Category Archives: Reviews

Cha:n – Striking a Balance Between Traditional Korean Food and Modern Cuisine

When I heard a new Korean place was opening up Downtown, needless to say I was very excited since most of my go-to Korean restaurants are a ways north. My best friend (half Korean like myself) Jenn (author of Jenn Dot Com) and I quickly made plans to check Cha:n out! And boy, am I glad we did.

I opted to walk from my office in Lower Queen Anne to the restaurant. I arrived early, and I was greeted by Fox the restaurant manager and Nikki the bartender. While waiting for Jenn, I decided to sit at the bar. I struck up a conversation with Nikki going over the cocktail menu, which inventively uses Korean wine and liquor. I ordered a vodka gimlet, my usual drink, and Nikki asked if I liked raspberries and lime. I said yes, so she asked me to trust her. I figured I was in good hands, so I let her work her magic resulting in a vodka gimlet with Bokbunja, Korean raspberry wine. It was beautiful and delicious!

raspberry vodka gimlet

Later on in the meal, I also enjoyed a sojito, a Korean twist on the mojito made with soju, a clear Korean spirit. It’s a perfect summer cocktail.

sojito

And for a more “dessert” like cocktail, I tried another Nikki creation, the yet to be named brown sugar-ginger-soju martini which used bekseju, another Korean wine flavored with herbs predominantly ginseng. It was bright, refreshing, and just sweet enough.

ginger soju brown sugar martini

As for what food to order, Jenn and I had a difficult time trying to decide. One thing we did know was that we wanted a good mix of the Traditional and Modern items. To start, we ordered one item from each side of the menu.

mung bean kimchi pancake (traditional)

kimchi pancake

and the bulgogi beef sliders (modern)

bulgogi slider

I really liked that they use mung bean flour for the pancakes, but the kimchi flavor didn’t come through enough for my liking. I could see it as a milder “starter” appetizer for someone trying kimchi for the first time, but I personally like kimchi pancakes to have some bite.

The bulgogi beef sliders, on the other hand, I could have eaten at least five more! The cucumber kimchi added both a freshness and contrast in flavor to the sweet bulgogi marinade as well as provided a crunch. Also, the quality and flavor of the beef was superb. The dish definitely showcased the locally sourced market ingredients and quality meat from Painted Hills.

After finishing up those two dishes, we chose two more dishes to complete the meal.

Spicy kimchi pork belly with poached tofu (traditional)

spicy kimchi pork belly

and the kimchi bacon paella cheese gratin (modern)

kimchi bacon gratin

Both of these dishes hit the spot. The spicy kimchi pork belly with poached tofu is one of my favorite Korean dishes to begin with, and I was definitely pleased with it at Cha:n. The tofu had a really great texture and flavor. The preparation of the dish with the mound of spicy kimchi pork belly sitting atop the tofu was perfect for getting a bit of everything in each bite!

As for the gratin, while on the Modern side of the menu, this dish took me straight back to Korea! It’s comfort food for sure with a bit of a Western flair. The kimchi really was the star of this dish! I think that even someone who may not think they like kimchi might change their mind after one bite!

While we weren’t necessarily going to go for dessert, Fox insisted we couldn’t leave without trying the ginger creme brulee. I am a sucker for creme brulee but I am not always up for ginger flavored things as I can only handle so much ginger. Let me say though that this ginger dessert hit the spot. It had just the right amount of spice and the creme brulee itself was cooked perfectly! It tasted just like these round fortune cookie type treats coated with ginger icing my mom used to buy me when I was growing up, and it was a great way to end a fantastic meal.

I will definitely be bringing my fiance to Cha:n in the coming weeks as he loves Korean food as much as I do, but mainly so I can try even more items on the menu! I’d definitely recommend Cha:n if you are looking for a way to introduce people to Korean food beyond BBQ or are looking for a cozy place for a few cocktails and delicious small plates to share. Check Cha:n out on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: Does It Come With Bacon was not financially compensated for this blog post but was treated to a complimentary meal at Cha:n. All opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience.

Review: El Gaucho Happy Hour

So we’ve been to El Gaucho’s Happy Hour three times, but the last two times I decided to take some pictures since I’d been wanting to write about it! The food below is from those two most recent times.

Just a little info on the Happy Hour before the visuals. HH is from 5pm-7pm Tues-Fri and 5pm-Close Sunday/Monday. Drink specials are okay with Full Sail IPA ($4), a red and a white wine ($5), and select cocktails ($6). The real deal about their happy hour is half off the bar food menu!

The 410 Burger ($9) never disappoints. The past two visits we’ve split the burger, the steamed clams, and the baby back ribs. They always cut the burger in half and split up the homemade taro chips, always a bonus in my book! The quality of the beef is outstanding (duh!), and they cook it perfectly (medium rare by default)! It’s one of the few burgers that I don’t think is better with bacon (Gasp!).

elgaucho_cheeseburger

The Steamed Clams ($7) were amazing on both visits, so sweet and juicy! The saffron broth is well seasoned and the fennel in it was delicious! And of course you’ve got to love the crostini/bread for sopping up the broth.

elgaucho_clams

And let’s not forget the Baby Back Ribs ($8). They are fall off the bone tender, and the BBQ sauce is out of this world! I really want to bottle it and take it home with me!

elgaucho_babybackribs

This last time the fiancee and I went, my sister met us before we headed over to The Big Picture to watch Horrible Bosses. So this time, we got to a try a few more items (we have a hard time deviating from the burger/ribs/clams combo)!

The Mixed Greens ($4.50) were good, but it could have used a bit more acidity. The sweetness of the apples and candied almonds overpowered the dijon vinaigrette. But for the price, it’s not a bad deal if you’re looking for a vegetarian or simply lighter option at the bar.

elgaucho_salad

I’d say if you were to go with the Macaroni & Cheese ($6), the Mixed Greens would be a great compliment and a great value ($10 for both). I usually find that even with exceptionally good Mac & Cheese, the pasta used is lackluster. However, with this dish the penne pasta was perfectly al dente and toothsome (in a good way). It stood its own up against the oodles of creamy cheddar (almost a sauce but thicker) and the crunchy panko bread crumbs on top. It’s moved its way into my Top 5 Mac & Cheeses!

elgaucho_macncheese

After eating at El Gaucho, we had about an hour before the movie so we headed across the street to Black Bottle for a drink. My Happy Hour app said they had happy hour going, but that turned out to not be the case. Since we were there, we ordered a round of drinks and some food. The cocktails my sister and I ordered were excellent, definitely drinks we’d order again! I went with the Rising Sun-rita (sake, blood orange puree, fresh lime), and my sister decided on the Doppelganger (pear vodka, passion fruit rum, OJ, cranberry juice). Both were fairly strong.

blackbottle_cocktails

For food, we tried the Prosciutto and Potato Wheels, not something I’d recommend. It had a balsamic glaze that really didn’t go well with the prosciutto. The rest of the food menu looks good though, so considering how tasty the cocktails were I’d like to give the food another go!

In summary, I highly recommend El Gaucho (check ’em out on Facebook and Twitter) if you’re looking for some high quality food at a decent price. For some tasty cocktails, I’d check out Black Bottle as well. Either (or both!) are perfect for when you’re going to catch a movie at The Big Picture!

Coming tomorrow or Thursday, Japonessa Happy Hour! And after that, I’ve got at least 2 more updates (Built Burger, Night Kitchen HH, and Dragonfish HH). Then, I’ll be caught up!

Review: .twist.

Last Tuesday, my friends and I gathered for our book club at .twist. Restaurant & Lounge. This was a great venue. I’d been here previously, but this was my first visit after they’d made some changes to the menu and to how everything was set up.

I decided it would be a great choice for my blog as the happy hour here is one of the better spots in Belltown with great food deals and good drink options. $3 house red or white and $2.50 Full Sail rotator? Yes, please! Also on happy hour are some great cocktails like the Pearl plum lemonade! They’ve got a few other Pearl vodka drinks on special as well as a few Belevedere drinks between $4-6! There are also some Don Julio and Hornitos cocktails – something for everyone!

I’d forgotten my camera that morning, but luckily Carmen always has hers on hand. So much thanks to her for taking the pictures! Also if any of you ladies have any comments on the dishes you had, please leave a comment! ­čÖé

We started out with an order of the deviled eggs and truffle fries to share. The truffle fries and deviled eggs were so tasty, we’d almost finished them both off before I’d remembered we needed a picture! The remainders of both are pictured below.

These were the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had! Even if you’re not a big fan of regular deviled eggs, you might enjoy these avocado filled eggs topped with creme fraiche, serrano chillies, and cumin sea salt!

deviled egg

I’d had fries from .twist. and Ventana before, which are good. The truffle fries are the same fries but topped with black truffle oil and truffle salt. These were incredible!

truffle fries

Christine had the balsamic and pepper glazed Carlton Farms pork spare ribs with pickled green strawberries, arugula, and cocoa nibs. This is a dish that’s also on the Ventana menu. The meat just falls right off the bone and melts in your mouth. The glaze is a great combination of sweet and savory. Christine wasn’t crazy about the pickled green strawberries, but I thought they were good. Mike also thought they were a little weird when we’d tried the dish at Ventana.

spare ribs

Jenny went with the fried pork tenderloin sandwich. She was quite pleased with her choice! I had a taste of the bacon on the sandwich, and it was mmm, mmm, good with an incredible rich, porky flavor! It was topped with pepper jack cheese and foie gras mustard. As with most of their sandwiches, it was accompanied with a side of rosemary fries.

fried pork tenderloin sandwich

Shannon went with the cobb salad. She said it was good as well. Just look at that crispy fried prosciutto!

cobb salad

Carmen had the Belltown burger, always a great choice also offered at Ventana. How can you go wrong with a smoked cheddar and bacon burger stuffed with a piquillo pepper and topped with a humboldt fog goat cheese vinaigrette?? The answer is you can’t!

twist burger

Silvie chose the truffle grilled cheese sandwich with a side of soup. I was really close to ordering this as well! I think I will on my next visit. She really enjoyed it. The soup of the day was cream of asparagus, which Silvie said was quite good!

twist grilled cheese

I went with the braised Painted Hills beef short rib slider topped with peppered bacon, arugula, and goat cheese vinaigrette. The flavors of the dish were awesome. However, the short ribs were overdone, so they were dry and burnt tasting on the outside. This totally detracted from the dish; I likely wouldn’t order it again.

short rib slider

Iris had the duck corn dog, a variation on the ventana haute dog. The first order that came out was cold on the inside. She told the server though, and they took care of things. The re-ordered corn dog was solid. Iris seemed quite satisfied!

duck corn dog

All in all, a great happy hour spot in Belltown and a good venue for our book club. Next time I go back, I think I’m going to try the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese made with orecchiette pasta, smoked cheddar cheese, and truffle salt or the Steak n’ Egg, which comes with baked fingerling potatoes, a fried quail egg, carrots, and a horseradish demi glace. I saw someone order the Steak n’ Egg at Ventana; it looked fantastic. I love me some quail eggs!

Happy hour at .twist. runs Sunday to Thursday 4-12, Friday and Saturday 4-8. You can’t really beat those hours, especially in Belltown! Check .twist. out on Facebook and twitter.

Venice, how nice you are!

I thought that after all the delicious food in Florence, Venice would have to be pretty fantastic to compete. This city definitely stepped up to the challenge.

We arrived in Venice early afternoon, so after we’d gotten settled into our hotel, we ventured out in search of food and drink. I wanted to go to Osteria da Alberta as the description in the Lonely Planet guide sounded good. We stopped at an enoteca along the way, and then proceeded to walk a 2 block radius for 30 minutes or so to no avail. We were about to give up when I saw the Church of Miracles, which I remembered from the map being around the corner from the restaurant we were looking for. As is evident from the pictures below, we made it and it was well worth the 2 hour adventure we had finding it.

We started with the vongole veraci, steamed clams in olive oil, garlic, and butter. The clams were little, but they were extremely tender and sweet.

Osteria Da Alberto vongole veraci

We also ordered the quatro formaggio gnocchi. According to my note written on a piece of paper, BEST EVER!!! Tasty, melt-in-your mouth potato-y pillows. The four cheese sauce was out of this world good. One of the cheeses was gorgonzola which upped the creamy/savory factor. This dish is the stuff that heaven is made of! Mike and I both ate up every last bite of sauce with our bread.

Osteria Da Alberto quatro formaggio gnocchi

And while no picture exists (a testament to its tastiness), we ended this lovely meal with the tiramisu. My notes on the tiramisu: ALSO BEST EVER!!

This was only the start to the onslaught of awesome that were our meals in Venice. On our first full day, we went searching for Osteria I Rusteghi. Like almost every restaurant/eatery listed in our guide book, it was an adventure simply locating the place. But once again, worth it. The guide book said this would be the place to make you like lardon; this is an indisputable fact. Mike and I got a small lardo di collonata sandwich, grilled eggplant, and grilled cherry tomatoes to share. Then we each got another sandwich; I went with the copacolla and black truffle, Mike with the copacolla and eggplant. Everything was quite good, particularly the lardon sandwich (creamy texture with a good cured pork flavor) and the copacolla and truffle. Just as in Florence, the use of truffles is amazing and with gusto! Every bite of the sandwich was overflowing with truffle-y flavor! Mmmm!

I Rusteghi lunch

After that, we stopped by SuSo (click here for someone else’s flickr photo) for some gelato, another randomly delicious find! On this first visit, we tried the peanut gelato and another flavor I can’t quite recall; all I know is that they were delicious, particularly the peanut! On our second visit, we had the green apple and the hazelnut; both were awesome. No pictures exist as the gelato was gone before we could even think to take a picture!

For lunch the following day, we went to Al Merca, an osteria similar to I Rusteghi. For drinks I went with the prosecco (decent, but nowhere near as good as the Collalto Extra Dry!) and Mike had the Valpolicella classico. For food, we shared a polpette di carne (meatball). I also had the parma, robiola, and black truffle sandwich while Mike had the osso collo sandwich. Both were so delicious. Once again, truffle explosions in my mouth complimented by the salty parma cut with the freshness of the robiola. We then shared another meatball and each got one more sandwich! What could beat eating delicious food and drinking wine outside on a beautiful day in Venice?

Al Merca snack

Later that day, Mike took me on a gondola ride. It was pricey but the experience was one of a kind, most importantly Mike proposing! I just had to include some pictures from that; a view from the Grand Canal, just before going under the Rialto bridge, and then a post-gondola ride capuccino photo.

gondola ride

kiss_before_rialto

DSCN0566

To celebrate being engaged, we decided to go out for a fancy-ish dinner. After reading some reviews, we headed for Anice Stellato. It was a nice restaurant known for its seafood. To start, we ordered the small misto di cichetti di pesce. Once again, another dish so tasty we forgot to take a picture until it was gone. Ultra fresh seafood cichetti. From what I recall, it included pickled anchovies which I surprisingly enjoyed. The vinegar really worked with the salty fish. We also had some of the best octopus in vinaigrette I think I’ve ever had. And to Mike’s extreme delight,the misto included fried eel, something that isn’t easily found here in Seattle!

As for things we have photos of, we started with the seafood risotto. In order to ensure you get a bit of seafood in every bite, the mussels, soft shell crab, and langoustines are shelled and chopped up into the risotto – pure genius! All I can say is that the risotto was quite yummy although I don’t have much to compare it to as I’ve only had it once or twice stateside.

Anise Stellato seafood risotto

Then Mike and I shared the pistachio crusted branzino (sea bass). Yum, yum, yum, yum! The fish was flaky and light, a great protein dish to follow up the rich risotto.

Anice Stellato branzino

And for dessert, we opted for the panna cotta with mixed berries. Neither Mike nor myself had ever had panna cotta; this was a good first! The creamy texture was incredible, and the sweetness in tandem with the tartness of the berries was outstanding.

Anice Stellato panna cotta

Our last day in Venice we were walking along the main road, and I asked if we could take a look at a menu. A pasta dish with langoustines was on it for a reasonable price (9.50 euro), so I had to get one last taste of langoustines before leaving Italy. Thus, our lucky lunch at Hosteria Al Vecio Bragosso began. We started off with the beef carpaccio; with lemon juice drizzled, each bite of sliced beef with parmagiano reggiano and arugula was a perfect start (no picture again)!

We followed that with the star of the meal, the tagliolini scampi e zucchine. Hand made tagliolini pasta with langoustines and zucchini in a light cream sauce, need I say more? It was so delicious, we only remembered to take a picture once we’d eaten about half of the dish! Check out that succulent langoustine meat!

al vecio bragosso

Have no fear though, it was so delicious that as soon as we’d eaten the last bite, we came to the instantaneous decision that we needed another plate! It was *that* good. The langoustines were fresh, tender, and sweet. The zucchini were ridiculously sweet and flavorful. Who knew zucchini was capable of such awesomeness?

al vecio bragosso 2

And that, folks, is our trip as our stomachs experienced it. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed recounting it! This upcoming week, back to our regularly scheduled happy hour programming!

Florence Food Finds Day 2 and 3

On our first full day in Florence, we did quite a bit of sightseeing (Santa Maria Novella, the Duomo, the Baptistry, and surrounding area). On our way to the Santa Maria Novella, we popped into the Coronas Cafe and tried their gelato. This was a good move on our part. We went with the banana gelato and the mango gelato. The combination of the banana and the mango was like a tropical paradise in my mouth. Our only regret was not making it back here a second time!

coronas_cafe_gelato

After all that sightseeing, we were looking for somewhere nice to eat. Looking through my Lonely Planet guide book, I’d found a restaurant that was supposed to serve a great Bistecca alla fiorentina, a signature Florentine dish (basically a melt in your mouth delicious Chianina porterhouse steak).

We went to the address indicated in the book (a few blocks from Santa Maria Novella), but we couldn’t find a restaurant matching the name in the book (it escapes me now). We did find another restaurant called Ristorante La Spada in its place that served bistecca alla fiorentina, so we decided to go there.

They offered set menus, so we went with one of the “Spada’s Fantasy Menu” and one order of bistecca alla fiorentina. That way, we could try the Florentine steak and get a variety of other things. It was plenty of food!

We started with the antipasto misto della casa as the appetizer of the fantasy menu, a wonderful array of different sliced meats, pate, and bruschetta. I was impressed by the sheer variety!

Ristorante La Spada carne antipasto

For the pasta course, we were served a trio of pastas: ravioli with truffles and mushrooms, penne with a meat sauce, and gnocchi in a rose sauce. The pasta was good, but not great. It definitely pales compared to the pasta we ate during the remainder of our trip!

Ristorante La Spada trio of pastas

The steak was so delicious, we forgot about taking a picture until it was almost gone! The roasted potatoes it came with were the perfect accompaniment as well. We drank a bottle of wine with our meal. It was bottled and labeled especially for La Spada with a picture of the restaurant’s outer face on the side of the bottle!

Ristorante La Spada house wine take 2

For dessert, we had something I can’t recall along with Biscotti di Prato con vinsanto, ‘biscottini’ and sweet wine. It’s apparently only served in the Tuscan region. The wine was really sweet, but it went well with the biscotti.

On our third day, we did some more sightseeing. First off, we accomplished our goal of visiting the Uffizi, taking in Tuscan masterpieces including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. We then walked the wrong way, turned around, and headed back toward the Gallerie dell’ Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David in all his glory. That dude is frickin’ huge!

On the way to the Gallerie D’academia, we stopped by the Mercato Nuovo to check out Il Porcellino, the little pig. Rubbing his nose ensures you’ll return to Florence, so I had to give it a try!

Florence lil piggie

After our visit with David, we made our way across Florence’s city center slowly back toward the hotel. We made a short pit stop at Giubbe Rosse, one of the cafes in the Piazza della Repubblica we’d been to the day before. They had such tasty cappucinos, I couldn’t get enough! They also had cheap, yummy pasta dishes for lunch, which we’d tried out the previous day as well.

Giudde Rossa cappucino

Before heading back to the hotel, we then stopped by Le volpi e l’uva for a few glasses of wine. This was a wonderful enoteca with a great wine selection at a reasonable price. I had the best prosecco (Collalto Extra Dry Prosecco) I’ve ever had for only 3.50 euro a glass. Mike also had a few different delightful red wines. The best part, you can purchase bottles of any wine they serve! I brought home 2 bottles of the prosecco, which was even more special as this prosecco was bottled just for Le volpi e l’uva. Mike brought home a couple bottle of reds as well. I so wish we’d had more room in our suitcase!

Since we had so many bottles, we took a cab back to the hotel. And since we hadn’t stopped thinking about our very first meal in Florence, we headed back to Antica Porta. We started out with some bruschetta, which was quite good with lots of garlic. However, we ate that before we remembered to take a picture! Do you see a theme here?

We ordered the pizza again, and then for the main entree we went with the paccheri al profumo di mare con vongole e scampi (paccheri pasta scented with sea clams and langoustines). I knew gamberi was shrimp, so we weren’t sure what scampi referred to. It does not mean a way of preparing a dish like we think in English, but it’s in fact Italian for langoustine. I’d only ever had langoustines once before at Bartolotta at the Wynn in Vegas. It was one of the tastiest sea creatures I’d ever eaten; I was ecstatic to get a taste of them again. I was so excited when they brought out the dish and I saw the lobster-shrimp creatures in the dish along with mussels, clams, octopus, and squid.

The dish was incredible. We used up all the bread at our table to soak up all the sauce. I could have eaten a whole other portion of this!

Antica Porta paccheri seafood pasta

Tomorrow, I’ll recount our culinary adventures in Venice. It only gets better from here!

Florence Food Finds Day 1 (Sunday, February 6)

After a night in London, we caught our plane from Gatwick Airport to Venice, Italy. From Venice, we hopped on a train to Florence. That Sunday evening, it didn’t seem like there were many places open. Instead of wandering aimlessly, we asked the concierge of our hotel (Hotel Villa Carlotta) what restaurants nearby were open. He recommended Antica Porta, so we headed down the hill from the hotel toward the restaurant.

Antica Porta

When we arrived at the restaurant, there were 4 servers/waitresses in their late teens/early 20s. Three of them were a bit hesitant to take us to our table, urging the fourth girl to assist us. From what we could surmise, the other girls urged our server to help us as she knew the most English.

She brought us a menu in both English and Italian. Sometimes I think this is a bad sign when in a foreign country, but in this case it wasn’t at all. We were starving, so we started off with the pecorino and salami platter. The quantity was a bit more than we expected, but we weren’t going to let any of it go to waste! The platter came with a delicious roasted red pepper tapenade that was just the perfect blend of smoky and sweet flavors. Together with a piece of pecorino and salami on a bit of Italian bread, it was a lovely start to our meal. I don’t think I’d ever had pecorino with such a sharp, rich flavor before!

Antica Porta Salami and Pecorino Romano

We followed that up with the Fonduta di tartufo nero e porcini pizza, black truffle and porcini mushroom pizza Tuscan style. It had a very thin crust, so it was a bit difficult to eat. That didn’t stop us from enjoying every last bite. There were decent size pieces of shaved black truffle and nice big pieces of porcini mushrooms. There was also some truffle oil drizzled all over for a little extra flavor. This was probably the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. It was so tasty, we almost forgot to take a picture!

Antica Porta Tartufo Nero Pizza

After the pizza, we were worried if anything else would live up to that! Luckily, the spinach and ricotta gnudi with buffalo mozzarella in a ragu sauce did not disappoint. The gnudi were rich, savory pillows with a veil of buffalo mozzarella covering each gnudi. The ragu added a tartness and meatiness that made each bite even tastier. Had we not started out with the salami platter, I guarantee you Mike and I would’ve ordered another order of the gnudi!

Antica Porta Ricotta Gnudi

After all that, we still had a tiny bit of room for something sweet. Not wanting anything too heavy, we decided upon the vanilla gelato with pine nuts and chocolate sauce. The gelato had such good vanilla flavor and the dark chocolate sauce added to each bite. The pine nuts throughout the vanilla gelato added another layer of flavor. It was like a deconstructed klondike bar with an Italian twist!

Antica Porta Vanilla Gelato and Pine Nuts

After such a delightful meal, we hiked back up the hill to the Hotel Villa Carlotta and fell fast asleep. Just a quick note, I would recommend the Hotel Villa Carlotta to anyone visiting Florence. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the Duomo, but it’s so lovely and affordable. We reserved the hotel for 3 nights through Hotwire, for $65 a night! It had a nice bathroom with a shower and a decent bed. The staff was very helpful and nice. Also, the hotel has a free breakfast each morning with quite the spread including various bread, rolls, croissants, pastries along with a selection of salami, ham, prosciutto. They also had breakfast cereals, granola, and boiled eggs. The breakfast service also included tea, juice, coffee, and capuccinos/espresso.

More Florence Food Finds on Tuesday!

A Taste of London

So after a bit of a hiatus, I’m back! But before catching up on my un-Happy Hour at Lecosho with my best friend Jenn of Amateur Gourmand, I’ve got to post about Mike and my recent trip to Florence and Venice, including a night in London.

Since we’d have been too rushed trying to jet from Heathrow to Gatwick for a flight to Venice on the day we arrived from Seattle, we decided to stay the night in London. We had a few evening hours to kill, so we walked around near Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. But before heading off to do that, we needed some food to sustain us.

After some walking around, we came across Bumbles Restaurant. They had a 3-course set price menu, so we decided it would suit our budget. While compared to the food we ate in Italy it wasn’t earth shattering, it was a good meal worth writing about.

Mike started off with the fish cakes and baked beans, while I went with the onion soup. Mike quite enjoyed the fish cakes and baked beans. I just thought it was okay, but that was more due to the texture than the flavors. I will admit the cakes tasted good in combination with the beans.

Bumbles fish cakes

The onion soup (as you can see) was just a simple onion soup, like french onion without the fanfare. It was good, but not great.

Bumbles onion soup

Then, came the entrees. Mike went with the roast pork with spiced aubergine (eggplant) and new potatoes. The pork was so succulent with a great flavor. The eggplant puree was spiced with curry, which really worked well with the pork! The new potatoes were delicious as well.

Bumbles Roast Pork

I had ordered the Devonshire lamb bolognese. While it was unlike any Italian bolognese I’d ever had, it was an interesting English take on a pasta dish. The lamb’s flavor really shined through even though it was ground; there was a healthy portion of lamb throughout the sauce, which was very hearty and comforting. And while I am not crazy about spaghetti noodles, I enjoyed them in this dish.

Bumbles Devonshire Lamb Bolognese

For dessert, Mike went with the vanilla ice cream while I decided on the yoghurt mousse.

Bumbles Dessert

While the vanilla ice cream was just fine, I couldn’t get enough of the yoghurt mousse! Imagine the flavor of Red Mango yogurt with the texture of a light mousse combined with some berry coulis, crushed gingerbread cookies, and meringue. It was so refreshing and a perfect end to the meal.

Bumbles Yoghurt Parfait

And since we were in a magical land where they exist, Mike and I had to make sure to get a Zinger Tower Burger while we were in the UK. This fabled burger first came into our lives while living in South Korea, a treat I’d only indulge in when going on vacation flying out of Incheon Airport. Imagine a spicy Zinger burger fillet with a hash brown and American cheese on top – need I say more? The UK variety (pictured below) adds salsa into the mix, which honestly really isn’t necessary. While it wasn’t as great as its Korean counterpart, it was still yummy (and something unattainable in the good ol’ U S of A).

KFC Zinger Tower Burger

I’ll be working tonight to format and upload all my pictures from Florence and Venice, so look out for those posts later this week!

Review: Hard Rock Cafe

After running some errands downtown, the boyfriend and I decided to check out the Happy Hour at the Hard Rock Cafe since we’d had a good time at the Yelp Rock Star Elite Event we’d been to the week before. Happy Hour runs until 7PM Monday through Friday, so it’s a good choice if you can’t hit one of the earlier happy hours downtown. Draft beers are 50% off (under $3), Washington wines are $5, and I believe $3.50 wells. The starters menu is also 50% off during happy hour (except for the Jumbo Combo).

So to start things off, Mike went with a pint of Longhammer IPA. I chose the Maryhill pinot gris. I will say they pour a generous glass of wine for $5!

hardrock_hh_beer_wine

As we were quite hungry, we ordered three appetizers starting with the potato skins. Each item was around $5, ($10~ish non-happy hour price) so we wanted to make sure we got enough food. With happy hours, you never know if they will be full portions or ‘happy hour’ portions.

The potato skins were very tasty and were cooked just right. The bottoms of the skins were crispy but not overdone, and the potato itself wasn’t dried out. And the bacon on top was sweet and smokey! Combined with the melted cheese and green onions, it was one of the best potato skins I’ve had in a bar!

hardrock_potato_skins

Then came the hot wings, a bar food that often disappoints. For $5 during Happy Hour, you get 10 juicy, meaty Hickory Smoked Chicken Wings. We opted for the classic buffalo style this time to see what the ‘baseline’ chicken wing was like. Next time, we may branch out to the Heavy Metal or Tangy Bar-B-Que sauces!

I was quite impressed with the wings. They were each a decent size, and the chicken was moist and flavorful. The buffalo sauce was a great balance of spicy, vinegary, and salty. Oftentimes, I find hot wing sauce is too salty; but I quite enjoyed these wings!

hardrock_hot_wings

And to end things, we decided to try the Santa Fe Spring Rolls. I was expecting more of a thick egg roll wrapper as I’ve had this type of thing in the past, but I was pleasantly surprised when the dish came out. They actually use a thin spring roll wrapper, so the dish while fried wasn’t too heavy. The spring rolls were filled with spinach, black beans, cilantro, corn, jalape├▒os, diced red peppers and Jack cheese. I think the spinach in the rolls really added a creamy texture and a unique flavor that really made this quite an enjoyable dish. And another great deal at $5 during Happy Hour!

hardrock_santa_fe_spring_rolls

All in all, the Hard Rock Cafe happy hour is a good choice if you’re downtown looking for decent drinks and good bar food. The two bartenders we had serve us (Tony at the Yelp event, and Jeremy at the bar during HH) were both awesome, so the service is a plus as well! And in the summer, it’s even better if you snag a spot on the rooftop!

Check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Review: Toulouse Petit

While I didn’t make it out to Happy Hour this week, I did get a chance to enjoy breakfast at Toulouse Petit this morning. And since their entire breakfast menu is available at Happy Hour prices ($7 for most items) Monday – Friday from 9am – 11am, I’m counting this as my ‘happy hour’ review of the week. So you get a brunch/breakfast review and a happy hour review for the price of one!

My friend Lillian and I met at Toulouse Petit at about 10:30. It was a bit full, but we were seated within 10-15 minutes. Bigger groups will definitely have a longer wait on the weekends, but a small group of 2-4 shouldn’t have too long of a wait.

We kicked things off with some cocktails. Lillian ordered the mimosa, and I went with the Breakfast Flip (navan vanil, bakon vodka, irish cream, maple syrup) since I’d wanted to try a cocktail with Bakon Vodka! The drink was quite tasty, reminiscent of a white russian without the heaviness. I couldn’t really get much of a bacon flavor, but tasted more of the maple and vanilla flavors. All in all, a good drink to order in lieu of a white russian. All their breakfast cocktails are $6.95 before 7pm, so it’s a decent deal.

mimosa_breakfastflip

While I didn’t get it this time, the Madame Toulouse ’76 (Finlandia grapefruit, sparkling wine, peach puree, honey), a play on the classic French ’76, is another fantastic breakfast cocktail I’d definitely recommend. I’m not a grapefruit vodka fan, but the combination of ingredients really balances the grapefruit flavor.

After a good 10 minutes debating what to order from the impressive breakfast menu, the two of us finally made our choices. Lillian went with the Prime Rib Eye Steak and Eggs ($15, $10 during HH), while I decided on the Duck Confit Hash ($11, $7 during HH).

I had a bite of the Prime Rib Eye Steak, and it was fantastic. It was lightly seasoned, so the flavor of the steak really shined through. It was cooked medium rare and served with potatoes, arugula atop the steak, and two eggs (she ordered them sunny side up). Definitely a good choice for those who enjoy steak & eggs for breakfast! As you can see, it was a hearty portion of steak!

steak_and_eggs

The Duck Confit Hash was definitely an excellent choice! It was in a Worcestershire type sauce that gave the dish just enough ‘bite’ as not to overpower the other flavors. I ordered my 2 eggs poached, which was (in my opinion) the way to go for this one! Each bite had a bit of the egg white, yolk, duck confit and either a potato, parsnip or piece of asparagus! It was also topped with arugula, which wilted just enough. It was a great accent to the dish! I have no complaints about this one. My only regret was that I didn’t have a piece of toast to sop up the sauce!

duck_confit_hash

All in all, an excellent Sunday brunch! I’ll definitely be back – so many menu items I’ve simply got to try. Check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp.

Review: Issian Seattle

I figured I’d kick things off with a review of my favorite restaurant in Seattle, Issian. But this time, we made it to happy hour and stayed until close (9pm!). And before I begin, my apologies for the length! To be fair, we were there for 3 hours. It reminded me of going out to dinner in Seoul, no rushing just enjoying eating and the company of good friends.

First, I’ve got to say that their happy hour is a great deal. It runs everyday from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, with both food and drink specials.

The highlights are the $1 yakiton (kurobuta/black pig pork belly) and yakitori (chicken thigh) kushiyaki (skewers)! For that alone, it’s worth it. But then you’ve got 9 other happy hour food items ranging from $2-4 to round out the HH food menu. The drink menu will keep you going as well; with draft beer (including Sapporo), house red/white wine, and small house sake all only $2.80 each (large sake is $4.50). All bottled sake is half off, but that’s a story for another day!

We started ordering off the Happy Hour menu. The yakiton kushiyaki was a must, but we tried out the yakitori as well. Just a touch of black pepper and salt on the yakiton is all that’s needed to really bring out the awesome, rich, melt-in-your mouth flavor of the pork belly. And just a little tidbit, kurobuta/black/Berkshire pigs are much more delicious than their pink counterparts!

The yakitori had a sweet glaze that wasn’t too sweet or overpowering, but highlighted the dark chicken thigh meat.

We also gave the gyoza a whirl. While it wasn’t mind-blowing, the balance of pork and ginger flavors was quite good and the crunchy wrapper was cooked just right.

The agedashi tofu, however, was quite delicious. My boyfriend is not always a fan of tofu, but he really enjoyed this dish as the texture of the tofu was ‘firm enough’ for him. The tentsuyu broth was very good, and the tofu was fried to a perfect consistency!

We’d gone out with 2 friends of ours who enjoy Issian as much as we do, so we had to get the JFC (Japanese Fried Chicken, aka karaage). The boneless lightly marinated chicken coated gently in flour is a must-have (along with those pork belly skewers). It’s hard not to order it every time!

Our friends left at this point in the meal. My boyfriend and I were still a bit hungry, so we decided to continue on. To be fair, I’d been to Issian a fair amount of times in the past few months while he had not. He was making up for lost time.

We dove right in, ordering the half omakase sashimi plate (2 slices each of 4 different fish of the chef’s choosing). For the price and the quality, I’ve not found a better place that Issian for sashimi. This time around, we were served (from left to right) yellowfin, seared albacore, octopus, and yellowtail. Each fish had great flavor and texture; and while I don’t always enjoy octopus, the octopus at Issian was cooked just enough (not too tough) and had incredible flavor.

While we were waiting for our sashimi to come out, the server brought us some tempura lotus root – a first for me. I’m not usually a fan of lotus root (often has a weird flavor and texture, in my opinion), but I did enjoy it tempura style!

And since it’d been so long, we went all out. We finished the meal ordering scallop sashimi, duck no robata yaki, and yaki onigiri.

The scallop sashimi took a while to come out, so the server brought us a seaweed salad, apologizing for the wait. The seaweed salad at Issian is more ‘Korean style’, with a sesame dressing as opposed to the ‘Japanese style’, which has more of a vinegar dressing. That being the case, it was delicious as I’m not too crazy about the Japanese style seaweed salad.

The scallop sashimi was worth the wait. It was extremely fresh and incredibly sweet. Issian is the first place I’d tried scallop sashimi (on my first visit), and if it’s on the fresh fish menu, I can’t resist ordering it! If you are a sashimi fan, then I highly suggest giving the scallop sashimi a try.

A little while after, the yaki onigiri (grilled rice ball) came out. This is another must-have in my book. So simple, but so delicious. Just a forewarning, it takes about 10-20 minutes to cook, so order it earlier rather than later. For me, it’s a perfect item toward the end of the meal. The rice ball is grilled on a wire rack, and the soy sauce brushed on the outside caramelizes as it cooks!

And to end things, we had the duck no robata yaki. This is probably one of my favorite duck dishes and one of my very favorite items on the Issian menu. Perfectly seared, sliced duck breast with the most amazing green onion sauce (green onion, boiled peanuts, and garlic) is placed atop a bed of mixed greens and balsamic vinegar. The juice from the duck mixes with the balsamic vinegar to form an awesome ‘dressing’ for the greens. The greens sit upon a puffed up rice cake, akin to the saifun noodles you find in Mongolian beef. And for $9.50, it’s a steal!

Throughout the meal, we had a few large sakes. This is one of the few places where the house hot sake is quite good and doesn’t make you want to reach for a drink of water after each sip! And you get to choose your own sake cup, which is a fun plus.

To sum it up: Issian is a great place to enjoy an affordable meal of delicious sashimi/sushi, authentic casual Japanese cuisine, and sake. Go during happy hour to get even more bang for your buck!

And since we didn’t have room for the Maguro no Kama (tuna collar) this time, you can bet I’ll be back with another review of Issian.

Check them out on Yelp and Facebook!