law or the Hideout, and the bartender is wearing a vest and an arm garter and a monocle, top hat, a cane, a watch fob, a cape, riding boots, driving gloves, a monkey on his shoulder, a codpiece, and a scarf, I sigh sadly and resign myself to waiting at least 20 minutes to get my drink as the august apothecary of intoxication gradually mixes some $16 concoction which doubtlessly contains house-made bitters. I thought bitters only came in two flavors: Angostura and Peychaud. Apparently I’m a provincial rube who doesn’t realize that bitters come in every flavor including mirepoix, gummy bear, and your mom.

It’s even worse if the bartender has a mustache. I really, seriously, do not get how mustaches got lumped in with precious, asexual hipster bullshit. After all, men with waxed mustaches are hard men, like John L. Sullivan or Theodore Roosevelt or Otto von Bismarck: men who are much more likely to strangle lions to death and have tertiary syphilis and unify empires and bust trusts than they are to wear a cardigan and listen to Mumford & Sons.

So it was with great trepidation that I entered Damn the Weather. With its oddly specific name and fancy cocktail list and giant ice cubes, I expected a maddening descent into twee mayhem. But the food menu seemed interesting so we decided to press our luck.

We started with chicken fat fries ($8). These are pretty much like regular fries, but with a savory undercurrent. Unlike French fries fried in suet or duck fat, chicken fat doesn’t swing its dick around (or cloaca, rather), but you just can’t get this kind of flavor from frying in any kind of vegetable oil. The chicken fat fries were crisp shoestrings and they came in a cone of wax paper nestled in a parfait glass. The presentation was too precious for my taste: I’m bored with frites served in a cone. If you want to impress me, send out your French fries in a hypercone. With a tesseract of housemade quantum ketchup.

Beef Heart Tartare ($12) was great. A neat loaf of finely diced beef heart was served with a very orange egg yolk floating atop it. When mixed together, this was unctuous and beefy like Channing Tatum, but a pile of minced cow offal is much better at portraying inner conflict than Channing Tatum is. Big crunchy sheets of what the menu billed as “sourdough crackers” but which really tasted like Munchos potato chips were provided for scooping up the tartare. The only aspect of this dish I didn’t like was the droopy pile of used-up tea leaves they garnished it with for some reason: they didn’t offer much flavor and they looked gross. At first glance I thought that these were fried sage but unfortunately no.

Celery salad ($10) was less refreshing than I hoped it would be, though it was killer nonetheless. A notebook sheaf of sliced celery was tossed in a creamy dressing, with lots of anchovy: the unapologetically fishy flavor was like an obvious hardon in a pair of tight jeans.

A reuben ($12) was the very paragon of this sandwich, an exemplar of its breed. Razor thin slices of corned beef were piled up in squamous layers, salty and smoky, draped with a caul of melted swiss, and a crisp bale of sauerkraut, on toasted rye bread which was cut too thinly to possibly maintain its integrity, yet somehow did.

The thing I liked the least was tajarin ($12). Normally I scarf down pasta like a Biggest Loser contestant, and this dish at first seemed promising: we were served a heaping tangle of very soft and supple egg noodles, with butter, diced chives, and uni. Unfortunately, sea urchin is such a polarizing ingredient that it’s going to be impossible for me to not get complaints about anything I say, so fuck it: I hate uni. Yes, yes, I know, it’s an aphrodisiac, etc. etc., but midgets are aphrodesiacs too, and you don’t see people garnishing pasta with Peter Dinklage. When used sparingly, sea urchin is a thoughtful tool for adding a nebulous briny and savory flavor, thus making any dish taste like the beach. The problem is that uni is like cilantro: NO ONE EVER USES JUST A LITTLE. Instead, the tajarin was studded with big smeary orange globs of urchin, which no amount of stirring could successfully incorporate into the bowl.

Dessert was drinking caramel ($6). This drink is fucking ridiculous. You get a coffee mug full of thick, sweet, melted dulce de leche, made interesting with the addition of Mexican spices and a golf ball of ice cream floating serenely in the midst of it all like the Unseeing Eye of Ben & Jerry. There is just no goddamned way to make this a sensible dessert option. It tastes like you are actually guzzling a gallon can of hot caramel sauce, purloined, perhaps, from a Menchie’s. The spices are a great addition but maybe they should either sell this stuff in smaller quantites, e.g a shot glass, or thin it with milk. Preferably skim milk.

Damn the Weather has an ambitious menu and the bartenders dress like regular people, instead of steampunk villains, and the gigantic ice cubes, while totally evil in their mastodon-entrapping and Titanic-sinking ways, are actually quite useful to chill a glass of whiskey without watering it down. If there isn’t a Sounders game later, go to Damn the Weather. Otherwise, avoid Pioneer Square like the plague since, you know, fuck soccer: our goal in the USA should be to adopt Europe’s social safety net and environmental legislation and DOC protections, not its effete sports.

Rating: 8 vests out of 10

Damn the Weather is located at 116 1st Ave S

Damn the Weather does not take reservations, but they can be prank called at 206-946-1283

Damn The Weather on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Last Friday I got my hands on a pot brownie. Not some random pot brownie that somebody’s roommate made, but a commercially packaged, legal brownie from one of Colorado’s state-run marijuana stores. Yes, Colorado. Our home state hasn't yet gotten its collective head out of its ass yet re: reefer. I split the brownie four ways with three friends. Then we went to see Interstellar. What a fucking mistake. Every second was an excruciatingly loud eternity. I think I had a stroke!

Anyway, the next day was Saturday and, still completely stoned, we went to Vespolina. We started with the antipasto misto ($11) which was delightful. A plate of mortadella was sliced as thinly as bible pages, and wouldn’t you rather swear on a 1000 page pile of mortadella instead of the boring fucking bible? Sure, mortadella is the most polarizing member of the charcuterie family; it’s the uncircumcised penis of cured meats and you either love it or hate it, but luckily for me I love it, despite the fact that mortadella is really just baloney with a master’s degree.

Along with this came a cute little pile of roasted radicchio with pine nuts and some balsamic vinegar. There was also a novel salad of cold calamari with chickpea puree and a few razor thin rounds of sliced watermelon radish. The calamari was prepared masterfully. It was very tender, which is great because if you don’t cook calamari properly it turns into a leathery cock ring that you are compelled to chew for decades. Luckily this calamari was delicate and lovely. A word of warning about the antipasto, however: the price on the menu is PER PERSON and they failed to tell us this when we ordered. Caveat emptor, or whatever.

Apple radish salad ($12) was generally inoffensive, with sliced apples and discs of watermelon radish, along with a few big curls of pecorino, and some fried leaves of arugula or dandelion greens or something. The server claimed that this was chervil but I’m calling bullshit.

Spaghetti “carbonara” ($17) was a fair interpretation of the famous Roman pasta dish, but I couldn’t understand why they put “carbonara” in quotation marks. I asked our server, and she stammered out an incoherent reply; I suppose that I wasn’t the only one still reeling from last night’s pot brownie. Still, the “carbonara” was great: supple swirls of “pasta” were tossed with a "creamy" sauce of “egg yolk”, “pecorino”, and little porky chunks of “guanciale.” See, Vespolina: “I” can misuse “quotation marks” “too.”

Squash ravioli ($22) was so fucking good that I’m breathlessly hyperventilating while reminiscing about it. The ravioli was masterful: thin pockets of pasta as delicate as an infant’s eyelids enclosed a silken and savory orange squash filling. Fried sage leaves and a few shavings of cheese on top finished this dish, and if I could eat this every single day I would. It was a symphony in orange and green and tasted like a stroll through the autumn woods. If there had been a hint of smoke in this dish I would’ve dry humped the table.

Dessert was bombolini ($7). For this price we got six fried doughnut balls, burnished a rich mahogany outside and with a mystical custard interior. The bombolini were drowned in a sticky pool of black truffle honey. I’m making no comments about the honey: I get bitched at no matter what I say about truffle flavor, so fuck you. But the bombolini were crusty outside and soft inside and being completely drenched in honey, like a group of medieval princesses bathing decadently together, didn’t hurt either.

Vespolina is pretty solid. The service leaves something to be desired, but in Vespolina’s defense I was as high as a fucking kite so my questions probably sounded like a poorly translated DVD player instruction manual. The dining room is gorgeous and the pasta will inspire serious Proust moments so go there now. Don’t do drugs though. Or if you do drugs, make sure you go to see a fucking mild-mannered Merchant-Ivory film.

Rating: 8.5 drugs out of 10

Vespolina is located at 96 Union St.

For reservations call 206-682-3590

Vespolina on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 13, 2014


I don’t even know where the fuck to begin with Westward. I walked into this place and was stupefied by portraits of Bill Murray and Captain Stubing and, I suppose, other notable captains of the ship on the walls. The waiters all wear striped sailor shirts, despite the fact that this is the outfit for the FRENCH Navy which everybody thinks is staffed exclusively by pussies. And behind the bar is an impressive diorama of a cargo ship, the hold of which, we are expected to believe, holds the Abominable Snowman from the famous 1964 Rankin/ Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and also the combatants from Wrestlemania IV. Requiescat in Pace Andre the Giant! We hardly knew ye!

Anyway: Westward. We started with the quick fried east coast squid ($13), and in every case I’m reproducing the name of each dish exactly as presented. The squid was lightly fried in a kind of delicate fairy’s wing fritto misto atop a fluffy mattress of mashed potatoes. Sprinkled on top was a drift of sesame and black caraway seed, and the whole thing was spritzed lots of lemon. The potatoes seemed to be strictly potato, although maybe there was some olive oil in there, but certainly not the several cups of heavy cream that I, for instance, use when I’m making some fucking mashed potatoes.

Wood baked gigante beans ($9) were deliriously satisfying. I’ve had a million different iterations of this dish and this one was great: a pile of creamy white gigante beans swam in tomato sauce amid a swirling Sargasso Sea of half melted feta cheese and a hint of cinnamon, topped with a crumbling breadcrumb infrastructure.

Potatoes cooked in the fire ($9) didn’t need to tell me that they were cooked in a fire because they looked like burn victims, but in a good way, not in the way burn victims typically look, which is totally gross. Blue and yellow marble potatoes were cooked in a lot of oil and studded with shitloads of coarse salt. This was my main complaint, actually: while the potatoes were creamy inside and their succulence restrained by a corset of crisp skin, there was almost too much salt. Like enough salt to pay a Roman general. Which is a shame because I like salty potatoes: in fact potatoes are really just vehicles for butter and salt. Sometimes ketchup. Mayonnaise if you’re a fucktard who likes soccer and pretends to understand European politics. But they just went too far with the salt.

Albacore confit ($17) was pretty good: big chunks of albacore were delicately cooked in oil, with a few chunks of radicchio on the side, a couple shishito peppers, and some grilled bread croutons. While the fish itself was actually delicious, the other stuff was lame. There wasn’t enough radicchio. We got maybe four miniscule chunks of it, and that’s too damn bad because albacore is rich, and being cooked in oil, it could’ve benefitted from the snide remarks offered by the radicchio to brighten things up. The shishito peppers could have been charred a bit more. And the croutons were billed on the menu as “grilled bread.” I was eagerly anticipating a couple slices of bread, to make like an open-faced tuna sandwich with the confit, but we got MAYBE three small chunks of bread with a thick asphalt crust that stymied my gums the way I stymie your mom.

Chilled beef tongue ($16) was generally good, but the plate was a bit too busy: four medallions of braised tongue, topped with a bushy tuft of pickled spruce needles, a smear of crème fraiche, some Dijon mustard, a scattering of pickled mustard seeds, a couple caper berries, and two slices of grilled bread. Finally, the bread I wanted to come with the albacore confit! But alas, it was too late: we already ate the albacore. The tongue itself was supple and luscious, like dry humping a silk sheet, but as was the case with the potatoes it was too salty.

Actually that’s not quite true: the medallions of tongue were shingled on the plate, and the tongue got progressively less salty the farther down we ate, so while the top tongue was too salty, the bottom piece was actually fine. And besides, when you ate the tongue with the bread, even the saltiest piece wasn’t too salty. And the crème fraiche cut the salt too. I just feel like complaining, I suppose. But I WILL say that they didn’t cure the tongue with nitrites. So it looked like a dingy dish rag. People hate preservatives but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and use it, because with nitrites braised meats looks pink and fresh, like a delicate spring blossom, but without it, it looks grey and haggard like your mom.

Butterscotch pot de crème ($7) was fucking great. A teacup filled with creamy butterscotch custard, topped with a petite quenelle of whipped cream and sprinkled on top with a few crystals of flaky sea salt. On the side was a sugary cube of shortbread.

Westward is twee as fuck. Twee like Bjork screening a Wes Anderson movie. Twee like an elf having a tea party with a squirrel and a hedgehog within a hollow tree. Twee like a midget riding a pennyfarthing. Normally I hate the word “twee” because it sounds like the noise a princess makes when she farts. The princess whose farts I’m describing is Princess Tam Tam, whose flatulence is like a lavender puff of mist escaping from between her caramel sticky buns. Her hair is spun sugar and her tits are a croquembouche, each nipple a butterscotch chip. Her thighs are creme brulee. Her stomach is pastry cream. Her eyes are white chocolate truffles, she wields a rock candy scepter, and Princess Tam Tam is the perfect match for Prince Meatyass: the union of savory and sweet that shall rule the world of flavor. “Come inside my sugar walls,” Princess Tam Tam tells you, and you of course have been waiting for this invitation for centuries, like a kid who will very soon be plundering a candy store, so how could you possibly deny her?

While not as tasty as Princess Tam Tam, Westward is good, but errors in execution marred what could have been a totally epic orgy of flavor. Still, the view is grandiose and the décor is entertaining, to say the least, so give Westward a try.

Rating: 7.5 sugar walls out of 10

Westward is located at 2501 N. Northlake Way

For reservations call 206-552-8215

Westward on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The London Plane

Lately I’ve been getting fed up with the bullshit we are expected to eat. Unless it’s sushi, or Mexican food, menus are plagued with the kind of shit that simpletons eat, like hamburgers or macaroni and cheese with bacon in it, and the fucking menu guffaws breathlessly about the shitty glob of melted cheese that they want you to buy as if they themselves, in that very instant, just invented melted cheese right then and there.

The menu at The London Plane looked refreshingly adult, however, and so we gleefully attended lunch there with the anticipation of getting to pick items from a menu that seemed to come from an alternate universe in which truffle oil never existed.

We started with a paprika, caraway, sunflower seed and chevre spread ($7.50). The spread came to the table as a quenelle of chevre, studded with the aforementioned spices. I wish the seeds and paprika had been rolled around on the outside of the chevre like a holiday cheese ball, but alas: they didn’t do it that way. In general I thought that this spread was a bit heavy, a bit chevre-y, like Chevre-y Chase, and just as cheesy.

The beet hummus with harissa oil ($5) was visibly off-putting at first, but once you got past the puree’s shocking magenta color, the hummus was actually quite tasty: it was delicate and sweet and smoother than I expected blended beets to be, since I think they actually included some chick peas to give it a cohesive texture. The harissa oil had been applied with a gentle hand, offering an almost intangible heat, unlike when white people typically try to use harissa in recipes and they inevitably add too much and it ends up tasting like a burning doorknob in your mouth.

Anyway: if the Kool-Aid Man poured a bunch of vodka in the top of his pitcher, the beet hummus is what his puke would look and taste like. If you’re grossed out by that description, don’t worry: the Kool-Aid Man is fake! So you’ll never have to actually see or eat his puke. But if you get the beet hummus, that’s what it would totally be like.

Walnut, red pepper, and pomegranate molasses spread ($7) was a tasty iteration of the classic Turkish dip also known as muhammara. It was savory and sweet, with a rough grind of the walnuts to offer a little texture. You could spread this onto anything. Muhammara is sometimes used as a sort of barbecue sauce for meat, and I honestly wish there was a kebab or something on London Plane’s menu which was basted in this stuff. Since there isn’t, I’m perfectly content to lick if off of Mike Tyson’s nutsack.

Shredded carrots, currant, pine nut, and chili spread ($6.50) seemed more like a slaw to me than a spread or dip, but who’d quibbling? This isn’t, after all, the Oxford Motherfucking English Dictionary, and besides this was my favorite of all the spreads: sweet and crunchy strands of shredded carrots mingled like dickheads at a cocktail party with pine nuts, some dill, and a few black currants here and there. It was light and fresh and perfectly balanced.

An assortment of all four spreads with bread is $13, and WHY THE FUCKING FUCK WOULDN’T YOU DO THIS. Even the bread is superlative. They bake it on site and you get two kinds: a very sour sourdough which is so sour, it’s almost as sour as your mom’s demeanor, with a standoffish crust that conceals a crumb so open, you could confess any of your evil secrets to it. The other bread is some sort of herb cracker which is good, but not as good as that sour sourdough which seems forbidding and disgruntled on the outside but is really kind and understanding on the inside.

Moving on to the vegetable course: a plate of roasted baby carrots and red torpedo onions with pistachio and mint ($9) was a bit of a letdown: when I read “roasted carrots” on a menu I want those carrots completely caramelized to the point where the edges of the carrots are black and charred. If the carrot doesn’t look like it barely survived an extended hike through Death Valley, with a crusty and sticky outer skin and a soft fudgy interior, I don’t want it. Which is why I was saddened by the carrots we got: stewed in way too much liquid for my taste, with slices of sautéed onion and, you know, herbs and stuff, they seemed more like braised carrots, swimming around in a puddle with the onions and shit.

Braised pole beans with charred cherry tomatoes and dill ($10) were better, though. Like the “roasted” carrots, the beans were definitely braised. The beans were flavorful, with lots of dill flavor and bright and smoky highlights courtesy of the tomato.

Chickpeas with stewed gypsy peppers, feta and cilantro ($11) were very tasty, creamy, and salty, and sweet. I could eat an entire bowl of this. It hit every single possible flavor note. If they served this over pasta it would be like an insane epic poet’s opium dream of the most delicious possible pasta dish.

You can pick an assortment of three small ($12.50) or large ($16.50) vegetable dishes, and as with the dips, why wouldn’t you? Variety is, after all, the spice of life, you bunch of dickfaces.

A curried chicken salad ($19) featured a fairly standard pile of shredded chicken with a neon yellow curry sauce, atop a novel bale of roasted romanesco and an incongruous roasted piece of baby bok choy which hovered hesitantly around on the side like an awkward boyfriend at a funeral. The chicken was very succulent, and the curry flavor wasn’t too overpowering. The romanesco was roasted the way I wish the carrots had been roasted, i.e. caramelized as shit, with the curious fractal edges of the cauliflower scorched and the cut edges a deep golden brown. A couple sultanas here and there sweetened it up a bit, but then sprinkled over the top of everything was a drift of crumbled up seeds of various kinds, and sadly this resembled a bunch of birdseed. But it tasted good at least.

Finally, these spiced lamb meatballs ($14) were the goddamned piece de resistance: six perfect meatballs, so moist and yielding that they seemed more like small spherical terrines than like something you’d pile on top of spaghetti, doused in tomato sauce. The sauce was a satiny brick red, rich with hints of warm spice. I’ve never eaten such delicate meatballs. To serve these with pasta would have been a crime. Luckily they didn’t.

There’s a dessert menu, but fuck that: the meatballs were my dessert.

The London Plane is fucking awesome: sophisticated and light, with complex flavors and a deft hand with the spices and an unapologetic middle-eastern thrust, kind of like what I did to your mom last night. Nothing is too bold and all the flavors were in careful balance. It's the Alexander Calder of restaurants. The only thing that they go overboard with at The London Plane is restraint.

Unlike your mom.

Rating: 8.5 restraints out of 10

The London Plane is located at 300 Occidental Ave S

For reservations (parties of 8 or more) call 206-624-1374

Their hours are very weird so look it up before trying to eat dinner there and seeing that they’re closed and then getting mad at me.

The London Plane on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Prima Bistro

I was skeptical of Prima Bistro after encountering a cassoulet made by them which sported a thick tuft of breadcrumbs as bushy as the pubes on a 197’s centerfold. Besides, they’re located in the charming village of Langley, WA on Whidbey Island. Plus, they’ve got a killer second story deck and a pristine water view. So I assumed that it would be like many other Oceanside tourist traps: overpriced and bland shitholes which serve yellowing iceberg lettuce and anemic wedges of mealy tomato doused in a pint of Thousand Island Dressing and they somehow also discovered a way to put slices of pork tenderloin on top of fettuccine alfredo with a straight face and everything is $23. But did they fulfill my dire prophecy? READ ON IF YOU DARE!

We started with the chickpea “fries” ($6.50), which, since the "fries" actually do seem to be fried, was the worst abuse of quotation marks since I saw a sign asking people to “Please ring the ‘doorbell’” but it was in fact an ACTUAL doorbell, and not a midget’s nutsack painted to resemble a doorbell in the hopes of tricking you into comically molesting a midget. Six big foamy yellow planks of what I can only assume is a slurry of deep fried chickpea flour were burnished a crusty bronze outside, with a yielding and almost cheese-like interior. These had the consistency of the yellow foam that mascot costumes are typically made of, but unlike the Capitol City Goofball or the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, Prima Bistro’s Fightin’ “Fries” at least come with a ramekin of curry mayonnaise.

Crispy pork belly ($6.50) was tasty as fuck. This was a typically perfect example of pork belly, which is used to make bacon, which you might find in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich: it had been confited, with a crunchy and salty fried exterior, and a moist interior so unguent, so tender, so delicate, it was as if the pig never did a situp in its life, which I suppose it probably never has, because pigs are lazy as fuck. The belly came with a neat quenelle of a sweet and tart apricot mostarda, which was good enough to spread upon a toasted slice of brioche and had no business playing second fiddle to a fried square of disemboweled pig.

Salade nicoise ($14.50) was an excellent template of the classic French salad. A big pile of spinach leaves were doused in a gleaming pearlescent vinaigrette, along with some boiled fingerling potatoes, a couple olives, thinly sliced apples, and a boiled egg, halved lengthwise. Slices of seared ahi tuna completed the picture. The vinagigrette was tart without being overly zingy: your mom could learn a thing or two about the way this vinaigrette comports itself. The egg was expertly boiled, with a perfect sunny orb of yolk completely devoid of the green shitty ring that indicates a cook who doesn’t even know how to boil a fucking egg.

The worst thing about this nicoise salad was these weird diamond-shaped slices of pecorino blanketed over the top of the salad, looking like cheesy Superman logos. These were worse than unnecessary because pecorino is not a proper ingredient for a true salade nisoise. The second worse thing about this salad was that they didn’t include any haricots verts. A third grader may disagree with me but freshly picked, lightly steamed green beans are tasty as fuck, and I’ll point in the face, yelling at any third grader who disputes my claim.

Salade lyonnaise ($12.50) was, like the salade nicoise, similarly well-behaved. A bushel of frisee, wilted under a warm vinaigrette like Tim Tebow under the pressure of professional football, was interspersed with crunchy lardons hidden cleverly within its midst, and topped with a poached egg. This salad worked well, with a dressing that mixed adequately with the soft yolk drooling from where I pierced the egg’s side, but I didn’t like how the frisee was so wilted it was almost cooked. I prefer frisee to be crisp and bitter as the repartee between two aging vaudeville comedy partners. Instead the frisee was as limp as my dick when I see your mom.

But the best thing was the charcuterie plate. A small one was a mere $8.50 and included: bresaola, boar and pistachio salami, fennel and coriander salami, smoked chorizo, pork belly rilettes, and lonza. The bresaola, air-dried beef bottom round for those of you ignorant of the charcutier’s art, was typically beefy and sweet, shaved into deep crimson curls, and not too salty. The boar salami, by contrast, was salty and greasy and had the rich priapic musky swagger of a rutting boar. The fennel and coriander salami was fairly standard and modest, but it seemed forgettable amid the other strong personalities on this charcuterie plate.

The chorizo was unapologetically spicy. The rilettes were delicately spiced, as silken and greasy as that first delicious thrust, and I gleefully smeared the rilettes all over the (SPOILER ALERT) bread which Prima Bistro graciously provides to diners FOR FREE. Finally, the lonza was smoky and salty like some old lobsterman guy wearing a sweater and smoking a pipe. Alongside the meat was an unnecessarily spicy pickle. This charcuterie plate was fucking legit, and it hallmarks Prima Bistro’s dedication to technique.

Charcuterie is a difficult skill to master, so I'm impressed that they cure the charcuterie in-house at Prima Bistro. Especially challenging are dry-cured sausages such as salami. I know because I tried it and it ended up looking, and smelling, like a used condom filled with decaying roadkill. But all of the meats Prima put together on this very affordable plate were impeccably prepared.

We didn’t get dessert from Prima; instead I went around the corner to the P S Suisse bakery and dropped $2.50 on a spitzbuebe, a special Swiss raspberry sandwich cookie that sounds like something I like to do to your mom.

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by Prima Bistro’s deft avoidance of being a completely shitty tourist trap. In addition to what is an obvious working knowledge of classic French technique, Prima also boasts a solid wine list, reasonable prices, and a lively small-town atmosphere. A friendly small town, that is, and not one that puts a boot on your car and plants heroin in your pocket if you voted for President Obama. If you’re ever in Langley for some reason, by all means go.

Rating: 8 small town stereotypes out of 10

Prima Bistro is located at 201 ½ 1st St, Langley, WA

For reservations call 360-221-4060

Prima Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Requiem for Dot's Bistrot

It’s sad as fuck when something magical vanishes, while something that sucks continues to exist. Just as it’s a shame that Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead while Ashton Kutcher continues to plague the world with his spittle, so too is it a GOD DAMN SHAME that Dot’s Bistrot closed last week while the following shitass restaurants are still open:
1. That’s Amore
2. Perche’No
3. Bucca Di Beppo
4. Cheesecake Factory
5. Melting Pot
6. Patty’s Eggnest
7. Charlie’s
8. Snappy Dragon
9. El Camino
10. You tell me what number 10 should be

But I’m not here to poke fun at Perche’No for the tenth time; I’m here to eulogize Dot’s, which you obviously didn’t know was delicious because if you DID, Dot’s would still be open.

I first encountered Dot’s in its original incarnation as a neighborhood butcher and sandwich shop. There was a glass case where you could buy whole raw chickens or pork chops or Dot’s house-cured bacon, or slices of porchetta, or terrines and pates. If you didn’t feel like buying raw meat, of course, you could get a porchetta sandwich ($9), made with the very same porchetta you could buy from the case. A big slice of porchetta was pan roasted and served on sliced sourdough and topped with a big variegated red and green pile of coleslaw. The porchetta was succulent inside, with a shattering crisp curl of skin around the perimeter, and the coleslaw was crunchy and creamy and this was a delicious sandwich. To the max.

But then a few months ago Dot’s retooled and started serving dinner, and that too was awesome. Frisee salad ($10) was the typical salade lyonnaise, with a big pile of frisee, hidden beneath a bale of bitter herbs were big chunks of smoky bacon and croutons which were super fucking crunchy. Perched royally atop the pile was a gleaming white areola of poached egg, which when cut into bled its delicious golden heartsblood all over the place. The greens were dressed with a glittery vinaigrette, shiny as a newly minted coin, that mixed pleasurably with the egg yolk. This was a sincere treat with every bite. A sincere treat. With every bite. Sincere. Treat. Every. Bite. Please nominate me for a James Beard Award.

Cassoulet ($22) was similarly awesome. Some people call things “cassoulet” but they falsely invoke the name of this painstakingly assembled French stew. You can’t just throw a few invisible shreds of duck meat into a pool of canned beans and some tomato sauce and call it cassoulet. Real cassoulet takes forever to make and it is so meaty as fuck, King Meatyass himself would think twice about laying siege to cassoulet’s carnivorous fortress. Dot’s cassoulet was fucking hardcore: you got a whole duck leg confit, submerged in a big silken pile of beans. Many lardons dotted this meaty landscape, and a couple torpedoes of sausage were lounging around in there too, pointed directly at your stomach and armed to detonate your hunger.

The Death Star of Dot’s dinner menu was the Cote de Boeuf ($90) and before you snicker and say “NINETY DOLLARS THAT’S WHY THEY CLOSED” I’ll have you know that the price was for TWO, jackass. We got a giant dinosaur steak, a 32 ounce ribeye that was actually like an entire cross section of a cow. It was two inches thick, charred to an almost apocalyptic crust on the outside, pleasingly seasoned, served medium rare. You didn’t get to choose how the steak was cooked and that’s how it should be, because if you want a $90 well done you should just hand over your money and get nothing in return because you are breathtakingly stupid.

With the cote de boeuf came a choice of two sauces: we picked a velvety béarnaise sauce and a red wine and shallot reduction which was easily sixty fathoms deep and as dark as my fantasies. All you can eat sides were also included. These were the chef’s choice, but luckily for us he chose wisely. A ramekin of roasted turnips was caramelized and piquant with flakes of red pepper. Braised greens (of some kind) came dotted with more of the aforementioned lardons. And potatoes gratin were creamy and cheesy, almost like mashed potatoes they were so tender, and with a scattering of parsley on top. And true to the menu, every time they saw us finish a dish of the sides they brought another.

We barely had room for dessert but we somehow managed to cram a crème brulee ($8) in anyway. Cracking into the perfectly caramelized brulee with your spoon revealed an unctuous and citrusy crème beneath, and I almost forgot to mentio that this thing was big enough to go ice skating on top of it.

I have no idea why Dot’s closed. Honestly I only ventured in there for dinner because Restaurant Roux had an hour-and-a-half wait. I was shocked that we were able to get a table for four, with no waiting, at 8:00 pm on a Friday night. AND the food was fucking tasty as fuck. So what went wrong? Was it the location? I wouldn’t think so because as previously mentioned, Roux was packed like your mom’s colon and it’s basically across the street from Dot’s. I’m guessing they had super expensive rent and there were so few tables, they probably had to turn them over too many times in one night to turn a profit. But that’s just my armchair quarterbacking, so take it with a grain of salt.

I really hope the team at Dot’s reopens it somewhere else. And when I say “somewhere else” I mean “not Seattle.” Fuck Seattle, Dot’s. Move to White Center or Burien or Tukwila or maybe some place along Aurora in Shoreline or Edmonds. Artists must live where the rent is cheap. Go south, Dot’s. Or north. But for fuck’s sake you motherfuckers have GOT to bring Dot’s back from the dead like vampire Jesus.

Rating: 8.5 jesuses out of 10

Dot’s is closed so there are obviously no reservations to be taken, nor fucks to give.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The Spanish Civil War was more than just a disillusioning conflict in which the assholes won; it’s a strange allegory for modern Spanish cuisine. On the right is tapas, the traditional Spanish bar food which, for better or worse, inspired the tragicomic “small plates” phenomenon. On the left, of course, is molecular gastronomy: based in Bilbao, everybody knows that legendary recipe elf Ferran Adria brought the world mind-bending dishes composed mostly of air and slimy bubbles filled with flavored jelly.

Which side do you choose? the solid, but old-fashioned and unoriginal fascists? or the avant-garde but dickheaded commies? The only winning move, some would argue, is not to play. Which is actually what Aragona does. With the careful modifier “Spanish inspired cuisine” bukkaked all over its website, Aragona delicately threads the ideological needle.

Before you even get food, the wine service will unobtrusively introduce itself to you. A wine steward listened to what we ordered then recommended sherries and wines to complement the meal. This is fucking pimp. The best butler, it’s said, is one you don’t even realize is working for you, and the wine program at Aragona fits the bill. I was nudged toward a 375 mL bottle of sherry with the assurance that it was drier than most of the reds on the menu.

True enough, it’s not the kind of sherries hobos drink: this sherry was indeed arid, like a soda cracker topped with a crumbling fossilized baby doll’s femur. There were notes of copper and apricot, and in the finish was the unmistakably mossy and mineral aroma of one and only one thing: freshly ejaculated semen. Why “baby batter” isn’t on the wine flavor wheel is beyond me. Actually I know why: who wants to say “this sherry taste like jizz?” Luckily for all you readers, I’m cocksure enough (get it?) to admit that this sherry snowball was a perfect match to the dishes we ordered.

Anyway. We started with the gambas al pil-pil ($20). This traditional tapas dish was executed so precisely, it’s like they cooked the shrimp with a satellite-mounted laser. The prawns were cooked delicately, bathed in the famous basque sauce of olive oil, garlic, and peppers. It wasn’t too spicy, of course; the Iberian peninsula’s false reputation for “spicy” food comes from generations of liver-spotted English schoolmarms for whom a single peppercorn causes uncomfortable feelings in their collective clitorides.

It WAS, however, unapologetically garlicky, although it wasn’t over the top. In fact, the shrimp in some ways isn’t even the focus of this dish; the leftover oil is fucking KILLER. Here’s a list of the things off of which I’d lick the pil pil sauce:
1. An electric fence
2. Mike Tyson’s scrotum
3. Your mom
and finally (and most likely) 4. Bread, which luckily is not only abundant at Aragona,, but in the true commie Spanish Republican tradition is also FREE, bucking the trend of fancy restaurants who want you to pay three or four bucks for their special artisan lesbian bread with unicorn butter.

Next up was Ensalada de achicorias y pipas ($12), fancy Spanish words for chicory salad. The menu promises an anchovy vinaigrette and sunflower seeds, but the sunflower seeds were practically endangered, and the vinaigrette wasn’t especially anchovied. Anchovy flavor tends to walk a fine line: too heavy-handed and it tastes like your mom; not enough and you feel cheated. But if you use just enough, anchovies offer an almost mystical savory flavor without yelling I’M A FISH MOTHERFUCKER into your face. Aragona’s anchovy vinaigrette beautifully toed the line, offering a vague offshore saltiness to the proceeding which paid fawning compliments to the bitter greens, like a glossy and careful lothario’s advances toward a wealthy octogenarian.

Arroz meloso de costillitas de cerdo y garbanzos ($24) was a very basic dish of braised pork shoulder with rice and beans. This was fine, though I would have vastly preferred actual paella, with the seafood and the caramelized crusty rice on the bottom, and sausage and saffron and wood smoke and all the other stuff, but this was, as previously stated, fine. The rice was perfectly cooked, with firm and distinct but creamy grains. The shreds of braised pork were luscious and tender, and the beans were also competently executed, but my overall impression was that this dish was boring as fuck.

Trucha a la Navarra ($25) was a beheaded and deboned trout, topped with caramelized onions and stuffed with jamon Serrano. This was very good; the trout was flaky and well-seasoned, with a crisp skin. The advertised smear of caramelized onions on top was sweet and reduced down to an almost nihilistic nothingness; meanwhile, julienned threads of Serrano ham inside the fish’s cavity provided a covert saltiness.

The Zanahorias con ajo tostado y vinagre de muscatel we ordered with the trout was less successful. For $12 we got a big plate of carrots, roasted on the plancha, with garlic and muscatel vinegar. The garlic chips were toasty and sweet, and the vinegar brought a much-needed counterpoint to the sugariness, but the carrots were sadly undercooked: charred and blistered on the outside by the plancha’s inferno, they were still too stiff inside. Just like your mom!

Finally dessert. Faithful readers of this blog may know by now that I don’t usually give a shit about dessert, but the Xuxos caseros ($12) was fucking magnificent. I’m guessing, based purely on the number of x’s in the name, that “xuxos” is a Basque variant of “churros.” These were cute little cigars of puff pastry, tightly wrapped around a crème anglaise filling and dusted on top with granular nuggets of truffle salt. Normally I would laugh at a nouveau riche ingredient like truffle salt, which is the gastronomic equivalent of a hot tub with colored LED’s in the bottom of it, but Aragona makes it work, since just a little salt, and the earthy petroleum of (probably fake) truffle flavor neatly offset the sweet cream filling, We paired this with a scoop of a smooth and fucking chocolatey as hell cocoa sorbet ($7), thus manufacturing our own postmodern iteration of churros y chocolate.

I generally like Aragona. The décor is breathtakingly mod, with carefully curated modern artwork all over the place, and clean lines in an airy and uncluttered dining room. I rarely comment on ambiance, but they nailed it. The cuisine, with only a few missteps, is technically perfect. Plus, your dish may very well be brought to your table by certified famous person Carrie Mashaney (as with almost everyone, Mrs. Mashaney, I have you at a disadvantage, but thank you for bringing us our trout). If I have any real complaints, and I never thought I’d be saying this, it’s that Aragona doesn’t acknowledge molecular gastronomy enough. I don’t mean that they should blanket the dish in foam and smoke and jelly bubbles and “caviar” made out of ingredients which clearly were not extruded from a fish’s vulva, but an El Bullian nip slip here and there would have paid homage to what is, whether you like it or not, part of Spanish cuisine for the rest of human history. Rating: 8.5 nip slips out of 10

Aragona is located at 96 Union Street

For reservations call 206-682-3590

Aragona on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2014 Voracious Tasting Awards

The Seattle Weekly was kind enough to hook me up with a press pass to the Vocarious Tasting Awards. It was an about-face in terms of classiness; last year these fucking nerds told me they wanted me to GIVE AWAY two passes to the awards on my blog. When I asked if I could get a press pass I was resolutely told no, so of course I knew WELL IN ADVANCE who would “win” the two tickets. Answer: me.

But this year they seem to have realized how dumb they were last year and actually, you know, let the press do its fucking JOB. So we went to the Tasting Awards. Many of Seattle’s finest restaurants (and some of its crappiest) were represented at the Tasting Awards. Each vendor had a booth set up to hand out small bites and cocktails. I don’t know exactly what awards the Tasting Awards were handing out, because I didn’t see any statuettes or presenters or anything; there was, however, some 1990’s sounding band playing some girl music or something.

At any rate, we ate as much as we could and here, listed in my usual order of shittiest to best, are my reviews of each of the presenting restaurants:

Crush was serving a bizarre macaron sandwich. Squished between two vaguely savory macarons was an uncomfortable spread of goat cheese and Moroccan spices. This thing was incomprehensible and unsettling, like an encounter with Cthulu’s minions, only not nearly as awesome. It was too salty, smoky, and weird.
Rating: 1 Shoggoth out of 10

Poquitos was serving bland soggy beef tacos: a big slug of sloppy braised beef studded with jarring, undercooked nuggets of diced onion was plopped down on a single sad corn tortilla. Without the customary double tortilla layer, this taco collapsed under the weight of the bland filling within. Plus, the big watery wad of beef tasted like a peepshow mop.
Rating: 2 mops out of 10

The WA State Beef Commission really sucked. I realize these guys are lobbyists, not chefs, but they weren’t even trying. A few gristly slices of bottom round were served atop a bean salad. There was too much black pepper strangling everything, but at least the beans were cooked properly. I’m guessing they were just a bunch of canned beans thrown together. Your mom likes to eat this exact meal under the bridge on cold nights.
Rating: 3 hobos out of 10

A spoonful of “foie tofu” was Miyabi 45th’s offering. This was a neat ivory square of tofu with foie gras, wasabi and bonito dashi. It wasn’t bland, though I couldn’t taste the wasabi or the foie; in fact this dish is best described as having the taste and consistency of a savory toothpaste for true gourmands.
Rating: 4 blasphemous decadent dental hygiene products out of 10

Sky City's short ribs were okay. The Space Needle tries valiantly to compete with shit like Millers Guild and La Bete, but the chocolate braised short rib they were serving was too chocolatey, like they just melted a bunch of Hershey’s Special Dark minibars all over it. The beef was tender, but this was sadly topped with a few wholly unnecessary amaranth microgreens.
Rating: 5 minibars (not the good kind) out of 10

Ponti Seafood Grill was the only one of the restaurants at the Tasting Awards that I have personally been kicked out of, but I’m not holding a grudge. Ponti was serving salmon tartare. Delicately minced raw salmon and cubes of avocado were draped in way too much sesame oil, and piled atop a yucca chip. The major misstep here was that they should have served the tartare on a Silverchair CD since this dish was SO FUCKING 90’S. Par for the course at Ponti, I suppose.
Rating: 5 Paul Reisers out of 10

Skillet was serving sweet potato latkes with bacon jam, crème fraiche, and smoked trout. Too sacrilegious to appeal to jews and too smoky to appeal to anyone who wasn’t a lifelong smoker, this thingy barely elicited a “meh” from my august and borderline loose-cannon tastebuds.
Rating 5.5 loose cannons out of 10

Shanik’s dish was what I can only describe as an Indian nacho: a crisp rectangle of chickpea papadam with butternut squash and eggplant on top. This wasn’t bad, and the suite of spices they used was classic. In fact, the only way it could have been more Indian was if they arranged for me to eat this thing when I was five years old.
Rating: 6 subcontinents out of 10

Matt’s in the Market was offering smoked trout with peas on crostini. Cute little cubes of trout suspended in some variety of creamy, but otherwise harmless, substrate. Mayonnaise? Crème fraiche? I couldn’t tell, because the smoked trout muscled its way into my mouth and refused to stand down, though the peas provided sweet bursts of springtime freshness which diffused the relentless fishy assault.
Rating: 6.5 assaults out of 10

At Island Soul’s table were small sweet and crusty cornbread muffins, accompanied by a cup of jerk chicken thigh. The chicken was bright with citrus and spices and a big splash of hot sauce, though clearly incapable of competing in jerkiness against me.
Rating: 6.5 jerks out of 10

Café Campagne served crostini with a dollop of brandade and a thin smear of tapenade on the very top. This tasted like a sea breeze and could only have been more “Mediterranean” if it was also a swarthy cab driver of indeterminate nationality.
Rating: 7 cab drivers out of 10

Prima Bistro was handing out cassoulet. A Dixie cup of the famous and persnickety French stew was grainy, with way too many breadcrumbs on top, but beneath this thick layer of crumby asphalt was a big pile of perfectly cooked “rockwell beans” (whatever those are), some specks of mirepoix, and cute little slices of tiny sausage. The signature special cassoulet ingredient, duck confit, was either not in attendance, or they put too little in for me to notice, but it was otherwise a pretty ballsy attempt at a finicky and time-consuming dish like cassoulet, so I have to give them credit.
Rating: 7 ballsy motherfuckers out of 10

Radiator Whiskey apparently deconstructed a bunch of reubens for the Tasting Awards. The “deconstructed reuben” was actually a cup of shredded cabbage with “beef belly pastrami” and rye croutons and thousand island dressing. They kept pushing the “beef belly” aspect but really, it’s just pastrami made from a hanger steak instead of brisket. That having been said, the beef belly pastrami was yielding and succulent to the bite, in perfect contrast to the extremely crunchy croutons and the cabbage, which was very lightly pickled. The only misstep was the big glob of thousand island lurking in the bottom of the cup like a porn theater masturbator. When you could get everything in one bite it really tasted reubenesque, but most of the time it just tasted like a big chunk of pastrami and a forkful of cabbage.
Rating: 7.5 masturbators out of 10

My frenemies at Miller’s Guild had a big obscene platter of 48-hour braised short ribs, dripping with an erotic mélange of sauce and juices. The ribs had been obviously cooked sous vide since they were still medium rare, then seared on the wood fired grill, with a yuzu and green peppercorn horseradish cream. The beef was tender as a skinned knee and the cream, while tasty, was impossible to taste the yuzu’s beguiling citrus flavor over all the yelling from the horseradish and pepper and way too many big chunks of finishing salt. They were also serving some tequila cocktail, which the bartender was to my amusement dutifully grinding black pepper over.
Rating: 8 peppercorns out of 10

The manchego cubes with candied walnuts, and a cute little watercress leaf, which Pintxo was serving was unpretentious and perfectly conceptualized. This is the kind of snack they should serve on airplanes, but don’t.
Rating: 8 airplanes out of 10

In the typical insane overachieving style of resident geniuses McCracken and Tough, Spur served razor thin slices of cured and smoked pork with an onion mustard, which was as dark and sweet as Bill Withers. Along with the pork was a neat cup of rhubarb confit: thin kidneys of cross-sectioned rhubarb ribs were pickled in a highly agrodolcic pickling liquid. Nice.
Rating: 8 overachievers out of 10

In Harvest Vine’s usual inscrutable fashion, they were serving a boquerone skewered in an erotic serpentine around a guindillas pepper and a green olive. The whole thing, stuffed down your mouth in one bite, was salty and piquant and dripping with olive oil and so fucking Basque, it could only be more Euskaran if they called in a bomb threat in a deserted parking lot 12 hours ahead of time to ensure that no one got hurt, but nonetheless were still able to blow shit up.
Rating: 8.5 ETA bomb threats out of 10

Westward’s “mint julep” pea soup confused the fuck out of me. At first I thought that this was a super fucking inventive flight of fancy by Westward impresario Josh Henderson: an ACTUAL mint julep drink, mixed with pea soup. In theory it should work. Peas, that delightful springtime bridge between sweet and savory items, should be able to handle both the smoke and vanilla flavors inherent in bourbon, and they ALSO taste great with mint, so why the fuck not mix a mint julep with pea soup and serve it as a sort of combination dinner AND drink? Alas, it was just mint pea soup, and while it sadly didn’t contain alcohol, the soup was rich yet as light as a feather, very minty, and the very essence of springtime. They should’ve garnished it with a live bunny.
Rating: 9 bunnies out of 10

La Bete’s chicken liver mousse was superb: perched atop a lurid maroon smear of mousse on a cracker was a slice of radish and a snip of chive. As usual La Bete nailed it. The mousse was silken and not too funky, as chicken livers can sometimes be. In fact this mousse was so silky, eating it was, for my tongue, like lounging on a California king bed with satin sheets and popping a bunch of lorazepam washed down with Johnny Walker Blue. That’s how fucking good it was. It was that fucking good.
Rating: 9.5 lorazepam out of 10

Finally, La Bodega’s yucca root empanada was fucking great. A granular crust as fragile as my grasp of differential equations enclosed a cheese filling, supple and creamy enough to soothe all broken hearts. At the bottom of the cup was a smear of green sauce of some kind. I didn’t need the sauce, though it brightened things up a bit. This empanada was light enough to eat all day, yet nonetheless capable of slaying any hangover. Well done, La Bodega. For your hard work you win this years’ Surly Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Blowing the Fuck out of Minds. Kudos!
Rating: 9.6 kudos out of 10

Monday, April 07, 2014


While I was really excited to eat at Tanakasan, I was at first frustrated by the menu, which lists pages and pages of sake and beer and cocktail choices, all written in a giant Reader’s Digest font. Eventually we got to the food listings, which are arranged by main ingredient, for example “dumplings, meat, fish, vegetables, noodles,” etc., and we ordered a bunch of stuff. We started with Gen Tso’s Short Ribs ($12) which, if you know me at all, jumped the fuck right off the page and into my brain. You see, I love General Tso’s Chicken the way Marco Rubio loves bottled water, or the way Arnold Schwarzenegger loves getting cleaning ladies pregnant, or the way (insert thing that a dated topical reference ______ loves here______).

While the short ribs were expertly prepared, and basically fell off the bone when you looked at it, I would hesitate to call this “General Tso’s.” The sauce was sweet, with a citrus tang on the back end and a lurking underground heat. A few bright green strips of sautéed scallion clung to the sides of each rib, and while on paper it might seem like a fine iteration of the General, it really just didn’t inspire the militaristic zeal I experience when I eat a really good plate of Gen Tso’s Chicken. These were served atop a big pile of fluffy steamed rice. Despite the technical proficiency of their preparation, these short ribs would never pass muster in General Tso’s army; the sauce unimpressive sauce would resort in a dishonorable discharge.

Next up was a tasty chicken salad ($12). This was pretty good, with pearly shreds of poached chicken breast hiding beneath a bale of finely shredded brussel sprout slaw and julienned basil. Drizzled into this vegetal pile was a bracingly tart nuoc cham. This chicken salad was as light and effortless as a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, with the nuoc cham cutting through with the bright sharp flash of a samurai sword.

The Osaka pancake ($14) was a big shredded patty of cabbage topped with a riot of sliced scallion, a zigzag of kewpie mayo, a furry pile of bonito flakes which waved “eat me” in my general direction, and maybe there were some shrimp in there too. I know what they were going for here, and by “they” I mean “whoever the fuck came up with this giant pancake:” they were trying to layer all of these intense flavors into what they hoped would be this umami symphony, but in the end it tasted like a bunch of political assholes shouting at each other on one of those Sunday morning round table pundit shows.

Grilled hanger steak ($25) was very good. Slices of steak were cloaked in a dark, dark, almost black crust, and a ripe medium rare inside, were served atop a pile of braised kale and a bale of enoki mushrooms. Here and there were a few floury gnocchi, as insubstantial as the programming on Bravo, but in a good way.

Beef bulgogi dumplings ($11) featured a big bowl of steamed wontons, filled with a rich garlicky beef filling, floating in a brassy broth with shreds of kimchee, cubed daikon, and some scallions on top. The menu inexplicably urges you to add American cheese to this dish (“for fun!”), but that doesn’t sound like much fun to me. I could come up with a humorous list of things that sound MORE FUN than putting American cheese on some fucking wonton soup but… meh. What am I doing with my life?

A side of fried cauliflower ($6) was superb. They probably made this dish out of Faberge cauliflower, that’s how good it was. We got a big bowl of florets, burnished a pleasing bronze exterior crust which encased delicious creamy white cauliflower brains inside. These sat atop a secret subterranean layer of Kewpie mayonnaise, the ultra-rich Japanese condiment which lesbians hate but I love. In fact, I love Kewpie mayo more than a Ford Econoline van with the Castlevania logo airbrushed on it. And that, my friends, is true love: the love a man has for imported mayonnaise.

Finally, Tanaka family fried rice ($9) was great, with delicately fried rice, paella-like crusty bits peeking out here and there. Big chunks of bacon studded this dish, and a fried egg reclined luxuriously on top. The menu proudly mentions that ketchup is an ingredient, but they disguised it well: the tomato faded politely into the background, leaving only a savory whisper in the wake of its departure.

In generally, I enjoyed Tanakansan, but this restaurant has a big problem because Revel exists. I know, I know, you can make a million comparisons of two things where “X is fucked because Y exists.” Pepsi is fucked because Coke exists. Arby’s is fucked because taste buds exist. You’re fucked because your mom exists. You get the jist. But Revel, the Fremont Korean fusion restaurant, does the same thing Tanaksan does, but does it like a billion times more effectively: Revel’s bolder flavors and more technical preparations far outclass Tanakasan. It’s like you took regular Jeopardy contestants and let them compete on Celebrity Jeopardy.

Still, maybe being a salon of cutting-edge fusion cuisine isn’t Tanakasan’s mission. It falls, after all, under the Aegis of the Tom Douglas Restaurant Group, which is generally dedicated to safe, crowd-pleasing flavors and raking in fistfuls of cash. I certainly wouldn’t mind raking in fistfuls of cash. Doesn’t everyone? Maybe I just feel like typing “fistfuls of cash.” Maybe I’ll do it one more time, in fact.

Rating: 6 fistfuls of cash out of 10

Tanakasan is located at 2121 6th Ave.

For reservations call 206-812-8412

TanakaSan on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 24, 2014


mkt. is the latest outpost of Chef Ethan Stowell’s culinary empire, but unfortunately the name of the restaurant annoys the shit out of me. According to mkt.’s website, and yes, the period is in fact part of the name, “mkt.” is an acronym that stands for “Meridian, Keystone, Tangletown,” which references the old name of the neighborhood, the name of the building in which the restaurant is located, and the new name of the neighborhood, respectively. And sadly (for me), this acronym is pronounced “market,” and not “em kay tee,” which is how it SHOULD in fact be pronounced, because YOU DON’T USE AN ABBREVIATION AS A RESTAURANT NAME.

You see, without vowels we would be fucked. Vowels form the “peak” of a syllable, and represent sounds that are spoken with no constriction of the vocal tract. Let me repeat myself for emphasis: NO CONSTRICTION OF THE VOCAL TRACT. Where would your mom be without vocals? Well besides not being able to suck cock like a champ, without the unrestricted access to your vocal cords that vowels allow, your mom would be “yr mm.” In fact, Ethan Stowell, you fucking smarty pants, hw wld y lk t f wrt ths rvw wth n vwls? Y wld b spr fckng annyd, nw wldn’t y, y fckng sn f btch?

Anyway, I set aside my two paragraphs worth of rage at mkt.’s name because they take reservations, so despite mkt.’s miniscule dining room, we were able to get a seat. We started with grilled green beans ($7). These thin filaments of haricot vert were served grilled, speckled with lemon zest, the skin a pleasingly charred green and black smoking jacket. These were skinny pencil dicks of smoky citrus deliciousness.

Squash fritters ($9) were only okay; they were just fried dough balls filled with “winter squash,” whatever that is. Squash is of course a blank canvas for flavor, and so these tasted mostly fried, accompanied by a little dish of a cilantro puree. Normally I despise cilantro but this was good: not particularly dominated by that assertive stupid cilantro flavor, it was topped with some crumbled pumpkin seeds.

Crispy fried quail ($13) was great. This dish was a playful take on that classic picnic meal, fried chicken and potato salad. I was as surprised by how good this was as I was by the fact that I actually just called it “a playful take.” Now I feel the way your mom feels about herself. A deboned quail, with its minuscule wing and a miniature drumstick attached to a lilliputin breast, was coated in a crisp batter and perched atop a pile of creamy, perfectly round little boiled potatoes. The potato salad was dressed in coarse mustard and diced cornichons. You’d think it would be really easy to overcook a tiny bird such as quail, luckily they didn’t. It was succulent.

Hamachi crudo ($15) was so tasty, I could fucking eat this all day, every day. Big chunks of hamachi, the flesh creamy and pink and erotic as fuck, with thin slices of cucumber and slivers of red pepper. It was topped with a cucumber granita. Everything about this dish was anti-winter. It was like summer on a plate, a girl sunbathing topless on your tongue’s beach.

A slow roasted vegetable salad ($9) was pretty dumb. There were a bunch of roasted baby beets, which were grainy as fuck because somebody forgot to wash the fucking things, and some red leaf lettuce, and perhaps some other stuff, all topped with a soft-boiled egg, sliced in half longitudinally. This was a lazy salad and I liked it about as much as I like your mom.

The last thing we ordered was seared scallops ($21), which were pretty good. For this price we got three big scallops, seared a luscious golden and staring up at you like areolas, and just as exciting to contemplate. Beneath the scallops was a shredded nest of softly braised pork shoulder, which was so pink they must’ve cured it with nitrites, and a bunch of creamy white beans, complete with little flecks of mirepoix.

We didn’t get dessert because our waitress was wearing a silver whistle around her neck. I asked her if it was a rape whistle and she said no, the whistle was the punchline of a bawdy anecdote and that it wasn’t appropriate to tell such a dirty story to customers. But when she came around again to ask if we wanted dessert, I told her that for dessert I wanted to hear her story about the whistle. “No!” she barked, “Your dessert was the scallops!” and curtly turned on her heel. Honestly I haven’t been so thoroughly chastised since I told your mom I just wanted to be friends.

At any rate, I like mkt. well enough. In fact, it’s probably my second favorite of Ethan Stowell’s restaurants, after How to Cook a Wolf. But if I were going to open a restaurant it would be called something like Café Maximillien Robespierre or Restaurant Antoine Lavoisier, or the Elite Wiener Room, or Chateau Castlevania, or something fucking cool like that.

Rating: 8 Elite Wieners out of 10

mkt. is located at 2108 N 55th St

For reservations call 206-812-1580

mkt. on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 24, 2014


Loulay is the newest restaurant in the empire of Seattle’s most haberdasherous celebrity chef, Thierry Rautureau. Loulay is named for Rautureau’s hometown of Saint Hilaire de Loulay, and according to the restaurant’s website will feature “menu items [that] are rooted in his childhood memories.” Hey motherfuckers: that is the FIRST time I’ve ever used brackets in a quote so drink five times.

It’s a touching concept, at any rate, but is Rautureau’s personal Proust moment compelling enough to make you pause in thought with each bite, overwhelmed with nostalgia? You’ll see.

We started with an endive salad ($7.50) This salad looked less like a childhood memory and more like it was actually plated by a child: all the stuff seemed to be randomly tossed on the plate in a disarrayed scattering of grilled apple slices, a splayed out wedge of grilled onion, and a sloppy bale of frisee, with a lonely pond of mustard vinaigrette off to the side. Each component was tasty on its own, but it was difficult to get all of it together in one bite; this salad was like herding meth heads.

Veal sweet bread ($15) was okay: cute chunks of sweet bread were fried and draped in a glossy madeira reduction, with a couple roast baby turnip halves thrown in. The watery bite of the turnip offset the richness of the sweetbreads, but in general this dish lacked a textural contrast. In theory this textural contrast would be provided by the accompanying cube of grilled brioche, but really it just ended up being a bland piece of toast, boring but nonetheless useful for sopping up the reduction, like a mop you can eat. Your mom’s a mop you can eat.

A trio of duck ($19) was really good, with a confit of duck leg, a few slices of roasted duck breast, and a heavily smoked chunk of duck sausage all swimming in a slick demiglace. Sharing the pool with the duck parts were a pile of flageolet beans and a few amaranth microgreens. The confit was shrouded in a brittle skin that barely clung to the succulent flesh beneath. The confit could be separated from the bone with the merest thought, and the breast meat was juicy like the details of my weekend with your mom. The sausage was coarsely ground and rustic, but not in a bad way, and the smoke flavor complimented the creamy pile of flageolets well. The microgreens didn’t need to be in attendance, their whispery voices lost in the shouting chorus of intense duck flavor.

Loulay also offers a four-course tasting menu, which at $49 is actually a fairly good deal. The first course was a beet salad. This was fairly pedestrian, with a couple wedges of creamy roasted beets which poked up their heads from beneath a small pile of amaranth greens. Here and there were a couple nuggets of chopped walnut.

Next up were seared scallops, which was unfortunately probably the biggest letdown of the tasting menu, because we got one seared scallop, yes ONE, as in the number of Academy Awards your mom would have if they gave out Oscars for gang bangs. Accompanying this prime number of scallops was a couple florets of roasted cauliflower. The scallops were perfectly executed, and the cauliflower was good too, but GIVE ME MORE THAN ONE MOTHERFUCKING SCALLOP OR I WILL PISS IN YOUR HAT THEIRRY RAUTUREAU AND THEN YOU WILL HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR NAME TO THE CHEF IN THE PISS HAT BECAUSE YOU WILL BE WEARING A PISS HAT.

All raging priapic complaints about the scallops aside, the third course was roasted beef and it was superb: a big tender softball of braised beef was crowned with a wreath of celery leaves, chunks of roast sweetbreads, and a turnip puree. The beef was exceedingly tender like a Lifetime Original Movie, and the flavors here were understated without being bland.

Finally the dessert course featured apple beignets: four fluffy balls of beignet, dusted in powdered sugar like an investment banker’s nose, with caramel sauce and a couple wedges of sautéed apple. Beignets, if done wrong, can become tiresome mattresses of stale pastry, but these were as light as a titty nimbus. The caramel wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and you could actually taste apple flavor amid the competing sugary noise.

Loulay is a solid restaurant with an obviously competent kitchen. That having been said, I found the food fairly impersonal, especially for a concept which specifically mentions that the menu references the chef’s childhood memories. I’m sure Rautureau has some old family recipes he could feature on his menu. After all, old people eat the dumbest fucking things, like ribbon candy or slumgullion or crazy cake or, worst of all, hot hams, which in case you aren’t ancient enough to know is a hot dog on a hamburger bun. I once overheard a nonagenarian lamenting the time J. P. Morgan was ahead of her in line, and bought up the last of the hot hams at Woolworth’s.

Even my own grandfather used to eat a tin of devilled ham for dinner, washed down with a glass of milk to which he would add a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a slice of white bread. So, Chef Rautureau, if you’re reading this, and your own grand-pere used to eat the French version of Satanic pork products and diabetic slurries, then by all means PUT THIS SHIT ON THE MENU. It’s nothing personal.

Rating: 7 hot hams out of 10.

Loulay is located at 600 Union Street.

For reservations call 206-402-4588

Loulay Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung, the famed Taiwanese dumpling house, recently opened in the University Village shopping mall. This restaurant is notorious for the irrational exuberance it inspires in people, a frantic obsession akin to the panty-moistening power of one million Bubles. Seriously, with the wait for a party of four on Friday night measured in geological time frames, Din Tai Fung is clearly the most popular restaurant in the known universe, and people will do anything to get inside. Here is a list of atrocities I have personally seen committed by frenzied diners attempting to jump ahead of Din Tai Fung’s ponderous dinner rush:

• A man threw a bunch of black widow spiders onto a child.

• Somebody wedgied a pregnant woman.

• A kid sprayed the crowd with a Super Soaker filled with hydrofluoric acid.

• Richard Sherman yelled a lot.

But is Din Tai Fung actually delicious enough to elicit such a cultlike response? Short answer: no. Long answer: no, but… Longest answer: read the rest of this review.

We started with the sweet and sour spare ribs. $7.50 got us a bowl of these meaty nuggets, glazed in a high-gloss sauce. While the pork was very tender and fell off the bone, the ribs had been clumsily hacked apart, like plastic surgery on a reality-tv starlet, so that there were little chips of bone which bedeviled my maw as though I were a Rancor. Plus, the sauce tasted suspiciously like Aunt Jemima syrup, so not only was the glaze cloying, it was also latently racist.

Sauteed spinach with garlic ($9) was pedestrian but tasty enough, with tender leaves of baby spinach sautéed in a sauce which, while certainly garlicky, was not pungent enough to destroy a makeout session. This dish benefitted enormously from the therapeutic splash of soy sauce I self-administered, since it was a bit bland without it.

Shanghai rice cake with chicken ($8.25) was interesting, to say the least: chicken, spinach, and cabbage were stir fried with the eponymous rice cakes, which are NOT the puffy foam coasters white people think of when they read the word “rice cake.” Rather, these were glutinous discs of steamed rice dough, pleasantly sticky, almost like savory Jujyfruits, though far less aggravating.

Sauced noodle with pickled mustard green and shredded pork ($8) was pretty interesting actually: gossamer strands of pasta were tossed with finely julienned greens and a few thin shreds of delicately cooked pork in a light sauce. The noodles were perfectly cooked, with the same quirky permanent wave sported by Top Ramen noodles, albeit much tastier. There wasn’t a lot of pork, but that was okay: the most intriguing flavor was bitter tang of the greens, which lingered sullenly on the tail of each bite, like skulking teenagers downing half-empty glasses of Franzia at a wedding.

Finally, xiao long bao, AKA juicy pork dumplings, the crown jewel in Din Tai Fung’s noodly crown. These fucking things, while definitely clever, are overrated to the MAXX. When you get an order of these $9.50 for ten of them, your server will warn you to tear each one open a bit to release the steam inside, then dunk each dumpling into a mixture, prepared tableside, of soy sauce and rice vinegar, with a thatch of shredded ginger thrown in. Each dumping sags noticeably under its own weight when hoisted with a chopstick, pregnant with filling. With its paper-thin wrapper and liquid filling and its pork testicle, the xiao long bao resemble nothing so much as a dumpling scrotum.

When you bite in, the aforementioned juicy juice floods your tongue, followed by, of course, the pork filling, swept into your mouth by the savory tsunami released by your bite. These are generally tasty, but are they THAT tasty? Are they good enough to inspire the erotic sonnets which populate Din Tai Fung’s bazillion Yelp reviews? After all, people go fucking apeshit for these things: if you snatched one away from someone about to take a bite of a juicy pork dumpling, your unwitting victim would continue to futilely chomp the air in frustration. Have you ever seen two dogs fucking, then the female somehow escapes, leaving the male dog to continue to instinctively hump the air? That’s what would happen to someone about to eat a juicy pork dumpling, only with their mouth instead of hips, if you were thus inclined to culinarily cock-block them. Seriously, the victim of your prank would resemble Pac-Man, chowing down uselessly through empty glowing hallways, avoiding ghosts, occasionally encountering a bouncing cherry or, if your luck holds, a pretzel.

As far as dumplings go, the juicy pork dumplings aren’t bad. But the recommended dose of vinegar and soy and ginger is actually mandatory, since without the sturm und drang of these toppings, the unctuous filling of the xiao long bao fatigues the tongue like a motherfucker. Especially if, like me, you eat 20 of them.

Din Tai Fung sells dessert but come the fuck on: everyone knows asian desserts suck. They’re either overly sweet or not sweet enough, or else they are completely inappropriate, like the shave ice with assorted toppings. In the name of journalistic integrity I’m telling you that I did NOT actually order the shave ice with assorted toppings, but I don’t need to. I ate something like this in Hawaii once. THEY PUT BEANS IN THE SHAVE ICE. No kid wants that. What the fucking fuck. You can’t do that, putting some savory dinner item into dessert threatens the order of nature. If you’re going to put beans onto a snow cone, where do we draw the line? Why not sprinkle an ice cream sundae with corn? Won’t someone think of the children?

Rating: 5 disappointed children out of 10

Din Tai Fung is located at 163 University Village

No reservations. For inquiries or pickup orders call 206-525-0958

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 on Urbanspoon