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Archive for September, 2012

Working on Capitol Hill, there’s never a shortage of places to go for lunch. On this day, I went with the newly opened, Pot Belly Sandwich Shop. Pot Belly offers toasted sandwiches with locations all over the country – there are five Western Washington. It very busy when I stepped in, the tables were full and there was a long line of patrons waiting to order. I was immediately greeted by an employee who took my order energetically on an iPad. Behind the sandwich counter is squadron of employees all with varying tasks. Some making the sandwiches, others prepping and making their hand-dipped milk shakes, and at the end, a group taking payment. Once I got up to the counter, a designated worker greeted me again, confirmed my order, and directed me to one of the “stations” to pay. It almost seemed like I was getting ready to ride a rollercoaster with him saying, “Head right on down to station 3, so-and-so will ring you up!”

entrance from madison

 the beginning of the line

 

happy employee

 

 

The Food:

the wreck: salami, roast beef, turkey, ham & swiss cheese  with  all the toppings (minus mayo and oil) $4.80

For under $5, their six-inch subs are reasonably priced lunch option for someone on the go. They would be even more reasonable if they put more meat in the sandwich. Despite having a nice variety of meat, there was only one slice per, and a lot of bread. Their meat:bread ratio doesn’t work well for me, especially since I’m trying to cut back on my carbs… Nevertheless, the sandwich was tasty and the bread was toasted just enough to make each bite warm but not to the point where it’s cracking apart in pieces. The veggies were fresh and crispy, but the element that made this sandwich was the hot peppers. They carried a nice heat that gave this otherwise ordinary sandwich some pep!

My Conclusion:

If it wasn’t for the tasty hot peppers, these minimally meat filled sandwiches would be average at best. I attest the busy lunch hours to the fact that they’re still newly opened, otherwise you can find better from the other dozen or so sandwich shops in and around Capitol Hill. I don’t normally review or post about chains, but I tend to write my intros after I write my food review – so it was only then did I find out they were a chain… c’est la vie.

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Cherry and I returned to Thai Fusion Bistro the other night before a movie screening we were about to catch. You can read a more detailed review from our previous visit here. On this visit, we opted for a quicker meal – sharing an entree and appetizer.

The Food:

fresh spring rolls: lettuce, chicken, shrimps, basil, and cilantro freshly rolled in rice paper with peanut sauce $5.95

 My initial impression when they served our spring rolls was, “…nice presentation?” The boat shaped plate was too big for dish and the sparsely added carrots and red cabbage made the plate look messy. I also noticed that some of the wrappers were tearing and the lettuce was bulging through. The small amount of chicken, which was thickly wrapped in lettuce, was dry and flavorless. There was a half piece of shrimp also in there but was overshadowed by all the lettuce! The only saving grace was the peanut sauce which added rich flavor and helped counter all the dry ingredients.

 

chicken spicy basil: chicken breast, sautéed basil, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms in chili sauce $ 9.95

 This dish was more appealing to look at. Not only did the colors of the bell peppers and basil pop, the flavors were just as vibrant. Basil brings a very bright flavor that works well with the onions, mushrooms and the chili sauce. The chicken breast was plentiful but  relied on the chili sauce and basil to make it come alive. Everything was stir-fried nicely and this dish went well with the rice we had on the side.

 

My Conclusion:

 I am a little torn about my second dining experience here. On one hand, they completely dropped the ball on the fresh spring rolls but made up for it with a nicely prepared spicy basil dish. I am still holding true to my first post in saying this, Thai Fusion Bistro is a convenient spot to catch dinner – just stick with the stir fry dishes.

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On the never-ending quest to find the best barbeque, a friend of ours highly recommended a local spot just a few minutes away from my job. The Barbeque Pit is located smack in the middle of a residential street, on 26th and E Cherry in the Central District. My initial impression walking towards this small brick building, was hole in the wall. There’s a huge black sign with flames decorating the exterior and some hand carved wood tables and stools on the outside. Stepping in, I was immediately hit by the pungent aroma of the sweet barbeque. Word on the street is that the Barbeque Pit is the only spot in Seattle to use real cherry wood in their smoker. The next thing I noticed inside – soul. Hanging on the walls are old pictures and posters of Mohammed Ali, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. There aren’t many seats inside – literally a long narrow hallway with a few tables in the back and about 8 stools along the wall.

the barbeque pit

menu & counter

 

classics

pookie’s truth about barbeque

 

 

 The Food:

 

1 lb. of pork rib tips $8

mt. ribtips

As I picked up my food to go, the man behind the counter (I regret not getting his name) said, “I upgraded your tips for ya!” It took me a minute to process what that meant, but once we sat down and opened our meal, it all made sense. Our 1-pound of rib tips magically transformed into almost 3-pounds of meaty delight! There was a mountainous pile of rib tips that could easily satisfy a family of four. Each piece was large, full of smoky flavor and nice texture from the charred outer layer. The sauce they used has a nice rich balance of sweet and tangy flavors with a deceptively spicy kick that creeps up on you.

 

beef brisket dinner with greens & potato salad $12.50

The brisket dinner was equally filling and just as delicious. You get your choice of two sides with a dinner meal – I opted for the greens and potato salad. This was my first time having greens, whichI thoroughly enjoyed. They were cooked enough to take out the bitterness and had some nice heat from the chili peppers they were cooked with. The texture reminded me of blanched spinach. The potato salad had a creamy yet light texture – it wasn’t too salty which works well with the rest of the plate. Now, on to the meat of the dish, the brisket. It was covered in their delicious barbeque sauce so I couldn’t see what was going on until I scraped open a chunk of brisket, and once I did was pleased. The brisket was smoked to perfection and extremely, it looked like pulled beef. (I’m almost certain this is what they use for their pulled beef sandwiches.) Like the rib tips, these carried a bold smoky flavor that you could taste through the rich barbeque sauce. I’m a big guy who can put down my share of food, but this dinner was even too much for me to handle!

My Conclusion:

Good barbeque is hard to find in Seattle, let alone great barbeque. Cherry is always after the perfect Black People’s barbeque and we may have found it here at the Barbeque Pit. On my way out, I told the guy at the counter to, “Keep doing what you’re doing, this is some delicious barbeque!” He graciously thanked me and I was on my way… only to plan out my next meal there!

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Cherry and I had some time to kill before a movie we were about to watch in Lower Queen Anne. Since we were hungry, it only made sense to hit up one of the nearby restaurants for happy hour. Located in a prime location of Seattle off Queen Anne Ave and Mercer St, Toulouse Petit is a trendy New Orleans style restaurant offering foods from the French Quarter. The interior is lit by a combination of candles and natural light from the large windows on the eastern wall. There’s a large bar lined with a plethora of wines and spirits, needless to say whatever your drink of choice is, they have you covered. Being “One of the Top 10 Best Happy Hours in the Nation” is a mighty claim and a hypothesis I will attempt to test.

pick your poison

The Food:

 

 

fried chicken gumbo $5

Cherry ordered the gumbo and there’s no question it was good because she only gave me one bite! From that bite however, I was able to taste the extremely rich and savory flavor of the roux. The fried chicken was almost like a popcorn chicken – breaded and fried pieces atop that provided great bite and crunch. I did get a piece of andouille sausage in my one bite and it was full of flavorful and had a present but not overpowering spice. I was only able taste those three elements from my bite, so unfortunately my data will require a larger sample – which I will happily oblige.

 

 

fried okra with creole remoulade $4

I only have two experiences with okra, neither of which involved me consuming it. The first is when I worked as a youlth counselor in a group home. It was frozen and cooked in a pot with salt and pepper. All I saw was green pieces of slimy mucous – not very appetizing. The second is with the Filipino dish, Pinakbet. Pinakbet is essentially a vegetable stew flavored by bagoong – again not the most visually appetizing dish. When trying okra for the first time, having it breaded and deep fried is a safe way to go. I wasn’t able to escape the slimy inside, but the breading helped counter with a crunchy texture. There was a slight bitterness to it but the creamy sweetness of creole remoulade really made it an enjoyable bite. When I’ve talked to friends and family about okra, I’ve found two camps; you love it or you hate it. If it’s breaded and deep fried…  I don’t mind it.

 

 

fried green tomatoes with remoulade $4

The breading used for the green tomatoes is the same as the okra – and it works well. The green tomato, which has a milder flavor and firmer texture than a red tomato and reminds like a cucumber slice but with a more subdued flavor. Despite sitting on a spread of remoulade and having a tomato slice in the breading, it maintained integrity and crunch through the whole meal. Each bite was pleasant, providing good crunch and texture.

 

tomba tuna tartare with horseradish-truffle vinaigrette $7

Tartare reminds me of an ahi poke, minus the shoyu and chopped into smaller pieces. The tuna tasted fresh and the seasonsing highlighted the flavor of the tuna, while the raw quail egg added a rich and creamy texture and flavor to the spread. The crostini provided excellent crunch with the spread and made each bite delectable. Overall, all the elements in this delicious dish were both beautifully prepared and plated.

barbequed shrimp $6

This dish was an impulse order. Cherry was in the mood for some shrimp and chose the barbequed shrimp new orleans. It was served in a small skillet with five shrimp and a side of grits. The shrimp were well prepared, big, and the flavors went wonderfully with the rich and creamy grits. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce that was drizzled over the shrimp. It carried a sweetness that took away from the rich flavors of the shrimp and grits. Cherry, who prefers sweet over savory, enjoyed it.  I think a spicy sauce would have given the dish the umph it was lacking for me.

 

 

sazerac: rye whiskey, pernod absinthe, bitters, sugar $7.5

It had rich woody flavors from the oak but it was balanced well by the sours and sugar. I was excited to be trying absinthe for the first time because of all things I’ve heard about it having been banned in the US another other things… Sadly though, I’ve never had absinthe by itself, so I don’t have a reference to make out the flavor… and even more sadly I didn’t experience psychoactive effects. Nevertheless, it is strong drink! Be careful ordering more than one.

 

 

discovering disneyland

My Conclusion:

When you step into a restaurant that is regionally or ethnically influenced, you will inevitably try new things. Today was one of those days – it was my first time trying okra, fried green tomatoes, tartare, grits, and absinthe. I have just experienced an epiphany! Toulouse Petit has officially erased my preconceptions of happy hour and opened my eyes to a world beyond burgers, chicken wings, and nachos – which I’m not knocking, because I love those too! It’s like the feeling you get as a kid,  your only experience of an amusement park is from the local fair or carnival… then you go to Disneyland for the first time. Yeah… it was like that. But let me come down from cloud 9 and end this post with my with my conclusion. At this point, my research sample isn’t big enough for me to place Toulouse Petit in a National Top 10, however my personal analysis concludes in saying their happy hour is like being at the Happiest Place on Earth! To strengthen my claim, I will require further testing which includes a more thorough and frequent analysis.

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On any given day, if you asked Cherry or I what we were in the mood for, nine times out of ten we would respond with, “Pho!” If you’re reading this and asking yourself, “What is pho?” … well that wouldn’t be possible, because there’s no way you have access to a computer from the rock you’re living under! Over the years, Cherry and I have had Pho in countless spots – literally from Bellingham down to Federal Way, but only one business stands out and far ahead of the pack, Than Bros. There are 14 different locations in Western Washington and having been to seven of them, I am confident in saying, they are each equally delicious. You won’t find fancy decorations or even a big menu here – they only serve two things; pho and cream puffs, both of which according to their website, are secret family recipes.

The Food:

complimentary cream puffs

Each patron receives a complimentary cream puff which are always made fresh and very delicious. The pastry portion always has a nice balance of firm outside and marshmallow-like softness in the middle. As soon as you bite in, you’re hit with the creamy and custard-like  sweet filing. These cream puffs are great in that they’re not too sweet – just enough to leave you craving for more. If one isn’t enough, you can buy them: 3 for $1.50

 

all the necessities: bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, basil, lime slice

 

medium number 8 chin sach: brisket & tripe $6.25

 

my pyramid  of beansprouts

I always order the number 8 which includes brisket and tripe. I love their brisket, which in my opinion, is more tender and carries a little more flavor than the cuts served. For those texturally courageous enough to try it, tripe is delicious.  It has a chewy texture and carries a very subtle salty beef flavor that works great with the rest of the ingredients. Now to the main focus of any pho restaurant (also my judging criteria), the quality and flavor of their beef broth. Compared to the other spots we’ve tried, Than Bros, hands down, always has the most flavorful and savory broth. It is full of rich beef flavor from the beef bones and other seasonings that go into it. The rest of the ingredients (onions, basil, green onions, bean sprouts & lime slice) all combine to provide happiness in a bowl! Crunch from the bean sprouts, bright and sharp flavors from the basil and onions and a contering tartness from the lime juice… I’m craving a bowl as I read/write this! A subtle but important thing worth noting is the temperature at which they serve their pho. You may be wondering, “…temperature?!” Indeed! Nothing is a bigger let down than a bowl of pho that is barely lukewarm when you’re only 1/3 of the way through. The perfect bowl of pho is hot enough to not only cook the rare meat that is an common choice, but to maintain it’s temperature even to the last drop. Needless to say, Than Bros doesn’t disappoint here either.

my usual sauce spicy/sweet combination: sriracha & hoisen

 

you know it’s good when…

My Conclusion:

Depending on which location you choose, it may look clean and new or like a a rundown hole-in-the-wall, but who goes into a pho restaurant for the décor anyway!? Whether you’re battling the sniffles or craving something hot, flavorful and fulfilling, the pho served at Than Bros will do the trick. Their service is fast – wait times for your food to be served is less than five minutes, and the food is fulfilling. On average, Than Bros is also cheaper than the other pho spots we’ve been too. And lastly, for those with dietary restrictions, they also serve chicken pho and vegetable pho so no on leaves unhappy.

 

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Located in Thornton Place, Thai Fusion Bistro is a newer restaurant in a convenient location for both visitors and residents of this new commercial/residential part of Northgate. Cherry and I stopped in for dinner before a movie and for being 5:45pm, it was pretty empty inside – only a few parties seated aside from us. The interior is darkly decorated with a combination of traditional Thai art on a modern backdrop. As soon as we entered, we were greeted and immediately seated next to the large open window overlooking the courtyard.

view from outside

 view from inside

menu

 

The Food:

chicken pad thai: stir-fried noodle, chicken, egg, ground peanut, fresh bean sprouts, green onion $9.95

Cherry ordered her usual – pad thai 🙂 It had a nice rich flavors of fish sauce and spices as well as a smokiness to each bite. I’ve had pad thai from other places where the sauce seems to have a tomato base – almost like ketchup. However, you can taste the distinct layers of flavors in their sauce – very tasty! The chicken breast was plentiful and the noodles were well cooked – not too soft and not too hard. The carrots, red cabbage and green onions provide nice bright colors that look very appealing.

chicken pad prig khing: sautéed chicken, green beans, onions, bell peppers, basil & prig khing chili paste $9.95

The pad prig khing was delicious. All the ingredients were cooked perfectly with all the vegetables carrying a bright crunch. The varying flavors of the onions, bell peppers and prig khing chili paste all combined to bring deep, bold and savory flavors. The basil was a bright countering flavor to the rest of the dish and worked great. To date, this is one of my favorite Thai dishes I’ve had. Again, with this dish, the red peppers, green beans and basil all provide vibrant colors that pop.

My Conclusion:

Nice spot in a newer part of Northgate for some tasty Thai food. The servers were polite and the establishment is very clean. I’m sure being slow was a major factor at the time, but the service was extremely fast – we waited less than 10-minutes before it was being served on our table!

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Continuing on from my previous post…

After a food-coma inducing lunch, fast forward 5-hours where we meet up with our cousins and hit up the Summer Night Market (not to be confused with Richmond Night Market.) They are open in the summer months from May until September every Friday & Saturday from 7pm – 12am and on Sundays 7pm-11pm. Located in the industrial part of Richmond, right on the banks of the Fraser River is a foodie’s and bazaar lover’s paradise – literally countless booths of both food and goods. You could be eating a plate of BBQ squid while shopping for hand-knit beanies from Ecuador, cell phone covers, socks and jewelry, then turn around  and watch local musicians and performers showcase their talents on the main stage. One year they even had a “Reptile Man” with live snakes, lizards and other reptiles and amphibians on display!

entrance into a foodie’s playland

The Food:

 top wok

chow mein & assorted dim sum $6.50

 

Strictly on portion size to price, the chow mein plate at Top Work is the best deal in the market. You get a gigantic portion of freshly made chow mein and four pieces of fresh dim sum (2 shao mai & 2 xia jiao.) The chow mein is simple and fresh. From a flavor standpoint, nothing fancy just soy sauce and some veggies but the fact that you can see everything being prepared and cooked before you is very appealing. Their dim sum is also tasty and filling. The xia jiao or shrimp dumpling wrappers were perfect – translucent but thick enough to maintain integrity and not break upon picking up. Both the shao mai and xia jiao were flavorful and ample meat filling – much better than some restaurants that specialize in solely dim sum. There’s an option of having “non-spicy” or “spicy” sauce brushed atop before they serve you. I went with “spicy” but it lacked the heat I was looking for, hence the drizzling of Sriracha sauce.

the original hurricane fries

potato preppin’

parmesan garlic/white cheddar  1 for $3 or 2 for $5

 cherry gettin’ ready to chow down 

One of the more visually interesting and appealing things offered here. A hurricane fry is literally a whole potato that’s been skewered and then cranked through, for lack of a better word, spiral looper and then deep fried. You then get a choice of about 15 different flavors of which they dip the outside layer in. The result, a freshly made potato chip that was literally a whole potato five-minutes prior. These hurricane fries are thickly cut and fried perfectly – providing a crunch but also maintaining a soft middle. You can choose two different flavors for each potato, we happened to go with milder white cheddar &  bolder more savory parmesan garlic – which resulted in a delicious combination.

ef . tee

crispy pork belly crepe 1 for $4 or 3 for $10

When I think of a crepe, I think of a light and slightly sweetened batter that is evenly cooked and thin with various fillings wrapped inside. At ef.tee,  they took a different approach using a chinese pancake – slightly thicker and more savory. If you asked me, it looked more like a taco. The filling used was a combination of crispy pork belly, sautéed bean sprouts and a little hoisen sauce underneath. The pork belly was tender and moist while the skin had excellent crunch and provided a great bite. The combination of meat, bean sprouts, and hoisen sauce reminded me of mu shu – immediately being transported back to my my childhood when my grandmother would make it for family dinners. Despite some misleading wordings, the final critics are the taste buds, and these critics were thoroughly pleased.

dan dan’s smokehouse

firin’ it up!

 beef enoki 3 for $3 or 6 for $5

At Dan Dan’s Smokehouse, they were serving a variety of BBQ influenced comfort foods; pulled pork sandwhich, nachos, BBQ turkey legs and beef enoki? Aiming to try something unique and not commonly found, I went with the beef enoki. Enoki mushrooms wrapped in short ribs and grilled on a cast iron plate with a minor amount of BBQ sauce squirted on top as a finishing touch. The beef was cooked perfectly and had a little char on the outside that provided nice texture. The mushrooms were well cooked and provided an additional layer of texture with also a mild crunch. The BBQ was mild and highlighted the main ingredients nicely without overpowering everything. If you ask me, any time you see an Asian man sportin’ a Cowboy hat, you’ll never be disappointed!

happy lemon

“no sugar 100% natural”

 enjoying my lemonade while groovin’ with the band

One of the more overpriced stands at the market, but after an hour or two of walking around and stuffing your face, nothing satisfies like a big cup of ice cold lemonade. At Happy Lemon, they offer five different flavors, and they’re all equally satisfying (I’ve had the strawberry and limeade in the past). The passion fruit flavor, although present was heavily overshadowed by the extreme tartness and sourness from the lemon, which was as subtle as a gong going off during a Church Service. I personally enjoyed it – I love sour/tart candies. Cherry on the other hand, can’t hang so she deferred most of it to me 🙂 One thing I found misleading is how they advertise their lemonades as “sugar free 100% natural.” They must place the huge gallon pump jugs of artificial flavors in an exclusion list.

some bbq skewers: too full to try 😦

sea of hungry patrons

 more booths and more people

view of sunset on the banks of the fraser river

cherry sportin’ a rainbow robbery mask – handmade from ecuador!

My Conclusion:

Summer Night Market has been etched into our summer musts for the last three summers and rightfully so. The food is cheap, selection is vast and the scene is ever growing. Also, the waits for food were surprisingly short – even with the mobs of people bustling all over, each booth manages to get you in and out quickly. Must be that Asian work ethic, eh!? Despite pushing the physical limitations of our stomach to the brim, Cherry and I were unfortunately only able to sample a fraction of what is offered here. If you ever decide to partake in Summer Night Market, you need to bring two things; cash and your appetite!

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