Eating in Seattle – Szechuan Chef

Living in London for three years has wholly transformed the way that I think about food in the United States. When I go back to visit, I have no interest in fine dining. I want the food I can’t eat in London. Period. Give me proper Vietnamese food, give me Mexican food, give me homestyle Southern cooking, sushi, and yes, give me Szechuan food.  This last may perplex English readers. There are some excellent Szechuan restaurants in London. However London does not have Szechuan Chef, and, more importantly, London does not have Szechuan Chef’s Szechuan style crab. Continue reading

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Eating in Seattle – Sitka and Spruce Taco Monday

There’s a good reason why you start a Mexican meal with a shot of tequila and a bite of bracingly sour, salty lime. The two open your palate, preparing you for the subtle, delicate, complicated flavours that follow. Which brings me to a myth about Mexican food. This myth is that Mexican food means flabby flour tortillas and great big larded heaps of beans and rice and loads of cheese and two sauces: red and green. This could not be further from the truth. Mexican food – real Mexican food – is about slow cooking, refined flavours, and balance. Above all, balance.  In fairness, I think that thanks to chefs like Rick Bayless and the prevalence and huge popularity of taco trucks lately, most people know this, or are learning it.

This is the story of Taco Monday, as it was told to me by my one of my favourite Seattle dining buddies. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Marination Station

I’ve got a confession to make. I just got back from a trip to Seattle (where of COURSE I ate like a pig and drank lots of fabulous cocktails) and I still haven’t finished my restaurant write-ups from the last time I visited, two months ago.

Really, though, there’s only one review from that trip worth doing, and that’s the fabulously named Marination. I know that Korean Mexican fusion is old hat now. It’s all over LA, it’s proliferating in food trucks in Portland and San Francisco, and it has crept and spread eastward, like a virus, to Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and even London. (I’m not 100% sure about this last, but it sounded good.) But Seattle’s Marination Mobile, you must understand, was one of the forerunners of the movement. When the Marination Mobile food truck opened in Seattle, Korean Mexican fusion was new and daring and the Marination Mobile food truck (justifiably) got lots of press and even was voted best food truck in the USA by Good Morning America. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Bako

Into every life a little rain must fall. That’s how I feel about my dining and drinking experiences in Seattle, which were almost uniformly stellar, with one singular exception, Bako. Bako opened recently, with plenty of fuss and fanfare, as a self-proclaimed “upscale” Chinese restaurant on the north end of Capitol Hill. I thrilled to fancies of Hong Kong-style visionary culinary excellence. What I ate, instead, was uniformly brown, bland, and soggy. In fact, I disliked everything about Bako, from the mustaches on the bartenders (please, hipsters: shave for 2012) to the self-consciously sleek interior, to our irritatingly perky, alarmingly ditzy server. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Il Corvo

I liked everything about Il Corvo before I ever ate there. The story: a fastidious craft-oriented pasta geek leaves his slick exec chef position at a trendy restaurant to set up what is, essentially, a pop-up in a gelateria. The concept: a few dishes prepared fresh daily by hand, using lovingly-accumulated antique collectible pasta-making equipment, priced within easy reach of budget-constrained diners like me. The principles: Il Corvo’s only open for lunch, Monday through Friday, so that chef Mike Easton can spend time with his family. This singleness of purpose bespeaks a degree of confidence Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Brunch at Skillet Diner

Four years ago, when Skillet Street Food’s shiny silver airstream trailer first appeared, in Seattle’s Lake Union neighborhood in a parking lot near a construction site (if I remember correctly), I went the first week they opened. Delicious food that’s bad for you, cooked with heart. I was smitten. Poutine! My god! French fries with cheese curds and brown gravy! And bacon jam! It was a sunny day and I took the afternoon off from work and played Cornhole with Skillet’s genius co-founders. (Never heard of Cornhole? Nor had I. It’s seriously fun.) So perhaps you can understand my level of excitement when friend Z reported that Skillet was opening a diner (a diner!) a mere THREE BLOCKS from where I used to live in Seattle. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – King Noodle

When I have a hangover, there is one kind of food I want to eat and one kind only: spicy noodle soup. Preferably with lots of meat in it, and extra chili peppers.

Those of you who have been following my Seattle exploits (now sadly behind me, like a distant dream) will not be surprised at all that by Saturday (after I concluded my second cocktail crawl), I was so toxic that noodle soup was not merely an option, it was a necessity. I was eager to try King Noodle, which had gotten rave reviews Continue reading

Seattle Cocktail Crawl (Part 2)

I am pretty resilient. Still, at my advanced age, it’s hard to do two consecutive cocktail crawls. (If we’re going to get technical about it, this was my third straight night of boozing.) But friend K came up from San Francisco, friend S was raring to go, and let’s face it, drinks in Seattle still cost half as much as they do in London. So I was prepared to sacrifice my liver to the greater good. Continue reading

Seattle Cocktail Crawl (Part 1)

As a dedicated drinker, I mean cocktail aficionado, I have to say that it is EXTREMELY EXCITING to leave London, where craft cocktails cost £10, and come to Seattle, where most cocktails don’t cost more than $10. Do I need to point out that this is slightly more than half the price of cocktails in London? Really, under these circumstances there is no legitimate excuse not to drink. Continue reading