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Archive for October, 2012

If it weren’t for the phenomenon that is social media, I may have never known Pok Pok existed! I happened to stumble upon a picture posted by a celebrity chef on one of his recent visits to the City of Roses. The funny sounding name intrigued me… and the fact that if it’s good enough a Top Chef  Master, then it’s gotta be good enough for me! I looked up the menu and immediately knew we would come here on our future road trip to Portland to see a show. Fast forward a month or so; Cherry and I arrive. Located on a residential street on SE Division Street, Pok Pok is literally a house that’s been converted into a restaurant – offering foods from Northern and Northeastern Thailand. As we walked up, we were greeted by the hostess and seated inside one of two outside dining areas… both of which are enclosed with thick canvas tarps that keep the heat in and the elements out… and located in the driveway. Walking out and to the left, you see a separate small building in front of the garage that appears to have been the kitchen and if you keep walking, you can enter a third dining which is on the ground level of the house. Inside this area is a dimly lit dining floor more seats and tables, a bar in one corner and the bathroom and a bathroom (behind the bar.) Navigating around seems almost like a maze due to the narrow walkways and segregated dining areas.

view off SE Division

 

pok pok

 

seperate kitchen

 

 

The Food:

 

ike’s vietnamese fish sauce wings: fresh natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce & palm sugar and deep fried, then tossed in carmelized Phu Quoc fush sauce and garlic $12.50

These are the best wings I’ve ever had! No joke, my mouth is watering as I write this post. The large wings were perfectly fried, juicy and fell off the bone. The focal point of these wings was the marinade and sauce they were tossed in. Surprisingly, these wings didn’t have a terribly strong fish sauce flavor, but had an incredible depth of flavors that really rang through. We chose the spicy wings, which carried a satisfying heat through each bite. Balancing the heat was the savory and bold flavors of the caramelized fish sauce and garlic, as well as the subtle sweetness from the marinade. My taste buds were through the roof in the midst of these contrasting flavors.

 

hoi thawt: crispy broken crepe with steamed fresh mussels, eggs, garlic, chives and bean sprouts with shark sri racha sauce $12

This dish was tasty on its own, but in comparison to the other two, it was my least favorite of the meal. The crispy crepe had a bright crunch and rich flavor that was accented by the chives and garlic. The egg added a subtle creaminess to the plate and the steamed mussels added a clean yet briny flavor. The Shark sri racha is traditionally found in Thailand and carries a more subtle spice that doesn’t overpower and isn’t as sharp as the Rooster Brand traditionally found in the states. The sauce actually carried a very mild spice but complimented the dish very well.

sii khrong muu yaang: carlton farms baby back ribs marinated in whisky, soy, honey, ginger and Thai spices, slow roasted $12

These baby back ribs were extremely tender and full of flavor. It came with two dipping sauces; a sweet tamarind sauce and a spicy chili sauce – both of which provided nice countering flavors. The flavors of the soy, honey and ginger were very apparent in the meat, but I didn’t get any whisky flavor. I would have liked to see one more rib served… but that’s just my chubby side talking.

 

My Conclusion:

Pok Pok is an excellent restaurant for anyone looking step out of the proverbial box and sample comfort foods and dishes from Thailand. They don’t serve the mainstream staples like Phad Thai or popular curries, but instead offer an authentic selection of dishes in found in the homes and on the streets of Southeast Asia. Oh yeah.. and Pok Pok’s chef owner, Andy Ricker, was the winner of the 2011 James Beard for Best Chef: Northwest … which has to account for something, right?!

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Located on the corner of 1st and Bell in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, Local 360 is a very nice spot for a fresh and hearty meal. The unique thing about this restaurant is that all of their food is sustainable and the majority of it is sourced locally, within 360-miles of Seattle. The interior is quaintly decorated with the wood tables, seats and walls providing a farmhouse sense for guests.

 

anyone speak french?

 

a little wax

 

menu

 

 

The Food:

 

raw oysters $3/each

Only three words to describe these; fresh, clean, delicious! Raw oysters fit perfectly in my foodie philosophy: simplicity is key. The vinaigrette was slightly overpowering for my taste, but still delicious nonetheless.

 

wood grilled pork chop, potato hash, apple gastrique $18

When this dish was served on our table, an immediate smile grew across my face. 360 serves two full chops  that looked like a club Fred Flintstone would swing in his day. These chops were perfectly cooked with a good char and extremely tender. I especially enjoyed the chopped green apples that they cooked with the potato hash, which provided a countering tartness to the savory potatoes. The gastrique sauce, which is a caramelized sugar deglazed with vinegar, had a very rich and sweet flavor – almost like an apple cider glaze. One major critique I did have with this dish was that the pork was way too salty. I love savory flavors, but the saltiness of the meat overpowered this dish and I found myself trying to scrape every last drop of the gastrique sauce on each piece of pork to cut through it. 

 

butcher’s grindhouse burger with cheese & bacon $15

I find myself in an oxymoronic state describing the flavors of the burger as, clean yet full of flavor. Flavorful burgers tend to be associated with a greasy and/or patties with a higher fat contect. Local 360 proves that notion wrong with their grindhouse burger. The meat tastes extremely clean but at the same time you don’t forget you’re eating a burger… if that makes any sense. The rest of the ingredients all contributed to provide one of the better burgers I’ve ever tasted. The bacon was thick, crispy and carried smoky flavor while the cheese contributed a nice richness. The french fries were well cooked and perfectly seasoned with salt. There’s a certain comfort knowing that everything you’re eating is fresh, local and hormone free. Having tasted such an awesome burger here, it will be extremely tough to ever go back to a fast-food burger chain… It’d be like having the best steak you’ve ever had for lunch, then having a frozen dinner steak for dinner.

My Conclusion:

In my book, Local 360’s stock just made a significant jump. The food is prepared well, locally and sustainably sourced, and the prices are very reasonable. Cherry and I are going to add this restaurants to our list of places to revisit and rightly so, since her job is literally across the street! On a related note,  Seattle Restaurant Week is currently in full effect and Local 360 happens to be one of the participating restaurants. You can find their Restaurant Week Menu here.

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Hey everyone! This week is the start of Seattle Restaurant Week. My first experience with Restaurant Week was back in April where I went to Monsoon Seattle. What is it exactly? Well it’s a two-week event where more than 150 of restaurants in and around Seattle offer 3-course lunches for $15 and 3-course dinners for $28! It’s an amazing deal because the majority of these restaurants are on the higher end of dining and there are many fine dining restaurants as well. This is an excellent and very affordable opportunity to try some restaurants outside of the norm and experience some new things!

It runs from Oct. 14-25 (excluding Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Brunch) and you can find the list of participating restaurants here.

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This blog is a few weeks old but it’s ok… because these things don’t spoil 🙂  Seattle Underground Market  (SUM) is an underground event for foodies to come try adventurous new dishes. The unique thing about this event is that all the food is created and prepared by up and coming businesses/restaurants – not yet established. There was a post in a Seattle Weekly blog that referred to it as, “…a food truck rodeo on training wheels…”  There was also an extra sense of exclusivity because the website made very clear that patrons must sign up to be members in order to attend. It felt like I was joining some secret society of underground foodies… kind of like the movie, The Skulls, minus the dreamy Paul Walker and Joshua Jackson. There is a $5 entrance fee and all the bite-sized dishes range from $2 – $5.  After much anticipation, the location of the event was emailed the night before, which turned out to be a secret warehouse in…. Redmond?!

the warehouse

early crowd

The Food:

fresh mung bean salad via bengali gourmet $2

This salad tasted very fresh and had clean flavors. The mung beans themselves carried a dull  and somewhat grainy flavor but the cucumber and tomato really brightened the dish up while also having a subtle bite from the red onion.

mango in spicy habanero sauce via bengali gourmet $2

There were nice countering flavors with the sweet mangos and spicy sauce, but I would have liked it to have a little more heat – especially because habaneros are not to be fooled with!

coffee crusted pork belly, arugula & balsamic aioli sliders via migs 2 for $2

Paying $2 for 2 pork belly sliders sounds like a deal, but after tasting them, the deal wasn’t so great. The pork looked tender before cutting and you can definitely see the coffee crust on the outer layer, but the they only put a miniscule amount of meat in each slider. The pork was flavorless and I couldn’t taste the coffee, leaving me a mouthful of slider bun, arugula and balsamic aioli.

 argentinean empanadas $3 each

Cherry and I bought two empanadas; the beef and the ham & cheese (very Argentinean.) The beef  was flavorful with onions and other seasonings. It almost had a Mediterranean flavor with the olives they put in the filling too. The ham & cheese wasn’t anything special – it tasted like deep fried hot pocket. Unfortunately for others, shortly after our order, they were sold out completely.

chilled noodle salad via noodle street $3

This was one of the more popular stations with a constant line the whole time we were there. It was also one of the better values in my opinion. It’s essentially a vermicelli bowl with your choice of ingredients. We went with chicken and the works (chili-lime vinaigrette, cilantro, green onion, pickled mustard greens, curry sauce, chili peppers and a crispy wonton.) After mixing everything together, the flavors came together nicely. Cherry was skeptical about the curry sauce because she’s not a fan of it… but she enjoyed it and was one of her favorite selections of the night.

seafood stew $2

By the time we got to this station, pickins’ were slim. Everyone at this station was working harder than they needed to. There was a woman scooping rice into the bowl using a regular plastic spoon… the kind you use at a picnic. Nothing wrong with that, but why not use a bigger spoon once rather than 4 little scoops with a small spoon? The man behind the station was literally using a tablespoon-sized ladle as he meticulously ladled about five or six scoops of soup per bowl. Some adjustments in efficiency would be beneficial and make their lives much easier…but I won’t knock how they choose to work. The stew was very flavorful – the roux was rich and all the meat inside was very tender. It had chunks of sausage, chicken, shrimp and even a  piece of crab all over a small bed of rice – it gave flavors of a gumbo but not as thick.

sabich via herbivoracious $3

This was the last station I visited and happened to be a new thing I’ve never heard of; sabich. Sabich is a traditional Israeli sandwich of fried eggplant and hard boiled egg in a pita.  In bite-sized fashion, these were pita triangles with the a slice of eggplant and a slice of hard boiled egg. Along with that, they also topped it with hummus, tahina, and Israeli salad of dill pickle, onion, and pickled mango. This one bite  had extremely fresh flavors. The eggplant, hummus and hard boiled egg all gave a creamy texture that was balanced by crunch and flavors of  the pickled dill and mangos. This was probably my favorite item of the event and it was vegetarian! Who woulda thought…?

My Conclusion:

As it’s debut, SUM did some things well but also has room for improvement. First off, seeing as how it’s called Seattle Underground Market , it would have been nice to have it in Seattle… somewhere… anywhere! But I won’t hold space availability against them. Second, the so-called members only security check consisted of a “yes or no” question. No real check of whether you were in fact a member or not. Not a huge deal to me, but don’t stress the importance of being a “member,” if there isn’t going to be a legitimate check… just sayin’! The last point of improvement and most important, is to make sure there’s enough food to go around! Several booths were sold out just 1-hour into the event, which is good for the seller, not so good for the consumer. As a result, the already long lines grew longer due to the shrinking supply and growing demand. That being said, the things I did enjoy was the variety of foods offered. I was able to try some things that I’ve never had and the event was also vegetarian and vegan friendly. If I recall correctly, the options for vegans and vegetarians was almost equal to the carnivorous options. All in all, SUM is a nice medium with good potential for people looking to get into the food industry scene.

For more info on the upcoming SUM event or how to become a vender, check out their site here.

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If you’re ever on Capitol Hill and looking for a cheap and quick lunch, look no further because Georges’s Sausage & Delicatessen is your spot. Located on Madison Street between Terry and 9th, George’s is a small European Delicatessen offering quality meats, tasty treats and delicious sandwiches. European Deli’s differ from American Deli’s in that they usually carry specialty and higher quality meats. The meats are also usually more expensive. George’s is a very small shop with standing room for about six people. Aside from the deli fridge, mini counter, and a drink cooler in the corner, the walls are filled from floor to ceiling with stuff! From a wall full of European snacks and treats to another wall full of various fixins’, anyone with claustrophobia be advised.

main entrance (slightly hidden)

counter & menu

a few fixins’

european snacks

just some meat

The Food:

corned beef sandwich on wheat with everything $5.45

 I don’t need to tell you that the sandwiches at George’s are the real deal…  just look at the picture! The corned beef was stacked a mile high and full of rich savory flavor. The vegetables are all fresh and crisp – I like how they use both iceberg lettuce on top and a piece of romaine lettuce beneath. The onions, tomato and pickles all join the party to provide the clean and delicious flavors I look for in a well-made sandwich.  The standard cheese they use for the corned beef sandwich is provolone which also works well. If corned beef and provolone aren’t you’re cup of tea, they offer many meats and cheese you can choose from. All the sandwiches are made to order and ready within 5-minutes of ordering.

My Conclusion:

Sandwich chains are fine and abundant, but when you compare a George’s sandwich to say… a Subway sandwich, its like comparing a watermelon to a grape! You’ll never find yourself wondering… Is that all the meat I get?” The only question you’ll be asking is, “Can I get some more napkins?!”

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I first discovered Marination Station long before I started this blog and felt it would be a travesty not to share their delectable offerings. Originally introduced as the food truck serving a fusion of Hawaiian and Korean comfort foods, Marination Mobile’s success and popularity quickly grew, earning an abundance of media recognition including Best food Cart in America by Good Morning America. Enter Marination Station – their “brick and mortar” permanent location off E Pike St and Broadway in Capitol Hill. It is a very small spot having only about six stools along the windows inside, two tables outside and a handful of makeshift standing counters outside for customers eating outside. There’s a fairly eclectic menu consisting of spicy pork tacos, spam sliders, kimchi fried rice and kalua pork quesadillas.

beat the rush 

The Food:

 

kalbi beef tacos $2.25 each

 These tacos are amazing. The kalbi beef, which is wrapped in two warmed corn tortillas,  is perfectly seasoned with a great balance of sweet-savory flavors. On top of the meat is a tangy slaw that provides great crunch and countering textures. Beneath it all, is their signature Nunya Sauce, which brings a creamy spice. My favorite thing about these tacos is the pickled jalapenos they serve on the side. Despite being thinly sliced, they bring a burst of heat and is balanced well by the bright and sweet acidity from the brine. They even sell them by the jar if you want to bring some home!

kimchi fried rice $5.50

 You get a generous portion of kimchi fried rice, topped with a sunny side up fried egg. If you’re not familiar with kimchi, it is a Korean dish of fermented vegetables (traditionally napa cabbage) served as a side dish during meals. Kimchi is also used as the main ingredients in various soups and stews.  It is an acquired taste and may not be for everyone, as it has both a spicy and fermented sour flavor… I happen to love it! Marination does a very good job fusing these extremely bold flavors with a familiar dish – fried rice. The plentiful pieces of napa cabbage stir fried within bring the flavors kimchi lovers look for but also cutting the sourness just enough to not scare away unaccustomed Westerners. There is a bold spice that permeates each bite and will definitely leave your tummy warm and satisfied. The rice is cooked perfectly with each individual grain of rice being coated in the spicy and bold kimchi sauce.

My Conclusion:

 It no mystery why Marination has received a TON of local and national recognition and  why 2-minutes after I ordered my food, a mob of 15 customers walked in eager to get their orders in. Marination Station is on point when it comes to creativity, execution, presentation and taste. If their Capitol Hill location is too far for a lunch break, never fear, they’ll come to you! Whether you’re in West Seattle, Sodo, Belltown, Fremont, South Lake Union or the International District, you can find their Mobile Food Truck daily schedule and location here – or follow them on Twitter @curb_cuisine. What are you waiting for?!?

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Through strong reccommendations from many of Cherry’s collegues, R&L Home of Good Bar-B-Q is a definite must when it comes to barbeque. Located off 18th and East Yesler, R&L’s has been around for over 40+ years – Cherry’s collegues said they used to go here when they were children! We came around noon for lunch, and walking up and into the restaurant, I was immediately transported back into the early 80’s. All the decorations, tables and menu board look extremely dated – not sure they’ve updated anything since they originally opened. When we got up to the counter, we were warmly greeted by a polite woman and gave our order.

 

entrance from e yesler

aged counter and menu board

 

vingtage pictures, booths and music box

 

 

The Food:

 

rib sandwich $7.85

The best thing about these ribs were how tender the meat was. Gravity alone could have pulled the meat off the bone! Cherry chose the medium sauce which was on the milder side but the sauce had an overpowering bitter aftertaste. All of the tangy, bold and sweet flavors you look for in a barbeque sauce were overshadowed by a bitterness – which is unfortunate. It’s a good thing Cherry asked for the bread on the side because it’d be tough eating this sandwich with all the bones intact.

 

pulled pork sandwich with potato salad $8.80

I went with the pulled pork sandwich which looked promising, but that promise fell short. Yes, the pork was extremely tender, there’s no question there. But the biggest let down for me, was the sauce! I chose the hot barbeque sauce and can look past the barely there heat… but like the rib sandwich, the sauce had a bitterness that didn’t sit well with me. I am no barbeque expert by any means, but I am confident in saying barbeque should not be bitter! If you ask Cherry, she’d probably say I had a scowl on my face through the meal. The only solice I had was from the mediocre potato salad that helped cleanse away the sauce.

 

 

My Conclusion:

For being open for so long, R&L must being something right, but we must have missed the mark on this vist… by a mile. The woman (I’m assuming one of the owners) was extremely warm, polite and reminded me of a cold glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, the food literally left a bitter taste in my mouth…  Maybe I came on an off day? No matter what, even the most tender and perfectly cooked barbeque with bad sauce is like working on a 1000-piece puzzle until the very end, only to find a missing piece – incomplete.

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