Monday, December 18, 2017

Bateau and Bar Melusine: A Modern and Trendy French Take vs the Traditional Steak Houses of Seattle for the Unadventurous Types, along with an adventurous mishap

First of all, let me apologize for not only putting off this review for quite some time, I had also accidentally left a post reserved for Bateau open and uncompleted that some people were expecting a review for not only one of Seattle's newest steak restaurants but one of Seattle's newest top restaurants for these recent years along with it being super trendy. So, here is my completed post!

Steak. It is something that is universally appreciated (well except among vegetarians, vegans, and certain types of Hindus), though there are people into dining like myself that view steak as the equivalent of a food "cop-out" as even though it's good, it's something typically and usually enjoyed by either dilettantes or simpletons who are nowhere near being engaged in food as much as dining enthusiasts do. Those two types of people only view food as a source of nutrition but otherwise would view steak as an "extremely fabulous" dining experience whereas although dining enthusiasts like myself do greatly appreciate once in a while when we're in the mood to acknowledge the complexity of the simplicity of food, we would much rather choose foods with obvious dining complexities such as multiple courses of contemporary French cuisine, and even sushi where it's deceivingly simple but truly a complex food itself with actually extensive means of preparation to get where it's at unlike some naive individuals who simply think "it's just cut up fish on rice". In addition, the former types of people are simply one-noted, just like the food they are experiencing when eating steak that even they don't truly appreciate steak for what it really is. They bring it onto themselves as because they have such simple palates and only view steak simply as "delicious" without caring for other components (unless if they're true steak purists) such as those in extensively prepared dishes with multiple ingredients, their simple palates truly reflect their simple and uninteresting personalities; basically, they are what they eat. Before I get a comment of "just eat your damn steak", I do have to note my quip with "steak people" as they are the ones who I interact with in my personal life that ignorantly mocks me nor appreciates and do not give respect to the foods I eat (whether it's multi-course high-end gastronomy, sushi, or even foods of different cultures such as Chinese (and I mean real Chinese and not any of that "orange chicken"Americanized stuff), Vietnamese, or Filipino cuisines that those not familiar (referring to the simpletons and dilettantes) would go "eeewww" like a bunch of 5 year olds). They are usually the kind of people of whom I usually associate as people not only of opposite backgrounds along with their likes and dislikes, these are the people who I clearly cannot get along with as they usually are composed of people who like conservative and far right politics & other  political beliefs, Pop music with no true artistic expression, trashy reality television shows, any sport (a big one), and other non-intellectual topics that cater to the ignorant masses (of which these people are a part of); oh and they're big bullies as well - a type of people who I really hate, or even just the type who would be bystanders who would "let evil triumph when good people do nothing". In addition, these people don't like to broaden their spectrum by being cultured and informed of situations outside of their protective bubble that they would perhaps even hostilely "protect themselves" by not wanting to try new things such as different cuisines; it's sad that they would be hostile to not want to try a bite of say, real nigiri sushi instead of the abominations topped with mayo and avocado while they stick to their grilled cheeses and mayonnaise sandwiches. I also imagine this situation of my disdain for "anti-foodies" (we gotta give them a name - people who have pathetically simple palates while they ignorantly mock those who eat unfamiliar cuisines other than a freaking Big Mac, in addition to rudely and hypocritically making fun of those who take pictures of food in order to actually get the pictures on the internet so that people could be better informed of where they're about to eat at while they make an exception for Selfies as for some reason, that's totally cool with them while taking pictures of food is "laughable") is applicable and relatable to not only my readers, but other dining enthusiasts as well. It is just so sad and oddly fascinating that a certain people who simply like steak and not appreciate anything else could be associated with such a backward demographic. Even so and despite my disdain, I am here to cover a fine end steak restaurant that actually caters to the true dining enthusiasts, while they may be very well infiltrated by the anti-foodies who may, for the better, see the light of a truly well-prepared dish, or groan like the troglodytes they are while at best be all like "that was interestingly alright". In addition to covering high-end French and Sushi restaurants, I am open to trying steak restaurants and covering them for my blog. Like what I preach, I should too be open-minded by trying steak restaurants and to understand steak purists and their passions, and maybe even understand what's going on in the mind of an anti-foodie.

I had entered Bateau on the night Anthony Bourdain was in Seattle performing, despite me not having a reservation. I had, on my mistake, thought that they would have open seats despite me coming in early; I couldn't be any more wrong. It turns out that despite there being a couple of seats, the restaurant itself was near fully booked with people who had reservations. Usually, I don't make this sort of mistake but for some reason, I cannot remember, I had judged them as a place where I could walk in. This should be a huge cautionary tale of what not to do if you're trying to get a seat in the hottest steak restaurant in Seattle. With all of that said, I was initially denied as they couldn't offer me a table due to how limited they were in steaks. With Bateau despite there being a table or two available, it's really all about the supply of steaks available. Because I didn't deserve a spot, they couldn't give me a spot, more particularly a steak that could have been given to someone that did reserve ahead of time, I had no choice but to sit at Bar Melusine literally next door. Although bummed out while I had kept pleading that I would be quick by being out very quickly until it was pointed out to me that they were not limited in seats but rather the portions of steaks available, I had accepted that I was going to be eating here instead. Looking over at the menu, I was very happy that Bar Melusine offered the similar oysters as if I were eating at The Walrus and The Carpenter; only difference is the condiments used. With that being said, I ordered one of each kind and one of their main dishes.

Before I cover the oysters, I ordered one of their signature cocktails which were the Catch-22 that consisted of primarily of Calvados, Cardamaro - an artichoke-like wine based liquor, and Benedictine - a more herbal and sweeter liquor primary of the herbs Angelica, Hyssop and Lemon Balm; it was very delicious with herbaceous notes that accompanied well with the deep and apple flavors of the calvados as instead of getting the Eau de Vie from wine, it gets it from cider and then ages it to make calvados instead of cognac. It was a very delicious drink indeed despite it being earthy and darker that would better make it a cocktail later in the meal vs those made with clear spirits like a Martini. Also in the beginning of the meal, the friendly bartender/server/oyster shucker at the front asked if I wanted flat or sparkling or even tap water to accompany my meal and cocktail. If you know me personally, you know I almost always lean towards having sparkling as flat water, especially unchilled (from learning about atomic bonds from my physical chemistry courses, water when chilled into a solid, the bond length actually grows vs when it's a liquid which is something that you notice when water expands when it freezes - with that being said, I assume that the water feels lighter, less dense which is why people would much rather drink it cold than the obviously refreshing aspect of being colder thus drawing heat away from the body, as it feels less heavy on the mouth), feels heavier in the mouth which along with the much lighter carbon dioxide within the water makes sparkling water feel much lighter in the mouth than with plain flat water. Though it is a very large brand which might make it seem "less special to some" due to the commonality of the product, I must stay that regardless, I'm a huge fan of San Pellegrino that it's always a treat for me to drink the everso bubbly and distinctly flavored sparkling mineral water from Italy, which probably why it became so well known and the most likely used sparkling water available among restaurants along with its everso popular historical presence throughout modern times; certainly an elegant water that elevates the dining experience (and if you're under 21 that wants to impress his date with something special to drink, order that; definitely beats getting one's older brother to buy and sneak in a 6-pack of PBR).

Going from the right of the spoon handle in the pic above as if you're starting at the 1:00 position and going clockwise, I ordered one of each oyster and their position from the pic goes on as follows in referring which oyster is what: Baywater Sweet, Kumamoto, Samish Pearl, Hammersley Inlet, Sea Cow, Hama Hama, and Treasure Cove. Sorry I cannot comment on each oyster distinctly but I remember that all of the oysters were refreshing and delicious, and also that the medium-sized ones had more "juice" to them which meant there was more liquid inside them which made it more pleasant in terms of eating experience. One thing I can definitely say is that I greatly prefer the mignonette sauce and horseradish pairings from the Walrus and the Carpenter for their oysters than I do with the Cucumber mignonette at Bar Melusine. I'm not sure if Bar Melusine has the same sauces as with The Walrus and the Carpenter, but if so, it would certainly make the former a much ideal detour in order to experience the best Seattle raw oyster experience. If you don't know already or haven't experienced the following nor have dined there, there is a huge freaking wait at The Walrus and the Carpenter; by wait, I mean like 1 hour at least (going to be around two hours (and even longer if you're with a big group - I don't recommend going there with a big group as there will be those who will get cranky from the wait and your group will break down and want to eat somewhere else desipte them not knowing nor caring how epic of an expereience eating oysters are at The Walrus and The Carpenter)) if you arrive there around 5-7 pm at peak dinner hours which should be common sense to arrive any restaurant at or before 6 (but even more so before 5 for The Walrus and the Carpenter). With that said, there are those who certainly are a fan of the restaurant itself but not their massive wait times; so if Bar Melusine has their accompaniments for their Oysters, Bar Melusine is a secret alternative to bypass the wait at The Walrus and The Carpenter. But if they don't have the same what is assumed to be Champagne Mignonette, then, in my opinion, you won't have the same experience with eating raw oysters at Bar Melusine than you would at the preferable The Walrus and the Carpenter. With that said, that's how personally I find the mignonette to be better than the cucumber mignonette. Chances are that most likely they don't have it in order to keep the flavors and aspects of The Walrus and the Carpenter distinct vs its sister restaurant, and so that people would still go for the former restaurant and make them endure the wait. If you know Bar Melusine actually offers TWATC's champagne mignonette and other accompaniments, then please comment below. Otherwise if you're fine with the Cucumber Mignonette as it's fine even though I greatly prefer the one at the other restaurant, Bar Melusine is still a great alternative, and something for those that love drinking as it's a bar (obviously in its name) that also wants to provide drinks and cocktails for the wonderful raw oyster dining experience rather than to be annoyingly judged by your non-drinking friends who look down on you and inacurately label you as an "alcoholic" (real alcoholism involves being obsessed with drinking 24/7 that you disregard something important such as your job and to take care of your kids in order to drink) if you drink (while they hypocritically throw their judgements aside by drinking alcohol when someone they like or want to impress is there instead). With that being said, the oysters were highly delicious and still preferable to many places in Seattle offering Pacific NW oysters harvested from the same or nearby areas of WA state.

After going down on those delicious oysters, I had then received the Roasted Salmon with Rockwell Beans, Crème Fraîche, and Shallots. The dish itself is really hearty despite the salmon being overcooked and a bit hard; the salmon was still delicious although it did have a slight offputting fishy taste. What was great about the dish was that the Crème Fraîche provided a butteriness to the dish neutralizing the fishy flavors while adding flavors of butter on the palate while tasting the good delicious flavors of the salmon itself (or the "good fishy" kind without the rotting ammonia when a fish breaks down into smelly flavors and tastes when it is expired past a certain point; to be clear, even the bad fishy taste of the dish wasn't as bad to that point and was delicious overall as it was just overcooked). In order to feel full, the beans added a nice touch, along with being a great component to give a hearty-like stew feeling. And  right before I ordered a Hibiki 12 year scotch by Suntory (the one in "Lost in Translation"), the hostess from Bateau next door (well, there's an open hallway actually that connects the two restaurants) actually came up to me and said that a table opened up that there was a cancellation, so I can have a steak from their limited quantity from the day, along with me telling her that I'll be out by 6:30pm in order to catch the Bourdain show at The Paramount; what a miracle!

So when I finally started to sit down, there were servers from Bateau that noticed and one had even congratulated me where she'd said, "When we give a table when we're busy, it turns out that the person's been really kind and polite to us staff" (for the record, some of you people should develop actual people skills as I do witness some immature, entitled behavior within high/mid-range restaurants that is ultimately rude to the staff while tainting the atmosphere for the rest of the customers in the building itself); afterwards, she high-fived me. With that happening, I now realized how much I've made a mistake for not reserving the place for myself weeks ahead as I thought I could have walked into the place for one; Bateau is one of the hottest restaurants in Seattle as of now (and still is after a year since its opening) that not even a reservation for one is guaranteed. After getting comfortable, I then received this what I remembered to be an aged bone-marrow appetizer with some sort of gravy. This certainly was very rich tasting with intense earthiness and umami while of course is loaded with beef flavor. As I was very excited and appreciative of this amuse bouche, I later learned from looking at the Bateau-geotagged Instagram pics that they change their amuse bouches which certainly is an ever so exciting treat every time, that's if you're living in Seattle and in the midst of transitioning to being a regular of this restaurant.

Before I continue further, the hostess actually had approached me with the list of whatever steaks were still available for the day when I was still sitting at Bar Melusine before I would walk over to a table at Bateau. Immediately, I chose a Carlton Farms 6 oz Filet Mignon served Black and Blue, topped with their famous Bone Marrow butter; along with their much talked about mashed potatoes. The hostess realized then that I was not kidding when I had promised I'd order quick and not be inconveniencing towards them and kept my word on that.

This steak was amazing! The flesh had that nuanced yet deep umami while the charred exterior without it being overkill complements each other in both ways. One being texture where the charred, slightly chewy & perhaps something like a near crunch provided a nice sensation to bite into while your tongue is experiencing the smooth flesh of the blue inside. The other being flavor as the char complemented the subtle yet pronounced flavor of the meat inside. Some people might worry about how something raw might taste "fishy" or "gamey", but they are mistaken; it is quite clean the taste is. You can tell if a steakhouse is a quality institution, let alone one that properly stores its meat by both looking at the rich pink of the flesh rather than a stale gray, in addition of course of tasting nowhere near being rancid as high-quality meat should have a very clean flavor. The filet mignon, though lean (hence one being able to taste the delicate yet deep umami, like with akami tuna/maguro) actually has the right amount of marbling in order to contribute to the pronounced fatty flavors like one would when eating a ribeye. In addition, the butter itself with the richness coming from not only the milky proteins itself, but the bone marrow added further a degree of rich sinfulness while the herbs refreshingly cut into the richness of the butter, providing another element that elevates the steak with fresh, herbal flavors while complementing the once again rich and pronounced flavors of the butter and what fat there is within the marbling of the steak. I am very impressed with how the restaurant was able to source its meats from highly reputable farms in America that rivals its Japanese counterparts by investing more into that deep, intricate flavor of the lean meat, compared to the extensive marbling of the Japanese steaks they are reputably known for of providing one hell of a buttery punch.

These mashed potatoes were more exactly a pomme purée. You can tell that all they did was to add butter and salt after puréeing the potatoes. It tasted really delicious while accentuating the simplicity of the overall dish while demonstrating in its flavors the mantra "less is more". Definitely, there is that Joel Robuchon influence as he is known for having the best mashed potatoes, ever. Otherwise, it's a decent comparison nonetheless that I still recommend trying it towards first-timers.

I ended up having one more Hibiki 12 year as it's an amazing Japanese whiskey that because it's blended, it has all sorts of characteristics of sweet, smoky, peaty, and earthiness in addition to being consistent in flavor through the years, unlike some single malts. It went well with not only the steak as I'm the kind of guy that drinks whiskey with his steaks, even though foodies say red wine is much more compatible due to having similar chemical compounds in each other, both the wine and the steak. However, washing down the raw and charred meat with whiskey has that degree of masculinity (while the women too can have and enjoy the same experience as any guy would) that would make Ron Swanson proud. To promptly end the meal in order for me to make the Anthony Bourdain show over at the Paramount at the downtown district next door, I was given complementary mint chocolate meringues which were very delicious and both a great way to cleanse the palate and satisfy one's sweet tooth with the mint being refreshing and the deep earthiness of the chocolate along with its sweetness made it very settling on the palate.

After the wonderful meal and the extremely funny and entertaining show by Mr. Bourdain, even though it was generally similar material as with the show the year before, along with the giddy of meeting the man the second time with the VIP ticket, I ended up going back to my hotel, The W for a nice relaxing dessert with a ginger ale from their room service after having 5 drinks over at Bateau. The assorted sorbets were: Sweet cream, lemon cream, and salted caramel. They were all very delicious as the sweet cream was sweet and milky in flavor, the lemon creme being refreshing while its cream component added a degree of earthiness that actually complements well with the citrus if it didn't curdle, and the salted caramel having this sweet caramel flavor that goes down easy while not too overly rich. This was certainly a wonderful way to conclude the day while watching free HBO in a warm robe.

Bateau certainly was very delicious with not only its quality sourcing of their ingredients, but also how magnificently prepared they are while showing a beautiful restraint that also allows the addition of complementing ingredients uplifting the steaks. I had plans to go to The Metropolitan Grill (aka "The Met") for my lunch the next day but didn't have time ultimately. Originally, I had wanted to compare Bateau, the French newcomer, to the traditionally American steakhouse such as The Met. But that should wait another time for my next return to Seattle. Certainly, it would be very interesting experiencing all of the finance, conservative, sports-obsessed, somewhat old-money brosephs at The Met vs the Nouveau riche, snooty and geeky tech boys (and girls) within the Bateau camp; look forward to it!

Bateau Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bar Melusine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sitka and Spruce: The Brunch Experience from my Favorite Seattle Restaurant; A Unique Seattle Brunch Experience Indeed

If you haven't realized by now or just flat out don't know, Seattle is one of the best cities for Brunch. I'm not sure why it became to be but I can tell you why it's good. There are so many unique styles and takes on brunch dishes in Seattle whether it be completely original such as the Dutch Baby, out-of-nowhere inventive like the brunch of this post, or it could be a unique Seattle (specifically seafood) take on classics such as a Smoked Salmon or even a Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict. I've been wanting to try some real uniquely Seattle brunch dishes for quite some time, and classic ones I might add in order to have authentic and traditional brunch experience in Seattle. However because I only had one weekend morning which was on a Sunday, I could only have one brunch meal. In addition, I had planned plenty of restaurants for my tiny 3-day trip, and I had to make room in order to have a meal at my most favorite restaurant in Seattle which is Sitka & Spruce. If you haven't read my previous posts, why S&S is my favorite is because the restaurant offers such a unique cooking style along with the equally unique fresh farm-to-table local ingredients that no other restaurant in any other city could offer; S&S is a true Seattle restaurant. With all of those factors mentioned, I had decided to give S&S my one and only brunch spot.

Walking inside, it's certainly lovely with its rustic charm and exposed brick. After walking in with no one in line luckily but at the same time wondering why there wasn't enough people at brunch, I sat at the table where I sat all of my previous times at, which is a very difficult feat if you're an out of towner.


Going over the menu, which I do apologize for not taking a pic of, I ordered a sparkling rosé to quench my rosé cravings while I have a drink to accomplish the task of choosing the only item I could order for my one and only brunch in Seattle. Before I continue further, I must voice of how backwards it is for Sitka & Spruce to have a no-hard-alcohol policy for brunch, especially as I remembered previously how they had it available during lunch when Seattleites have to head back to work. They should reverse the policy as not only is a brunch a relatively special occasion, but how hard alcohol is certainly a welcome when the mimosa has far been way too long in its seat as "designated brunch drink"; of course, a Bloody Mary made with vodka is a great example of brunch utilizing hard alcohol.

Though their bread does usually come at a charge, I'm under the impression they do give some of it complementary. Usually bread is just an afterthought. However, their bread is from the Columbia City Bakery (I'm pretty sure) is certainly phenominal, especially with that unique white crust formed on the bottom of a baguette that only an authentic and truly artisan bread can make. Certainly, the whipped butter was an amazing complement to the extremely delicious baguette.

I ordered their Salmon 'Nduja with Pears, Dills and their seeds on top of a cracker. Although this looked extremely wonderful and delicious, I had to actually ask the waiter for instructions on how to eat the large cracker. He'd recommend that it be broken/cracked into smaller, bite-sized pieces with a knife. The 'nduja itself was loaded with fresh salmon flavor that the Pacific NW is known for, albeit a tad bit too spicy. Certainly the refreshingness of the pears and their sweetness not only complemented the main flavors but even quelled the spiciness as well. The Dill and seeds added an herbal element needed to completely tie the dish in together. Overall, this was a wonderful dish to have at brunch at S&S despite its difficulty in eating the whole thing; certainly would recommend it to those considering brunch at the restaurant.


After I've received my main dish and to make up for their deficiency in hard-alcohol, I've actually ordered quite a few drinks (and not all at once, mind you). First was a brut cavat which was just as dry and even a tad bit fruity compared to a brut French Champagne as cavat is Spanish. Next was their Black Currant cocktail. This was very delicious and definitely resembled a White Wine Spritzer
while the refreshing black currants added a sweet yet subtly tangy touch that makes the fruit itself delicious to drink if you're able to taste it yourself. My final cocktail was the Breakfast Daiquiri as it was based with some sort of wine that I forgot, again due to the restaurant not having hard alcohol available. It ws very good nonetheless with the right touch of coffee flavor without being too bitter. Even with the lack of hard alcohol, I'd certainly recommend giving these a try despite I feel management should read this blog post in order to  change their policies.

Brunch at S&S was very delicious and amazing as it's certainly a change from the stereotypical Seattle brunch experience of Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict, Lox, and Dutch Babies. If you're a Seattleite, I'd highly recommend coming here and pay a visit to have brunch you rarely encounter. However, if you're an out of towner looking for the traditional Seattle brunch experience, I'd actually hold having brunch here for a bit until you know you could have brunch in Seattle at later times.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Manolin: One of Seattle's Trendiest Restaurants Specializing in Ceviche and Roasted Delicacies

Manolin has been on my radar for quite some time. Located in the newly trendy Fremont district on par with Capitol Hill, it is located in a very convenient location. The building itself looked well constructed with great aesthetics. It was nice to see the pile of wood out in front that they use to roast certain dishes like their Grilled Beef.

Their menu looks spectacular; really encompassing that neighborhood small plates setting that locals, in addition to gastrotourists like myself love to go to. What makes it great other than the reasonably priced small plate offerings is their daily happy hour specials involving great discounts of their hand-crafted cocktails.

After lugging and Lyfting around Seattle, I needed something refreshing of which I chose their Phoenix cocktail. I must say that this cocktail was certainly quite refreshing though I would say that the lime juice overpowered the fig element of the cocktail which necessarily isn't a bad thing. It reminded me of the Caipirinhas I used to drink at Habana in Costa Mesa, CA. Delicious cocktail and a refreshing one, nonetheless.

Before I further continue to the culinary portion of this post, I must say that I greatly admire the U-shaped layout where there's not only bar/counter seating witnessing all of the action, but how it's far apart with great distance between both ends of the U that you're not uncomfortably staring/glaring each other from the other end while there is plenty of center seats in order to not make direct contact at all with the other patrons. If you're not someone who is into counter dining (you're definitely missing out on the action and also missing out on the advantage if it's you and your date that the view would definitely diminish any sort of awkwardness by talking about what's going on in the kitchen) or actually are in a larger group, then there is table seating on both sides.

The first dish that came to me was the Albacore Ceviche with Watermelon, Pork Jowl, and edible flowers (Marigolds). One thing I first noticed was that it wasn't drowned in marinade which could either be a good thing if the marinate was overpowering or not if you wanted extra palate-refreshing liquid to sip on cleansing one's palate.  Be that as it may, the Albacore was delicious with a smoky touch in its flavorings along with incorporating the acidity from its marinate. The savory watermelon and cucumber pieces added more moisture along with acidity by soaking up the marinade to accompany the fish in order to add a refreshing element towards the dish. What was really an ideal touch was the Pork Jowl that resembles bacon; it provided an earthy, smoky element of the land to the fish that incorporates that of the sea as the pork jowl was definitely welcoming with its highly umami and savory smoke and saltiness. Finally, the marigolds/edible flowers added a nice aesthetic touch to the dish while providing more of a bite to the dish as it didn't really have much of a flavor of its own other than to sop off the essence of the fish and the incorporating marinade.

Next came a dish that I ended up liking alot despite its intense richness. This is Manolin's take on the ever so iconic Seattle dish of Smoked Salmon. I must say that it's extremely rich in terms of smoke flavor and how thick it is that may be overwhelming for some; be that as it may, it certainly is a sinful treat if you're quite the smoked salmon lover like I am. It is topped with refreshing turnips that add a refreshing counter acidity to the richly cold-smoked salmon and the dill, though a classical accompaniment, adds the flavorful herbal component that gives smoked salmon a whole new character. On the side is crème fraîche topped with what I assume are olive oils that give the cooling tangy flavor of the crème fraîche a deep earthy component. With that said, the cooling tangy flavors of the crème fraîche was greatly needed to not only cut into the richness of the salmon, but that the smoky flavors along with the tangy from the crème fraîche gave the entire dish a wonderful combination profile which is basically a unique flavor of its own when the two are combined together.

Moving on to the next drink, I wanted something more darker in flavor yet would make an exception for anything "coconutty or pineapple-y". Luckily, there was a cocktail that fit all of those prerequisites called the Sloop John B. I honestly don't know where the name of the cocktail came from but with Pineapple Whiskey, rum, toasted coconut, and lemon; it's a certainly an odd concoction of ingredients like how the words for the name of the cocktail were construed. It definitely works really well as a drink that progresses mid-meal because yes, it does have a darker whiskey component reserved for later in the meal, there is a citrusy-acidic components from the pineapple and lemon that is invigorating on the palate without burning it out like what straight whiskey could do which is why, especially an aggressively peaty one like Laphroaig (my personal favorite Scotch beating out Macallan) is reserved for the end as a digestif.

The final dish given was one of the main signature dishes of Manolin: Grilled Beef with butterball potatoes, radishes, and whipped lardo topped with an Italian anchovy sauce called Colatura. This dish was heavenly! In addition, the beef was cooked to the universally ideal point of medium rare (Sorry, Well Doners) with the grillman keeping a keen eye on the beef in order for a fabulous consistency in the quality of the cooking of the beef to be reached which is highly necessary in a restaurant for any ingredient being cooked. Yes, Manolin should have its seafood dishes primarily do that job as that what it more focuses in. No doubt, the ingredients were high quality. With that being said, it is an absolute steal and probably the best price for a high quality steak in Seattle. The beef itself was lean but in no way lacking in intense fatty flavor like there is with a ribeye, though it was very obvious that the complex subtle flavors of high quality beef resembling earthiness and umami were there as it's a lean, tender cut. Of course, the whipped Lardo was there to add more pronounced fatty flavors if you wanted to add it for each custom bite. The anchovy Colatura sauce was very rich and full of glutamic umami from both the anchovies and the red wine added to the sauce itself; quite the umami bomb - a legitimate use of that term I must say! In addition, the vegetables, both the radishes and butterball potatoes were divine in earthiness; the flavors of the soil, more particularly its essence, could be tasted without you actually having it in your mouth which would certainly be disgusting. Like with Sitka and Spruce, Manolin knows how to cook its vegetables of which I'm starting to realize it as a trait of a successful, legitimate Seattle restaurant that caters to dining enthusiasts.

For the dish, I had actually wanted a sparkling rosé to go with it as I was still in a mood for something sparkling but needed a red-ish wine to go with the beef. I had saw a man poor something sparkling but with the hue of the dim lights, I thought he was pouring a sparkling rosé and just asked for the glass he was pouring which he was more than happily to oblige. I tried it but had realized it was an extremely dry French Cidre which is the Florence Loisel "Gosne" cidre. French (or European) Cidres aren't exactly sweet but it kind of has this, how shall I put it, "stinky flavor" that's an acquired taste that resembles the smell of a stable; basically the more "stable-y" the better... Be that as it may, I did find it to be actually really delicious but wanted a sparkling rosé. When one of the extremely attentive waitresses noticed how I had more of a preference for a glass of sparkling rosé, she was more than willing to want to change it at no charge. I forgot the name of this sparkling rosé but it was very satisfying and refreshing. With all of that said, I wanted to note the attentiveness that went beyond the call of duty from the staff at Manolin. I have to say that not only do the staff look extremely pleasant in physical appearances as Seattleites love to be outdoorsy, but they are very kind on the inside unlike how it sort of is down here in SoCal (especially Orange County and San Diego) with being shallow in preference for appearances rather than for kind and amazing personalities.

At the end of the spectacular service and a fabulous meal, I requested for something mild for my end-of-meal Scotch, The Glenlivet 12 year is a great Scotch especially for beginners and those who want to start developing a taste for it. Well rounded indeed without being aggressively peaty like a Laphroaig as I've eaten so much that my stomach couldn't take it, that character of the Scotch was much appreciative. After I finished my Scotch, I was thanked for coming over for the first time from the warm staff as they also wished for me to return as well which I'm definitely more than willing to do so, especially if I were to bring friends and family to try uniquely Seattle restaurants that are not only highly refined and mind-blowingly delicious, but preferential to those that want an amazing culinary experience, yet also want to avoid the tourist traps as well since they're out of towners (but this also applies for local Seattleites as well looking for local gems).

Unfortunately with the fatigue I had experienced along with my stomach being bloated from eating way too much, I couldn't go to the concert I wanted to attend to which was the Snow Cap Party at Pyramid Breweries which had Robert DeLong headlining as I haven't been to a concert in a long time. Though bummed out, I had a nice, decadant Chocolate Cake from The W room service with a really long name I must note. With layers of chocolate and mint-chocolate cream on top along with the cooling whipped cream and the tartness of the raspberries to invigorate one's palate, it certainly made up me missing the concert. After being tired from walking and traveling from SeaTac airport within the same day, it is certainly exquisite and longing to have room service, especially that I have to say that it feels good to lay off the booze in this case as an accompanying ginger ale was definitely warranted to further quench one's thirst after being dehydrated from all of that walking while of course being settling on the stomach after a very filling, intense meal. If any of you plan on staying at The W, especially in Seattle, I highly recommend that you order the chocolate cake (once again, it had a very long name on the menu), especially as it's available late night and it's something for you if you want to have a luscious and luxurious heavenly bite while being extremely settling for your stomach at the end of the day (with a ginger ale, of course that in this situation it's fine to have soda with cake), all cozy in your bed while you watch free HBO.

Manolin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, January 27, 2017

Matt's in the Market: A brief lunch introduction to Seattle

I came back to Seattle in order to see Anthony Bourdain as he's back in town for another performance, but in November this time. To those who are not open to rainy and cloudy weather, I have to say that you're missing out on Seattle's beauty such as being immersed the pristine air as the colder temperatures allow such a clean and refreshing feeling if you were to breath it in along with being immersed in the too refreshing rain unlike in persistently sunny SoCal where it's not only muggy and polluted, but the constant sun without rain and cloudy weather and the heat makes being outdoors quite uncomfortable at times unlike what clear sunny days should be as pollution and the ugly attitudes of Southern California taint the atmosphere. Be that said, the moment I arrived from my Jet Blue flight to SEA, the skys were a refreshing grey as it's welcoming not to receive glare from the sun, along with the much cooler temperatures from the rain as well. Getting out of the airport building, I walked through the parking lot hallways to get directly to the Lightrail entrance where it only costed my a mere $3 one way to the city. Because of how easily accessible and cheap it is to get to the wonderful and friendly city, it makes Seattle an amazing destination that you want to come back again. After settling in my hotel which was the W (a nice, trendy hotel indeed) in Downtown which fortunately as it was only a couple of blocks from the University street station, I went immediately to the famous Pike Place Market filled with wonderful foods where Matt's in the Market is at: my first foodie destination.

Immediately noticing, there's a great open space withing the restaurant after walking through the multiple hallways and stairs to get there. It was completely packed with people, especially tourists, while there was plenty of people waiting in line. Luckily, I had a reservation, so waiting time was much shorter vs those who had came in without one.

This was exactly my view from my seat next to the window which was very spectactular; people watching without being starred, very uncomfortable eating when you're being glared at from people wanting to get into staring contests with you. It's so wonderful to get a breathtaking view of a famous historical destination of America as it's America's oldest farmers market.

Waiting for my dish, I got myself a cocktail which is called the Chateau Morgan. With tequila as its alcoholic base, it went wonderfully with the blood oranges that primarily flavors the cocktail. It was both refreshing and extremely tasty as the spicy tang from the tequila paired well with the citrus and sweet notes of the blood oranges.

As the lunch menu was limited to sandwiches, I had to preorder above: Seared Foie Gras with pistatios and black cherry gastrique. If you know me, I am quite the sucker for foie gras, especially seared. If you haven't already, you must try seared foie gras! This seared foie gras slices were prepared wonderfully: nice hard edges with a soft, juicy center. Slicing into the delicacy and having a bite, it was ever so luscious with its buttery meaty flavor that carried on its own sweetness and umami. The black cherry gastrique provided a wonderful contrasting tang to offset the richness of the foie gras in addition to adding more sweetness without being overwhelming. The pistachios added a nice crunch and another element of earthiness to the foie gras. The greens provided a refreshing contrast to cut into the richness while the petite piece of milkbread too was doing the same while providing more to eat as it's a small appetizer. The foie gras was wonderful as its one of the better preparations I've had, beating the one from Son of a Gun.

Unfortunately, I had to save room for my stomach (along with not wanting to cause a larger dent in my wallet just yet) for dinner which is why I'd stopped at the appetizer. This meal was a great way to kick off my culinary trip of Seattle. Maybe next time I'll give Matt's in the Market a fairer shot at dinner (or even go back for a fuller lunch) in order to try their classical preparations of Pacific NW cuisine.

Matt's in the Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Son of a Gun: A Refined Take of a Floridian Seafood Shack

As you know, Son of a Gun is by the LA chefs that own and run their extremely popular original restaurant, Animal, that has been ventured by many famous LA food bloggers, let alone Anthony Bourdain (he dines there in the LA episode of The Layover). Going in the restaurant, it's a small, quaint restaurant with awesome nautical items and knick-knacks on the wall (did not get to take a picture of the Aziz Ansari "Food Club" plaque (sad face)); very LA trendy, let alone many other "LA" things of which I'll get to soon. Whereas Animal is more meat-based, Son of a Gun is (you guessed it) of seafood. And like Animal, it's "tapas" styled where people share small plates. And where I say small, even someone like me thinks they've really done it on the small part, at least initially; gives a whole meaning to "LA portions at LA prices". Usually when people complain about sizes, I usually don't agree with them as they're used to "Cheesecake Factory" proportions and they don't really get the "Quality vs Quantity" mantra. And I understand that at some upper mid-range restaurants, the portions tend to run on the small side. However, this may be borderlining a bit too small, especially when factoring the prices initially and even towards other blogging dining enthusiasts. The chefs behind Son of a Gun/Animal, let alone the servers on the front line, are more than used to the comments by now, especially as the servers ask "are you still hungry?" near the end of the meal.

Nonetheless, the food's absolutely amazing and surprisingly filling at the end due to the spectacular richness of each dish that accumulates throughout the meal. After eating the dishes, their prices become more justifiable when you notice the high quality of the ingredients; my initial impressions had definitely changed for the better. Certainly tasting how extremely delicious all the dishes were mulls down the initial shock of the size. Regardless and a funny, less serious note: if you want to piss someone off if they're footing the bill such as a tasteless & cultureless (especially if they're the types that scoff at fine dining and traditional cuisines of non-Western cultures, let alone want to only eat processed foods and Americanized abominations all the time) pain-in-the-ass boss or troublesome in-laws (too tasteless & cultureless), take them here! Otherwise, you will not be disappointed dining here as the food's amazing, especially if you want to impress someone by dining at a trendy LA restaurant such as an out-of-towner, let alone a date.

Anyways, the party started out with some cocktails. Usually I go for strong cocktails such as an original Gin Martini or a Manhattan. However, I am a sucker for anything coconut as the Pina Colada was the cocktail that peaked my interest in them as a kid (made mocktails as a kid for my friends). So without shame, I said to the gentleman who took my order, "I'll have a Coconut Collins"; real manly. But as there was no judgement as there takes courage to order a "fruity" drink out in the open, there was also a great deal of acknowledgement as I ordered something truly delicious and sweet like coconut as he understood that I appreciated such gloriously crafted coconut-based cocktails that its flavors were traditionally appreciated back during the previous generations infatuated with Asian-Pacific island-y themes. #retrolove

The drink itself as it was gin-based hit well on all fronts. It was packed with coconut flavor while not at all being overwhelmingly sweet, nor the gin was too pronounced as the right amount was added. With all of that said, the drink had the right amount of viscosity which was not much as it went down easily which is extremely refreshing on a hot, summer day in Southern California; certainly could have gone for another one of those. Otherwise, the cocktails are amazing at Son of a Gun as I definitely wished their sister restaurant, Animal, would incorporate a full bar; one of the reasons why I chose to dine here instead of Animal; still hope to go there in the future though.

To start out, the party ordered the oysters of the day. Sorry, but I forgot which were they. However, I was informed that the restaurant orders what's best offered by the purveyor for the day. Along with the cucumber mignonette, cocktail sauce, freshly grated horseradish, and lemon wedges as condiments; the oysters themselves were very fresh and invigorating on the palate which made you want to slurp down as many as you can, even though they're $3 a pop.

Our first dish arrived which was the Amberjack with stone fruits (nectarines and cherries), and pistachio topped with herbs. The vinaigrette was surprising as it was smoky and loaded with highly savory umami in flavor. Along with the fresh ingredients of the fruity components providing a refreshing counterbalance to the heavy savory flavors, the buttery yet delicate flavors of the Amberjack flesh went intricately together as no component of the dish overwhelmed each other. What's amazing is that the acidity of the crudo was not at all overpowering as a lot of crudos are stereotypically known for.

What immediately followed was the Uni with Burrata. One might think "Does uni pair at all with cheese?" To some non-adventurous people, they would not dare to try the combination at all. However as I'm almost the opposite, I immediately put it in my mouth and was wonderfully surprised that the deep ocean-y flavors of the uni paired well with the smooth earthiness of the Burrata. Although it may seem small portion-wise on the plate, believe me: it is quite rich even though not overwhelming that a few bites will leave you satisfied.

Next is the other raw dish: Yellowfin Tuna stuffed with Avocado and Tortilla in Leche de Tigre (Citrus Marinade). Although it may not exactly be vibrant and abundant in color as what showing the greens of the avocado would have done since the tuna's covering them, but there's a great purpose for the Yellowfin Tuna to wrap over the avocado and tortilla chips: it prevents them from being soggy by the leche de tigre so that they won't lose their structural integrity in order to contribute to the overall textures for each bite: something hard with something soft. Also by feel, you can taste each component of the dish as they're melding together in your mouth. Like with the amberjack dish, the acidity from the leche de tigre was not at all overwhelming yet very savory. The refreshing flavors from the avocado and leche de tigre melded with the bite of the tortilla chips concludes well when the succulent flesh of the yellowtail tuna initially touches your tongue with such butteriness. This dish is something you must order like with the amberjack. So far what I've concluded was that Son of a Gun does their crudos well without being overpowering in acidity. Definitely be willing to order something raw at Son of a Gun, especially as it's a seafood restaurant in LA out of all the places in America. If there are some in your party that's unwilling to eat any seafood raw (unless if they have health complications), they're certainly missing out a huge component of what Son of a Gun has to offer.

As the East Coast has lots of places that serves the ever so amazing lobster roll that seems elusive towards us West Coast people due to its price and as it's viewed as a luxury since lobster's really expensive over here, Son of a Gun must offer their take on it and they're sure representing LA in terms of both quality and small portion. Before I continue, my understanding is that the "cold" version of the lobster meat being in mayo and celery is more authentic and more typically enjoyed on the East Coast as the "hot" buttered version is more appealing towards the masses while the butter masks the delicate flavor of the lobster. Don't get me wrong: although I'm generally more for traditional preparations over less-authentic alternatives, I would still have a soft spot for the hot version if there was both kinds offer to me. Nonetheless, Son of a Gun upgrades the cold version by using lemon aioli (yes, aioli is essentially mayonnaise but with garlic and it too has lemon juice in it, but I assume it's even more lemon-y in flavor) as its mixing agent with celery mixed in. Topped with chives and its cute & tiny bun well-toasted and buttered, it looks very refined in presentation and petite as if it were a toy model. Biting into it, the meat is cooked to the right point without it being tough and the aioli not overwhelming; very delicious indeed. The lemon wedge adds a little more zing which I feel is what the roll needs to complete itself. Although some might complain about its tiny portion and at $10 a pop, this here is a refined lobster roll: quality over quantity that everyone at the table must try when dining at Son of a Gun.

Next came the Smoked Mahi Fish Dip with Crackers accompanying it. As in the title, it has the smoky flavor but it's not overwhelming while the veggies provide a refreshing counterbalance and the cracker melds it all together. Certainly, this is a great dish to order for the table as a snack for in between the lighter dishes and the more heaver dishes that will proceed afterwards.

Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Hoisin, Herbs and Sriracha Mayo: this was a surprise winner. Looking at it, you might be thinking, "another overpriced, tiny seafood sandwich?" However when finally bitten into, this tiny sandwich was rich and loaded with lustful flavors from all components of the dish: the oily and raw umami from the shrimp and sriracha mayo, and the vibrant and refreshing cilantro as a counterbalance all going well together that makes quite the, perhaps, erotic symphony of flavors meshing well onto one's palate. If you open the top of the sandwich, it's like a glistening jewel from the oils of the mayo and shrimp combined with the contrasting green of the cilantro. Although you should try both, I have to say if you had to choose one or the other, I'd actually choose this over the lobster roll despite the latter being more prized in terms of the rarity & luxury of the ingredient. This sandwich is a "must order" if you're coming here for the first time.

Venturing into the "meat" portion of the meal, the Broadbent's Country Ham is served before us with Honey Butter and Hush Puppies (Fried Cornbatter). Certainly, this is America's take on the Italian Prosciutto. With that being said as an American, I wish more Americans are more aware that we produce luxurious and luscious goodness like this and want to eat this since we're so used to overly processed foods that we cannot avoid to eat that diminishes both the life of the animal when it was living and the quality of flavors when it's sacrificed for our nourishment. Before we'd digged in, the server told us to split the hush puppy in half, then smear the honey butter in between and put in between a piece of that sinfully salty (in a non-overwhelming way) ham as if you're eating miniature "sandwiches"; you'll soon wish you could either stuff as many as these flavor bombs into your mouth or that you can make one giant sandwich with one giant hush puppy slathered with that honey butter and stuffed with the meat of an entire cured ham leg (ok, that would be overdoing it as it would be salty as hell but still imagine it as if it won't cause your heart to work overtime as your BP would shoot up to ungodly levels pumping all of the sodium and other preservatives such as the nitrates throughout your body). Aside from the overly detailed description that you've just read, just eat... eat it all!

Before our last dish, a dish that has an ingredient that I can't essentially say no to, we ordered their Chilled Peel & Eat Shrimp with Lime Mustard Sauce. As they've arrived, the first thing that came into mind was how huge they are! These things were more like prawns, or just large-ass shrimp. Steamed with what I assume was Cajun seasoning popular in Southern seafood boils and then chilled, these shrimp were plump in terms of both mass and flavor. Usually I love and at times require sauce, but this time, I felt that the mustard sauce could be done without it even though I'd still would be willing to dip the shrimp in and eat it. However, I'd be fine with just the boil seasonings and a spritz of lime juice over it as the mustard sauce, even to me, seems a bit overkill. Otherwise, this too is a great dish for the table to share.

Finally comes the dish I've been looking for as it contains the holy ingredient that was unfortunately briefly banned in California but was overturned by the courts as it was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act thus making the ban on hold as it's under appeals which means it can be sold now for the time being: Foie Gras with Apple Tartine, Cider Caramel, and Chervil. Once I put that seared foie gras into my mouth along with morsels of the cider caramel-drenched apple tartine accompanying it which adds symbiotic rich sweetness to the ever so luscious and savory foie gras, it was blissful heaven; something I rarely ever say. It was extremely nice again to experience foie gras, especially it seared vs it in a terrine/torchon form which makes itself both savory and sweet with the caramelization of the fats from the sear. Although I was blissfully enjoying my foie gras and the pairing of the apple tartine went spectacularly well together, I'd have to admit that the chervil didn't go well as usually herbs are meant to be refreshing in order to counter richness. However due to the intense chemical nature of the flavors of chervil, I felt that it did not blend well with the flavors of both the foie gras and the tartine thus fighting against them. Nonetheless, one can easily push off the chervil and enjoy the beautiful harmony of flavors of the foie gras and the richly sweet apple tartine. If you're looking to try foie gras for the first time, I highly would recommend trying it seared.

Despite some of the complaints that the portions are too small, even for "foodies", this accusation is countered by the fact that you'll definitely feel full due to the richness of each dish accumulating throughout the meal; trust me, you'll feel full after a couple of dishes. This is how the French eat rich foods and get away with being thin while not starving themselves as they savor it since it turns out that the richness can be quite overwhelming if eaten in great proportions thus acting as a deterrent from overeating. Most certainly, the mantra of Son of a Gun is "quality over quantity" which will impress the dining enthusiast inside you and your companions but will aggravate those who aren't willing to venture out into the realm of fine quality dining where the portions don't come close to that of the Cheesecake Factory or ignorantly scoff against it as "not being food" at all.

Although the portions may be a concern to some, my real concern is how LA, despite it being a sanctuary for authentic Latin and Asian cuisines that dominates other major American city, is not really hospitable to trendy, mid-range New American restaurants that has actual substance in their cuisine vs cities like New York, Seattle, let alone San Francisco. Sure there exist just simply trendy restaurants in LA, but I generally feel that the New American restaurants in the cities mentioned above have more credibility in their cooking vs ones down here. With all of that being said, there's definitely lot's of people here with money willing to spend it on expensive food; but the real question is "do they not only have the appreciation for the food they're spending their money on, but also the willingness to seek it out?" Be that as it may, I feel that restaurants like Animal and Son of a Gun are providing hope for the dining enthusiasts in the area challenging the notion of "LA not being a foodie town". Although yes, LA contains perhaps the best Latin cuisine that's affordable to most people and also the best sushi with authentic preparations that the prices may be kinda high for most people in the US; however like a powerful economy that depends on the Middle class, a great food city in America needs to have a strong presence of mid-range restaurants of New American cuisine which is very important as it incorporates not just Western, European influences, but also relatively newer (in terms of being tasted by American palates) Asian, Latin, and other non-European influence that incorporates all of those which resembles America as a mixing pot in order to form an original cuisine with both power and refinement that's democratically accessible. Dining at Son of a Gun, you certainly will enjoy what LA has to offer.

Son of a Gun Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato