Archive for the ‘Brunch’ Category

Xiao long bao/XLB (soup dumplings) have been around forever, but for some reason, their recent popularity has skyrocketed like the number of twitter followers Caitlyn Jenner racked after her first tweet.  The one thing that makes soup dumplings stand apart is the pork soup inside each dumpling from the rendered fat in the meat filling. If you ask your average/mainstream foodie where to get decent XLB in the Seattle area, the go-to response will be, Din Tai Fung – an international restaurant chain originating from Taiwan. I tend to shy away from mainstream spots and espeically places that have a ‘bougie reputation. To no fault of their own, DTF has unfortunately garnered a reputation of being both. Enter Dough Zone, a local restaurant specializing in all things dough and all things dumplings. With two locations in Bellevue, WA, we went to the original location on NE 8th St.  It’s a moderately sized restaurant with booths and tables on the dining floor and a fairly clean ambiance.  Arriving on a Sunday around 11am, I was anticipating a wait, but we were seated within 5-minutes. After looking over the menu, our server came by a few minutes later and took our order.



The Food:

chinese donut $1.75 each

chinese donut/you tiao $1.75 each

The Chinese donut or you tiao, is a staple in Tawainese breakfast/brunch. It’s commonly eaten between shao bing, a Chinese sesame flat bread. Overall, it was ok. The initial bite was warm and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  Unfortunately, as it cooled the outside became harder and tough. We ordered the donut mainly as a toddler-friendly dish for Rylie, but Cherry and I ended up eating most of it.

 pig ears $3.75

pig ears $3.75

rylie approves

rylie approves

Braised pig ears are another very common side dish in Chinese meals and trust me when I’ve said I’ve had my fare share. The pig ears at Dough Zone were topped with a sweeter sauce than what I’m custom to (at home they drizzle it with sesame oil) and I would have liked them braised longer to bring out more of the anise/soy flavors.  They did get Rylie’s stamp of approval though, as she ate a majority of the plate herself!

spicy beef pancake roll $4.75

spicy beef pancake roll $4.75

I was pretty happy to see beef pancake rolls on the menu; even more so to see it offered spicy! The first time I’ve had a beef roll was in Vancouver at Peaceful Restaurant, which set the bar high. It looked nice when served, but my overall impression of the roll was mediocre. The green onion pancake was on the doughier side and the “spicy” element was a bit of chili oil inside. Like the pig ears,  I would have like to taste more flavors from the braising liquid (soy/anise.) The additional green onion added inside did add a bright pop.


 pork dumplings $4.25

pork dumplings $4.25

 These handmade dumplings were the highlight of my meal. The first thing I noticed was how good the dumpling wrapper was. Like Goldilocks eating baby bear’s porridge, it was just right. The pork had a rich flavor with the chives providing a pleasant accent. I can’t say these are the best dumplings I’ve personally had, but they’re definitely good enough for me to come back.

xiao long bao $9.5

xiao long bao $9.5

The featured item of our meal were the xiao long bao, or as they name it here, Juicy pork buns. Despite popular belief, I don’t think there’s a “right” way to eat a XLB, so I tried a variety of methods. The focal point of any XLB is always the soup, and the pork soup here carried a sweet and creamy flavor. Alone, the XLB were just ok. I felt the sweetness of the juice overpowered the meat filling. When combined with the vinegar/soy/ginger sauce, the tastiness took a a big jump up. I really enjoyed the bright flavors of the ginger when combined with the sour and salty flavors of the vinegar and soy. As a whole, all of the flavors came together quite nicely when eaten together.

My Conclusion: I had a very enjoyable meal at Dough Zone. The service was prompt and the servers were all very polite. Although there were a few dishes that could be improved upon, the ones that were delicious exceeded my expectations. Their menu is also quite expansive, ranging from a huge variety of different dumplings, to a ton of different noodle, congee and soup dishes. The prices are also very reasonable .  


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Last month a group of us traveled to San Francisco to celebrate our friend, Derrec’s birthday, as well as getting our grub on. It was also our friend Meuy’s mission to get a 12th Man photo at the Golden Gate Bridge. As expected, we endured plenty of heckling and dirty looks as we went through the city, representing the 12th Man and the Seattle Seahawks!


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12th man in enemy territory


Day 1:

HRD Coffee House

Extremely popular spot located on 3rd Street that serves up Korean/Mexican Fusion dishes and has people lined up out the door and down the street. It’s a pretty small spot that’ll immediately hit you with the aroma of spices the second you step in. One thing that was great to see as our group ate, was despite being super busy, the staff still stepped out of the kitchen to walk through the floor checking on tables and customers.

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lunch line

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bulgogi bibimbap $9.95

Served with brown rice, this bowl was visually, very appealing. The pickled daikon and cucumbers provided a bright crunch that was nicely balanced by the fermented and mildy spicy flavors of the kimchee. The sprouts also added an additional layer of bite. The bulgogi was tasty and very tender. My only knock on this dish was the marinade HRD uses for their bulgogi – it was too sweet for my taste. It would have been better if the savory flavors were more present.


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spicy pork kimchee burrito $8.95

The spicy pork kimchee burrito is the quintessential example of fushion food. Upon taking my first bite, I was immediately taken to flavortown! The pork had a nice spice to it and was also very tender. The rest of the ingredients all fused together wonderfully. There was crunch from the sprouts, cucumbers and pickled daikon, while the sour cream added a creamy component to each bite. The biggest surprise for me was the diced kiwi that was also thrown in, that added a pleasant sweetness.


Fisherman’s Wharf 

the gang

 fishermanswarf_crab sandwich wm

crab roll $8.5

We spent the afternoon meandering up and down the Wharf and wanted a quick and easy bite. I picked up a crab roll at one of the seafood stands and was thoroughly disappointed. The filling was probably 90% mayonnaise and 10% crab and wasn’t cheap! But that’s to be expected for food in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.


The Stinking Rose

Fun and family-friendly restaurant located on Columbus Ave specializing in Italian food and focusing on garlic. If you’re a garlic lover, then this is your spot because they use a lot of garlic… a whole lot of it! Vampires beware!

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entrance off columbus ave.

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chicken & asparagus pasta $19.95

Cherry ordered this dish which consisted of ideally cooked al dente fettuccine tossed with chicken breast, asparagus, roasted tomatoes and pine nuts. The chicken was moist, the asparagus was fresh and the roasted tomatoes added a bright note to each bite. The sauce was balanced and didn’t drown out the other ingredients like other pasta dishes can suffer from.


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garlic braised short rib $22.95

I ordered the short ribs, which were perfectly braised and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The sautéed garlic gloves atop the short rib provided a pleasant earthy spice and two sides were very good. The creamed spinach had hints of garlic and  was both savory and creamy while the mashed potatoes also permeated with garlic.


Day 2:

 The Pork Store Café

The Pork Store Café is another very popular breakfast spot in the Haight District that had a line out the door as we walked up. It is a very small diner with a large counter to eat at while watching the cooks prepare food. There are also a handful of tables along the wall allowing just enough room for the servers to pass by. Overall, the food was your average American diner food with the only thing stood out, being our extremely rude server. When asked if we could split the check, we were immediately met with eye rolling and attitude as she stormed off stating, “Yeah… so next time, tell me before I bring the checks!” What didn’t make any sense to me, our server making a huge deal about re-writing five items on two checks…. it wasn’t rocket science.


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entrance off haight

 porkstorecafe_porkspecial wm

pork store special $9.5

I decided to order the special that was named after the restaurant. The two pork chops were dry and flavorless. I had to rely on the table side hot sauce to aid in finishing this plate. It came with two eggs, hash potatoes and a homemade biscuit. I ordered the eggs over-easy which were cooked fine and the hash browns were your average fare found in any diner. Their biscuit was actually pretty good and may be the only highlight of the plate.

 porkstore_chickensausage wm

chicken apple sausage $7.75

Cherry went with the apple sausage plate. The apple sausage was tasty and carried nice flavors of the herbs and spices within. Her scrambled eggs were cooked well and her hash browns and biscuit were the same as mine – average hash and tasty biscuit. She was a little underwhelmed at the portion of sausage when the dish came out. You would think that a menu item named chicken apple sausage, would yield a hearty serving of sausage. It did not.


El Gallo Giro

Ending day two, our friend Meuy had a hankering for some lengua tacos and navigated us to El Gallo Giro. Located in the Mission District on 23rd St. El Gallo Giro is a taco truck serving up some tasty and authentic Mexican fare.

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23rd &  treat

 gallogiro_tacos wm

tacos $1.5/ea


Cherry went with three tacos pollo (chicken) and I went with a trio of carne asada (steak), al pastor (spicy pork), and lengua (beef tongue). All the tacos were flavored nicely and very satisfying, but the carne asada was my favorite. They were finished on the grill which gave the meat a nice crunchy crust that added great texture to each bite.


Day 3:

Yummy Yummy

 The night prior, we celebrated Derrec’s birthday. I won’t get into the details of the shenanigans that we got into, but plenty of alcohol was consumed. What better way to cure a hangover than a big bowl of beef soup!? Enter Yummy Yummy.


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dining floor

 yummy_fivespicechicken wm

five spice chicken w/vermicelli $9.25

Cherry decided on the five spice chicken vermicelli bowl. The chicken was fried wonderfully with crispy skin and tender meat. The spices used were savory and when mixed with the sweet fish sauce and vegetables underneath the vermicelli, it resulted in an extremely fresh and light, yet filling meal.


 yummy_bunbohue wm

bun bo hue $9.5

Deciding to expand my foodie repertoire, I ordered bun bo hue for the first time. The reason it’s taken so long, was the fact that the coagulated pig blood, that’s also served with the dish, deterred me. But you can’t be a true foodie without trying foods that are preconceived as unappetizing, right?! The bun bo hue had thick pieces of beef shank and pork loin that were on the chewy side. The pig blood was actually tasty – it had the consistency of a firm tofu and didn’t have any irony flavor that is usually associated with blood. The broth was extremely flavorful and full of spices and depth. I can confidently say that bun bo hue is a new favorite soup noodle dish for me and I’ve ordered it several more times since this trip.


Champa Garden

 Our last meal was spent at Champa Garden, a Laotian and Thai fusion restaurant off Ocean Ave. Champa garden literally sits at the end of a residential street and from the looks of it, it was recently opened. The interior was very clean and modestly decorated. After a weekend of eating, Cherry and I were pretty stuffed so we opted to share some wings and fried rice.

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fried chicken wings w/sweet chili sauce $6.95

These wings which were perfectly fried, providing golden crispy skin and tender, moist meat. The chili sauce is the standard sweet chili sauce you can find in any grocery store but provided a nice sweet kick to each bite.


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 basil fried rice $7.50

The basil fried rice was delicious. We ordered it with chicken, which was cooked nicely and blended well with the the onions, bell peppers and basil. I don’t remember them asking what spice level we wanted but it came out quite spicy – which I enjoyed.


 My Conclusion

This most recent trip to the City by the Bay proved to be a memorable trip on all fronts. We got to partake is some delicious food, visited all the popular spots people want to see and got to spend time with an amazing group of friends. Cherry and I love San Francisco so much that we’re trying to plan another trip there in a few months – this time with Rylie!


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china town . sf, ca





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If you do a visual scan of the city block between East Thomas and Olive, you’ll find cafes, a tattoo shop, a nail salon, a smoke shop and among other diverse restaurants, Americana. Despite having a plethora of places to eat, Cherry and I don’t often come to Capitol Hill – mainly because parking is usually both tough to find and will cost you a limb. On this occasion, we got lucky – we quickly scored a free spot. Americana is a smaller restaurant that has a bar in the back and local art for sale displayed on the walls. Our server came by, explained the daily specials and then took our order a few minutes later.


americana_outside wm

entrance from broadway. baby not included

americana_inside wmview of the bar


The Food:


americana_seattleslam wmseattle slam: two pancakes of the day, eggs any style & choice of bacon or chicken sausage $12

The pancakes of the day were applesauce pancakes topped with cinnamon butter. They had a pleasant sweetness to them, but I wasn’t able to pick up much of the applesauce. The cinnamon butter provided a nice sweetness and if I remember correctly, Cherry finished the pancakes without using any syrup. She went with scrambled eggs which were cooked well and had a buttery flavor. The chicken sausage was clean, hearty and you could really taste the seasoning and herbs.



americana benedict: two poached eggs, smoke gouda & canadian potato cakes, creamy tomato & mushroom sauce & served with toast $11

I have mixed feelings about Americana’s version of the benedict. I thought it was a creative spin on a breakfast classic, but the execution fell a little short. One egg was poached well with runny yolk, but the yolk of the second egg was way overcooked – 30 seconds short of being hard boiled. The potato pancake was mediocre and I would have like to have seen more Canadian bacon. The one major critique I have is on the tomato & mushroom sauce. It completely overpowered everything on the plate and masked all of the underlying flavors. The toast was good.


My Conclusion:


Our brunch had some highlights but also had some big miscues. Despite all that, the service was great, which brought up our overall experience to decent. The rest of their menu looked enticing, which may warrant another visit.

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This past weekend a group of us got together to celebrate our friend, Renee’s, birthday. Of course it wouldn’t be worth talking about if it didn’t include food! Here’s what our day looked like.


Serious Biscuit: Can’t go wrong with a biscuit brunch and you definitely can’t go wrong with Tom Douglas 😉 The Serious Pie & Biscuit location on Westlake Ave is a fairly large restaurant offering two levels of dining that also doubles as the Dahlia Workshop.


 special: pulled pork, slaw, fried egg $9

Cherry went with the special which featured a pulled pork and apple slaw (I believe?) topped with a fried egg. The pork was rich and flavorful and also carried an extremely subtle hint of sweetness. The slaw was fresh and bright and to top it off, the fried egg was the ideal touch. Not to be overlooked were the biscuits served here, which were perfectly baked. The outside was borderline crunchy and the insides were a soft and buttery delicious.  I’m regretting not ordering a few to-go! Poor me, I’ll guess I’ll just have to come back…


the zach: fried chicken, black pepper tobasco gravy, bacon, egg $13

If you know me, then you know I obviously with went w/the “zach.” The bacon was thick cut and the chicken was cooked excellently. It had great bite despite being doused with gravy and the meat was very moist and tender. You can’t tell by the picture, but there is an egg under all that greatness that provided an additional layer of texture and flavor. I would have liked for the gravy to have provided a little more flavor and heat. Tobasco sauce definitely punches one in the face with its bright vinegary spice; so understandably, the gravy was toned down a little. But if you advertise “black pepper tobasco gravy,” I would think the heat would be present…no worries though, they offer a variety of hot sauces to quench your heat thirst.  


crispy hamhock, collard greens with smoked onions $10


wood-fired skillet baked egg: applewood smoked bacon, roasted kale, crimini mushrooms $9

Our friends ordered the crispy hamhock and collard greens biscuit as well as the skillet baked eggs. I should have taken an “after” picture,  because judging by how clean their plates were, it’s safe to assume they were delicious!


Chihuly Garden and Glass:




rylie_chihuly 2

rylie is clearly uninterested

This is an awesome exhibit featuring the work of local artist, Dale Chihuly. I won’t regurgitate who he is and what he’s done… there’s google for that. But I will say his work is amazing and I would highly recommend this place as a, “must visit” stop in Seattle!    


Los Agaves:


tacos: adobo chicken, al pastor, la lengua $2 each

After spending the afternoon visiting Chilhuly and wandering Pike Place, we decided to grab a quick bite before we headed home. Los Agaves is literally located in a little crevice between a seafood and dairy stand. At $2 a taco, what’s not to love?! I was pleasantly surprised by how good their beef tongue was. It was cooked perfectly – extremely tender and flavorful. I would highly recommend it for anyone able to look past the fact that they’re eating cow tongue. Ohh, and their “spicy” is exactly that. They poured some salsa verde atop each taco and as took my first, it was like the green light at the Indy 500 for my sinuses and the pores atop my head! With my taste buds burning, my eyes tearing, and my mind asking for more, I was very pleased… we all have a little sadist in us.


My Conclusion: I’m not ashamed to admit that despite being born and raised in Seattle, I still get very excited, eager and wide-eyed, each and every time I get to explore the city…  kind of like an a teenage boy going to a gentlemen’s club  for the first time.  


my peeps


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It’s been about forever since my last post, but I have been extremely busy with the newest addition to my family.  My wife gave birth to our beautiful baby girl, Rylie Kadence – literally the week after my last post in October! She has been such a blessing and joy in our lives and as I’m sure all parents can attest, a first child is a minor adjustment to say the least 😉 I’m not going to sugar coat how magical being a new parent is, because it’s not. Your life as you know it, without a child, is literally turned upside down with the added responsibility and care of a baby. Now, I’m in no way saying I don’t enjoy being a new father, because I absolutely LOVE it! I wouldn’t change it for the World! It is definitely cliché, but the love and joy you get from being a new parent is indescribable – one literally cannot put into words how I feel every time I look at her. If you don’t have kids, sorry… you probably cannot relate… but to all my parents out there, this “club” is friggin’ amazing!


rylie kadence @ 2-months

Now, onto the goodies! Last Friday, Valentines Day, I took my family (it’s so cool I can say that now) on a 30-minute ferry ride west of Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge is a very charming town with many gems to discover, both as a foodie and as someone looking for fun activities. Here’s what our day trip looked like:

Café Nola:

Through a few recommendations, we had lunch at Café Nola. Located on Bainbridge Island’s main street of E. Winslow, Café Nola is a nice little spot that serves up some great food and drink. Cherry and I were on a mission for one thing in particular – fish ‘n chips. Going back seven years, fish ‘n chips has been our Valentine’s Day tradition and we’ve sampled quite a few spots in Seattle and even up North in Victoria B.C. I’m not sure exactly how this tradition started, but it’s a damn good tradition, and are you really going to argue against fish ‘n chips!?


view from the street


tight yet cozy quarters


 bread ‘ oil


kale salad: smoked bacon, pickled egg, roasted garlic mushrooms, pecorino vinaigrette $6

Knowing we’d be partaking in a meal of deep fried goodness, Cherry and I made a conscious decision to balance the meal with a salad. So we split a side order. This was a well-dressed salad with rich flavors of the bacon and garlic mushrooms and balanced nicely with the vinaigrette. The pickled egg added just a hint of brightness to each bite.


fish ‘n chips: pacific cod, malt slaw, steak fries $14

These large pieces of Pacific cod were nicely breaded with great crunch in each bite. The fish was fresh and perfectly cooked – tender meat that flaked off. The pieces served here might be the biggest I’ve seen! The only thing bigger would be breading and deep frying a whole filet. The chubby kid side of me was definitely cheering for joy. I would have liked the dish better, if served with a quartered lemon slice, but the malt vinegar and tartar sauce sufficed. The slaw was prepared very well. I favor malt vinegar slaw over the traditional mayo,  because the malt vinegar does a better job blending the subtle bitter and sweet from the cabbage and carrots. The steak fries were your standard fare.

Mora Iced Creamery:

Having never been but hearing as much positive praise as an establishment could possibly receive, we decided to stop by. Ok, that’s not true. I’ve had Mora on my never-ending list of “must tries” for the last few years, and finally found an opportunity to come.


cheesecake with brownies

Rich flavors from the real cream cheese and awesome brownie pieces… which happen to come from a local bakery. Ohh, and Cherry couldn’t wait for me take a picture before she started diggin’ in!



Creamy. Nutty. Delicious. Three very naughty words when describing something you want to put in mouth over and over again.


devil: whiskey ice cream infused w/Australian hibiscus flowers in syrup

I wasn’t able to pick up much of the whiskey flavor, but the ice cream was definitely rich and creamy. The hibiscus flowers were also delicious! The texture reminded me of cherries in a cherry ice cream and the flavors were subtly sweet.

Blackbird Bakery:


cinnamon walnut coffee cake

We ended the trip at Blackbird Bakery to pick up a few goodies for the road. Yes, I know we just had ice cream, but if you didn’t know already, Cherry has a sweet tooth the size of Texas and I’m never one to disappoint! Blackbird Bakery is a nice place offering freshly made pastries of both the sweet and savory variety. I didn’t end up taking many pictures of what we bought since they were mostly boxed or wrapped up. Cherry ordered a few cookies and an herb roll to go – all of which were very good once we got home. I was able to get a shot of this coffee cake as we sat and ate while waiting for the ferry. Overall, it was a tasty coffee cake with chunks of walnuts and pleasant flavors from the cinnamon and coffee cake. It wasn’t as moist as I’d had hoped for, but then again, we did come in 30-minutes before closing, so that could been a factor.

Bloedel Rerserves:


my valentines 

We spent the bulk of our time at The Bloedel Reserves, which is wonderful public garden with roughly 2-miles worth of walking trails taking you through the lush flora and fauna of this region. There is a visitor center at the half-way point of the trail that doubles as a rest point and as an event hall for musical events. I particularly enjoyed the Japanese Garden located towards the end of the trail. I would highly recommend visiting Bloedel during anytime of the season – but bring comfortable walking shoes. We will definitely be back in the spring to see different flowers in bloom. Keep in mind that there is an entrance fee.

My Conclusion:

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a stone’s throw away

I consider Bainbridge Island somewhat of a hidden gem. Those who frequent or live on the island know how great it is and those who do not, simply don’t know what they’re missing! We weren’t able to explore as many of the “commercial” points of interest as we would have liked, but that only gives us another reason to come back!

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Sunday Brunch

It’s been a while since I last posted… simply because we haven’t been out lately. But this past weekend, Cherry and I had brunch at a spot we’ve been to already – Indigo Kitchen & Ale House. You can find my first review of when we had dinner back in August, here.

The Food:

 chicken fried steak: spicy sausage gravy, two eggs over-easy (any style) & breakfast potatoes $10.99

 This was a very hearty and filling plate. The steak had a nice crunchy breading but was tender and moist inside. The gravy was rich was flavors of sausage and the spice level was good – not too overpowering. My over easy eggs were cooked well and the yolk provided a creamy texture and flavor to the dish. Completing the plate were the roasted breakfast potatoes a biscuit – both of which were average. It would have been nice for the biscuit to be warmed.

Cherry opted for the biscuits and gravy ($7.99), which had the same spicy sausage gravy ladled over the buttermilk biscuit. She chose scrambled eggs and also ordered a side of fruit ($3.50)with her meal which included strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe and pineapple. I didn’t sample any of Cherry’s plate other than the fruit because we both had essentially the same items. The fruit was refreshing, but I feel overpriced.


My Conclusion:

Overall, and most importantly, everything was well prepared and tasted good. We were both full and satisfied.

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