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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Tea for two

When we first visited Seattle back in 2003, we realized that all of the restaurants where we ate (with the exception of Café Campagne) were of the Asian persuasion. We enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner at Wild Ginger and inoculated my cousin and his friend with first-time sushi at I Love Sushi on Lake Union.

On the last night of our extended-weekend visit, we struggled to find the perfect dinner for our final Seattle meal. We didn’t have a car, so we walked the downtown streets, searching for any place that looked halfway decent. It was already dark, and it was starting to rain. We were still several blocks from our hotel, and I was getting a little worried that we were entering a sketchy neighborhood behind Pike Place Market.

And then we saw it, like a beacon upon stormy seas. The neon-lit sign read “Typhoon!” Was it a coincidence that it was starting to rain really hard? We looked inside and saw a warm and welcoming Thai restaurant. Why not end our Seattle trip with yet another Asian meal?

Typhoon! boasted typical Thai fare – spicy curries and noodles – but what was most impressive was their EXTENSIVE tea menu. And when I say extensive, I mean there are hundreds of tea concoctions in which to enjoy. In a way, it’s a tad overwhelming that the tea menu is bigger than the food menu. And each tea comes served loose leaf in its own cast-iron pot, artfully steeped to perfection.

I fell in love with that tea. Heck, I fell in love with Seattle that weekend.

When we moved here in July, I said that I really wanted to go back to Typhoon! some time, just for the sake of the tea. With a New Year looming ahead last night, we decided it was time to return. And the place was just like I remembered. Warm and welcoming, no reservation required, even on New Year’s Eve. It’s as if Typhoon! is a secret place, tucked away beneath the market, and only a handful of locals are privy to its romantic atmosphere.

Right away, we started perusing the tea menu. The tea is broken out into different categories, like green and black, and each one is priced differently. There is even one tea priced at $16. I wondered out loud if perhaps this particular tea concoction made a man more virile or a woman younger looking. Rather than lament over the tea choices, I picked the first one that stood out to me – the Japanese cherry. Roth opted for the Japanese tangerine.

Our server brought the tea and explained that it still needed to steep for a couple minutes, but to remove the tea filter soon to avoid bitterness. I poured a little sample and breathed in the warm aromatic cherry sweetness. It was still a little light, but my tea was nearly ready. Roth removed his tea filter pronto and poured a full cup. The tangerine was strong, and the tea was dark. He pointed out the bits of tangerine zest in the filter.
Typhoon teapot Typhoon tea filter
We started off dinner with one of our favorite Thai soups – tom kha gai, or creamy chicken coconut soup with straw mushrooms, lemongrass, lime juice and chili. Another variation on the famous soup is called tom yum goong, which is a clear broth soup similarly seasoned with shrimp. Oftentimes, we choose the clear broth version, but decided to splurge with the coconut variety.
Typhoon coconut soup
I spooned up a small bowl, let the creamy coconut dance on my tongue and closed my eyes. It was perfectly spicy, but without the undesirable chunks of ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, which most Thai restaurants leave in the bowl. If I fell in love with the tea on my first visit to Typhoon!, then I fell in love with the tom kha gai this time ‘round.

Typically when we order Thai food, I almost always have green curry while Roth almost always has phad thai noodles. I remembered having those dishes on our last visit, so we decided to try something new. I ordered the King’s curry, or “seriously spicy down-home funky Thai dry red curry and green beans with chicken.” Roth settled on the drunken noodles, or “Thai no-nonsense spicy rice noodles with veggies, chicken and shrimp.”

The presentation on the drunken noodles was absolutely gorgeous, featuring a crispy wonton and a blossomed carrot. The King’s curry dish was simpler, doting on the abundance of green beans yet also displaying a carrot blossom. I was expecting the curry to be soupier, but it was definitely “drier,” as described on the menu. Accompanying the curry was an overflowing bowl of Jasmine rice.
Typhoon drunken noodles Typhoon king curry
Both entrees were good, and we gobbled them up rather quickly, but they weren’t nearly as impressive as the tom kha gai or the extensive tea menu. Unfortunately, Roth’s tea turned a tad bitter, as the server predicted it would, even though he removed his tea filter before I did. Despite the bitterness, Typhoon! will forever remain in our hearts as one of our favorite Thai restaurants, for the soup and for the tea. And for the memories.

Typhoon signage
1400 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Red, kitsch and Blue

What is this? Are your eyes deceiving you? Yep, it’s a new post! Did you think we forgot about the month of December over here at Emerald City Eats? Um, no. It’s just been a crazyhecticbusy season, and well, to be honest, we haven’t eaten anywhere that great over the last few weeks to warrant a new post.

Both of us had the entire week between Christmas and New Years off, so we actually had time (and a little extra cash) to go out to eat a few times. You’re about to get TWO reviews in one, with more on the way after tonight.

First up is the Forecasters Public House at the Red Hook Ale Brewery in Woodinville. Roth visited the brewery several weeks ago for a food technology conference. He noticed that the restaurant was packed on a Tuesday night and thought it would be worth a trip back to check out the food. And of course, drink some beer, too.

We had to wait awhile for a table, which was to be expected on a Friday night. Rather than start drinking at the bar before being seated, we decided to wait. Once we were seated, I pointed out the six-beer sampler. For only $5, you get to try six Red Hook brews, including ESB, IPA, Blonde, Chinook Copper, Porter and the seasonal Winterhook.
Red Hook sampler
Roth was impressed with the size of the sample glasses for such a cheap price. I ordered a pint of the Blonde, but I also enjoyed the light taste of the Chinook Copper.

The menu was fairly typical of a brewery eatery – lots of burgers and sandwiches. Right away we spotted one of the untraditional items – hummus with warm pita bread – and decided to try it was an appetizer. It came served with a heaping pile of marinated green and black Moroccan olives, one of Roth’s favorite treats. The hummus was traditional in flavor, creamy with a hint of tahini.

For dinner, I decided on the Italian chicken sandwich. Roth opted for the spicy marinated ribeye steak. Both entrees came rather quickly, and both had decent presentation.
Red Hook italian chicken sando Red Hook ribeye
My sandwich was served open faced on thick ciabatta bread, with melted provolone, marinated bell pepper strips and pesto sauce. Crispy potato chips, pasta salad and seasonal fruit were served on the side. Roth’s steak was char-grilled and served on a bed of white Jasmine rice with sautéed seasonal veggies on the side. The steak was marinated in soy, balsamic, cerrano chili and cilantro.

I was little overwhelmed by the amount of bread on my sandwich, so I decided to eat it using a knife and fork and omitted the top slice. I wasn’t impressed with the seasonal fruit on the side, which was just one slice of pale watermelon and an orange wedge. I should have asked for a green salad over the chips and pasta salad, which were fine, but didn’t serve the flavor of the sandwich well.

Roth’s steak seemed to be overmarinated and almost too tender, as if it had been soaking in the Thai-inspired juices a tad too long. He thought that perhaps the restaurant doesn’t sell a lot of steaks, seeing as burgers and nachos reigned supreme on the menu.

After we ate, we noticed that the restaurant and accompanying bar was starting to fill up with many large groups. I commented that the restaurant seemed to be a great place just for that – large groups of people who want to socialize, drink beer and enjoy a few appetizers. It’s not the kind of place for a quiet or romantic dinner. The food and the service were marginal, at best. However, we were impressed with the beer.

But not enough to ever make the trek back up to Woodinville.

Forecasters Public House
Red Hook Ale Brewery
14300 NE 145th Street
Woodinville, WA


We had wanted to try Blue C Sushi for months, ever since we first heard about it from Stace when we moved to Seattle. The idea of a sushi conveyor belt sounded too good to be true, and yet I saw it with my own eyes the few times we walked by the Fremont location. After some shopping today, we decided to try it for lunch in the University Village.

Right away, we were seated in a booth. I was a bit overwhelmed by the conveyor belt featuring all kinds of Japanese treats, just whirring by our heads. We got a quick tutorial on how it all worked – see the dish you want, grab it, eat it, and stack the empty plates at the end of the table. Plates are color-coded with the different prices, ranging from $1.50 to $4 each. At the end of the meal, press the button at the head of the table and check out.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

We started with some steamed, salty edamame and cold, spicy noodles.
Blue C noodles edamame
Next, we grabbed unagi, or barbecued eel. I snagged tempura vegetables (featuring green beans, zucchini, and carrot) and a tempura shrimp roll. Roth picked up a soft-shell crab spider roll. Before we knew what had happened, we had quite the feast on the table. We washed all of it down with green and Jasmine tea.
Blue C eel
I was quite impressed with the conveyor belt operation, and attempted to snap a few shots of the sushi treats rushing by our table. All of a sudden, the manager came by and asked me to stop taking pictures. Taken aback, I apologized and put away the camera.

But then I felt a little angry. Why would they care if I took pictures of the restaurant? What they have there is quite gimmicky, and I’m sure I’m not the only patron who has tried to capture the restaurant’s kitschy quality. Of course, I didn’t tell him that I was planning to review the place on my blog, but still. I was miffed.

Before the manager had squashed my picture taking, I was able to get in a few shots. I noticed that kids were absolutely fascinated by the conveyor belt. I watched them watching in awe the lineup of food circulating around the dining room, and it made me smile.
Blue C kids
Overall, the quality of the sushi and rolls was adequate. The restaurant was busy enough that the dishes were constantly being replaced with new and therefore seemed fairly fresh. For a quick lunch, Blue C is perfect. Walk in, sit down at the bar, grab a couple plates, enjoy, pay and leave. It’s probably not the most authentic way to enjoy Japanese food, but it’s quick and decent for the price.

Blue C signage
Blue C Sushi
4601 26th Avenue NE
Seattle, WA
3411 Fremont Avenue North
Seattle, WA

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The afterburn, it hurts so good

I knew we’d get at least one post up during the month of November, even though I had grandiose plans of going to a bunch of the 25 for $25 restaurants. We haven’t been to a single one yet, and with only a handful of days left in the month, I doubt we will make it. I did try to make reservations at a couple of the participating restaurants one night, but ultimately got shot done by the rude hostesses on the other end of the line. It was like they were saying to me, “how dare ye try to make a reservation on the same day, you bloody newbie.” OK, so they weren’t pirates, or British, but seriously, it was early in the day on a Thursday. But, I guess we’re not in San Luis Obispo anymore, eh?

Fast forward a week to Thanksgiving, the ultimate day for eating and gluttony and all that crap. How would we spend it here in Seattle? Our first year married, our first year in Seattle – our first year all by our lone selves. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. It was kind of nice, being able to leisurely make pumpkin pies and pumpkin cheesecake while still in pajamas. Not feeling like we had to rush off to my parents, or join the masses on the roads to make it in time for turkey at Roth’s parents in Sonora. We cooked a turkey and all the traditional fare here at our new home. And just enjoyed being together. Christmas will be different, as my mom and stepdad are driving up from California. It will be a tad more hectic, perhaps.

On Friday, I got over my irrational fear of eating leftovers and finished off the T-giving mashed potatoes. Roth ate more turkey and stuffing. This was around 2 p.m. A couple hours later, when the thought of warming up more leftovers for dinner popped into my head, I pushed it away, turned to Roth, and said, “I want Mexican food.” I wanted something to eat that was totally different than the heavy comfort foods we had been noshing on for two days. I wanted my senses to come alive with the flavors of the Southwest. I wanted my mouth to burn and my eyes to water while eating habanero-infused sauces.

OK, I wasn’t thinking all of these things exactly as we headed over to Matador in Ballard. All I was thinking was that I wanted something different. And different is definitely what we got at Matador. Upon entering the trendy corner restaurant, guests must walk through a red, cape-like curtain to find the hostess. How very apropos for a restaurant called Matador, eh? We were given the standard “20 minutes” for a table. There was no room at the bar or the fireplace, so we waited outside. A few minutes later, the hostess came out to let us know that some seats at the bar had opened up, if we wanted to wait there.

At the bar, we were greeted with an expansive wall of all kinds of tequilas. Roth ordered his standard drink, a Hefeweizen, while I went for the Matador Margarita, like a traditional margarita only with a splash of cranberry and orange for zing. We waited a little while longer and were finally seated next to the window. I had been longing for a booth against the opposite wall, but c’est la vie.

We decided to get an appetizer – Tex-Mex spring rolls – which was interesting. It came with two dipping sauces, one was an avocado-sour cream blend, which was refreshing and went well with the fried rolls, and one was sweet chile sesame, which was kind of odd when paired with the chicken and black beans. The fusion of distinctly different flavors, like Tex-Mex and Asian, seems to be pretty popular these days. But it didn’t really work in this particular appetizer.

After the margarita, I decided to try their mojito. This would be my third mojito ever, and I was hoping it would be good. I had watched the bartender make one a few minutes earlier, violently mottling the mint with a wooden stick that looked more like a mini baseball bat. My drink arrived with a small straw, which was much more conducive for avoiding the mint-up-the-straw-and subsequent-bitter-taste experience from the last mojito. I still can’t say that I’ve had a fabulous mojito, but maybe mojitos aren’t that great after all. Something to ponder.
Matador mojito
Moving on the entrees … I ordered the blackened white fish tacos while Roth opted for the habanero enchiladas. We both were torn between these two dishes, so we figured we’d split the different and share with each other. After copious amounts of chips and tasty salsa, our entrees arrived.

Mine – two corn tortillas filled with blackened white fish, guajillo-ancho sauce, sour cream and pico de gallo – was fantastic. I’ve had fish tacos in the past that were mushy or too fishy. These were the perfect blend of spiciness and sweetness, with a little fresh crunch of cabbage and pico. And the blackened fish, as opposed to batter-fried or grilled, was a nice touch. Really made the dish.
Matador tacos
Roth’s dish – two shredded chicken enchiladas topped with cilantro, Monterey jack cheese and habanero red sauce – was also fabulous. But be warned if you decide to order this entrée: they aren’t kiddin’ when they describe it on the menu as “hot, hot, hot!!” Now, I claim to enjoy foods that induce a little bit of eyebrow sweating, but these enchiladas were downright painful. But in a good way. After the first bite, which solicited the frantic gulping of water, I still went back for more. I’m a little masochistic at times. When it comes to food. Roth thoroughly enjoyed the enchiladas as well, noting that the sour cream and guacamole served as “coolants” for the spicy-hot-cha-cha-cha of the dish.
Matador enchilada
After finishing our entrees, we both sat back and assessed the place. In the middle of the restaurant is raging fireplace surrounded by a countertop. Good for waiting for a table, or a happy hour drink. Speaking of happy hour, we took a look at the menu, which featured A TON of $4 appetizers. $4 for shrimp tacos and spicy nachos and everything else on the starters menu! Definitely worth coming back for the discounted food and drink.

And the ambiance was pleasant, too. A little dark, but overall extremely warm and inviting. When trying a new restaurant, I often wonder if it would pass the test with my dad. He’s a seasoned restaurateur (he doesn’t own a restaurant, but he’s managed plenty and knows what’s good and what’s bad). I think he’d like Matador. And we’ll definitely have to take him there next time he’s in town.

Matador signage
The Matador
Restaurant & Tequila Bar
2221 NW Market Street
Seattle, WA

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola

I had wanted to try Lola for some time now. Several people had either mentioned it by name in casual conversation or straight-up recommended it as the hot and happening place to be. I had even driven by it several times, and thought to myself, “oh yeah, that’s Lola.”

While Lola serves lunch and dinner, boasting a Greek-inspired menu consisting of delectable-sounding items such as dolmades with lemony rice and cumin-spiced leg of lamb (and some not-so-delectable-sounding items such as lamb tongue kabobs and braised octopus and pork belly – not my cup ‘o tea), they also cater to the morning crowd with breakfast during the week and brunch on weekends. We went the Sunday brunch route this time ‘round.

Lola’s dining room is filled with tall booths, making for an intimate dining experience, especially during the evenings, I would imagine. On Sunday morning, it was nice to have our own little nook in which to ruminate over the Lola menu and warm, fall décor. I started with a latte; Roth ordered coffee (they serve Starbucks). Several minutes went by, and finally our waiter returned, apologizing for the wait. Apparently, they had to search high and low for espresso beans for my latte. Interesting, seeing as they list lattes and cappuccinos on the menu – am I the only one who has actually ordered espresso in weeks, or something?
Lola brew
We moved on to the food selection part of the dining process. As usual, I played it safe, and opted for the “Lola breakfast,” or eggs served any style, choice of pork-maple sausage or smoked bacon, smashed garlic fried potatoes and toast. My preferences: scrambled and bacon. Roth ordered the “Greek scramble,” or eggs scrambled with tomatoes, feta, garlic, and oregano and bacon, potatoes and toast (a la my dish). Other choices that piqued our interest were the made-to-order doughnuts and jam with vanilla marscapone and the chocolate pecan streusel coffeecake – we seriously considered ordering one of them, just for the sake of the review, but changed our minds, just for the sake of our waistlines.

Both of our entrees were served atop clean, white plates emblazoned with the simple Lola logo on the edge. The only garnish was a small, halved strawberry fig, something I had never seen before. The food was tasty, especially the smoked bacon, which was cooked to perfection – not crunchy, yet still chewy. The smashed garlic fried potatoes were also yummy, though a tad bit greasy for my taste. The Greek scramble’s generous amount of feta cheese and fresh oregano nicely complemented the dish.
Lola bfast Lola greek
When all was said and done, we both agreed that Lola puts on a nice brunch menu – plenty of diverse and eclectic offerings for just about anyone. However, as far as brunches go, it wasn’t spectacular. The service was fine, the ambiance was nice and the food tasted good. But it just lacked that certain something to keep us coming back for more. And brunch wasn't cheap - with tip, we plopped down $40! I would almost bet money, though, that dining at Lola for lunch or dinner would make for an entirely different experience altogether. Perhaps scrambled eggs and toast just doesn’t make for an exotic restaurant review.

With Twenty-Five for $25 Dine Around Seattle picking back up again in November, we will definitely be partaking in some of the participants’ prix-fixe dinners for the sake of keeping the blog content fresh and interesting (and to further expand our culinary horizons as well). More to come in November!

Lola close
2000 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Post much?

Gah. We're never gonna get this blog up and running if we don't actually post anything! But with mom in town last weekend (most of our meals consisted of Roth's home cooking because my mom has missed it so much) and being really busy at work, we just haven't had time to make it to any new and exciting restaurants. I suppose we could've written about that awesome bacon burger from Rusty's we had in Cashmere, but then I forgot to take pictures. Urgh.

But with no concrete plans for this weekend, we will definitely try to hit up one of the places that have so kindly been suggested to us in the comments section.

Please stay tuned!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

To put it gingerly, it was my birthday

It’s probably totally subjective of us to keep choosing familiar and safe restaurants in which to review. Places we know we’ll like. But, it was my birthday weekend, and I wanted Wild Ginger again (this was another one of the restaurants we ate at when we first visited here in 2003).

Wild Ginger is touted as an “Asian restaurant and satay bar.” Basically, it’s a trendy bistro with an upstairs lounge, downstairs bar, and intimate tables where one can dine on Asian-infused appetizers and entrees. They also boast a large wine menu, with prices ranging from $30 and onwards for a bottle. Much of the menu features Thai-influenced favors, which Roth and I particularly love. So, we decided to splurge again, seeing as it was my birthday and all.

As an aside, Roth called to make a reservation earlier in the afternoon, and experienced the following conversation:

Roth: Yeah, hi, can I make a reservation for tonight?
Wild Ginger: For what time?
Roth: How about 7?
WG: We have tables available before 5 or after 10.
Roth: Hmm. OK. I think we’ll just come in and wait.

I guess if we wanted breakfast or a midnight snack, we could get a reservation at Wild Ginger. And why didn’t the person on the other end of the phone just tell Roth straight away that there were not any reservations available between 5 and 10 and save Roth the embarrassment? Curious.

At any rate, we headed downtown around 6, figuring we’d end up waiting about an hour anyway. We put in our name and made our way to the bar, which was already packed. Luckily we snagged a small table just as another couple was leaving and settled in for the long haul.

We each ordered a glass of wine – riesling for me and merlot for Roth – and two different appetizers – chicken pot stickers with soy dipping sauce and fresh vegetable spring rolls with pineapple dipping sauce.
wild ginger red wine wild ginger white winewild ginger potstickers
We ripped through the tasty appetizers in a matter of minutes, all the while watching other groups of people clamoring for tables or space at the bar. As we waited for our table, we experimented with the low lighting in the bar, which produced some interesting photographic effects.
wild ginger trippy jen
Finally, our table for two was ready, and it took about an hour on the dot. We were positioned right in the corner of the main dining room, which overlooked the bustling corner of Third and Union.
wild ginger roth wild ginger jen
Even though we had decided before coming to the restaurant that we wouldn’t order a bottle of wine (to save a few bucks), we ended up with a bottle of pinot noir anyway (that’s what having one glass of wine at the bar will do to a girl!). In an attempt to broaden our horizons a bit, we usually opt for a non-California wine. This time we went with, appropriately, Broadley Vineyards, located in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The pinot noir was quite delightfully mild, and ended up nicely complimenting our food choices.
wild ginger wine
I decided upon the Panang Beef Curry, or tender strips of steak with a spicy and basil-infused green curry sauce. Roth ordered the Sambal Prawns, or spicy lemongrass-coconut shrimp. After having seen several other parties with a plate of green beans, we also decided to order a side of the Mongolian Green Beans, which are served al dente with diced pork and soy.
wild ginger beef curry
The entrees are served up family style, with a large bowl of white and/or brown rice, and can be halved for a smaller (and cheaper) meal. We ordered the full entrees and shared with each other, ending up with plenty of food. This was fine, because we loved everything about the meal, especially the crispy green beans and beef curry. The prawns were good, too, but the beef was extremely tender and the green beans were perfectly spicy and al dente.

It’s easy to see why Wild Ginger is so popular. It’s definitely worth the wait, and worth the splurge, especially for a special occasion. Like my birthday.

Did I mention it was my birthday?

wild ginger signage
Wild Ginger
1401 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Jamaican me pay for the monorail

In lieu of a weekend restaurant review because we just had to shell out $170 to register my car with Washington plates – $79 of which goes to the monorail tax, which how cool would it be if there was actually a Disneyland-esque monorail in the works, but really, it all seems like a fantastical pipe dream at this point and I could really use that cash to, say, go out to eat somewhere really cool and actually have something to write about here – we’re giving you a recipe review.

I happened upon this concoction a couple years ago in search for the ultimate chili recipe. I grew up eating my dad’s super yummy and spicy chili, and sometimes, I just crave a steaming bowl of meat and beans with a side of fluffy corn bread. An initial search on allrecipes.com turned up hundreds of recipes claiming to be the best. But one stood out from them all.

It’s called Jamaican Me Crazy Chili, and let me tell you, it sure is fun to make, with all the chopping and sauteeing and simmering. We found ourselves singing and dancing around the kitchen. It was c-ra-zee! OK, maybe it wasn't that fun. But Roth and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making the chili on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Roth is always in charge of finely dicing the onion for just about any dish we’re preparing. His knife skills are far superior to mine. Plus, the santoku-style knife is kind of intimidating.
Chili onions
The recipe calls for yellow bell peppers only. To add some additional color, I usually throw in a red bell and for some heat, one jalapeno.
Chili peppers
Once all the ingredients were prepared, also known as mis en place, thus began my favorite part of the process -- the sauteeing and the simmering!
Chili saute 1 chili saute 2chili saute 3
In addition to the homemade chili, we decided to properly test our KitchenAid mixer, one of the cooler gifts we got for our wedding, by making some wheat bread rolls to accompany the chili.
Chili bread
At long last, dinner was served – the chili atop jasmine rice with a sprinkling of freshly copped cilantro and a healthy dollop of sour cream. What makes this chili unique from any other chili I’ve had are the spices – hot paprika, cumin, chili poweder, ground cloves – and a hint of sweetness, from the mild bell peppers and a dash of white sugar.
Chili bowl

Next week, we promise to venture out for an actual restaurant review, as Thursday is my birthday, and most likely, we will hit up somewhere special for the occasion. Taking suggestions for hip and happening places now …