Tag Archives: Lunch

Kaya Asian BBQ & Grill

Repeatable: Yes. Visits: 2

Atmosphere is usually not a significant part of the dining experience when you eat Korean. But for every adventurous diner who relishes the cheap thrills of eating in grungy surroundings, there are others who eschew dinginess and insist on the total package. With Shoreline’s Kaya (20109 Aurora N, #102, 546-2840), there’s finally a place where these two types can sit down at the same table.

If I were the owners of Everett’s Kawon, I’d throw some significant change into remodeling, because Kaya offers seriously good food in a seriously fine atmosphere. The dark wood and sleek lighting feel like something out of a Vegas bar, except that over every table there’s a massive venting hood. On a recent Sunday night at 5:30pm, the entire cavernous space was filled to bursting with beautiful young things who were not only paying attention to the food but to each other as well.

Kaya is the Seattle outpost of a notable LA chef, who has brought a refined touch to certain classics like thinly sliced beef. Here, there are three dipping sauces to choose from instead of just the traditional sesame seed oil-salt mix. The marinaded meats are perfectly flavored, and all grill options come with the requisite assortment of banchan, salad, and soup. Maybe the assortment isn’t as generously varied as it is at Kawon, but it’s certainly as tasty.

Kaya also serves a mean naengmyun, the cold buckwheat noodle soup that is, for many Koreans of a certain age, de rigeur slurping after every golf game. The broth–a gorgeously clear beef consomme–is served partly frozen, so that the noodles are suspended in something that resembles in texture a melting Slurpy. Add vinegar and hot mustard to taste, and you have an absolutely brilliant hot weather lunch.

Soups, such as yukhwejahng, the spicy shredded beef soup, daengjang, spicy miso, are all hearty, made to order, and extremely tasty.

Closer to Seattle by half the distance, Kaya will definitely start pulling away some of Kawon’s regulars. The menu is more expansive, and the prices extremely reasonable. Throw in the grown-up atmosphere, and you have an actual contender for a Korean restaurant that can also be considered a fine dining destination.

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Filed under BBQ, Korean, Lunch

Genki Sushi

Repeatable: Yes. Visits: 6+

Genki's conveyor

Genki's conveyor

For some reason, hot weather seems to bring out the sushi fanatics in droves. I’m not one of them, but my husband and kids are, so we found ourselves at Genki Sushi for the umpteenth time this weekend.

Convenience isn’t the only reason we go–Sushiland is right across the street, and I’ve never returned after my initial visit. Genki is actually the best of the kaiten sushi options in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Granted, that’s not exactly high praise, but kaiten, or conveyor-belt, sushi isn’t exactly haute cuisine.

Still, when it’s well done, kaiten sushi is fun fast finger food, and there are lots of interesting combinations at Genki, such as the very Hawaiian Spam musubi roll and the fantastic Ahi Poke roll–which, we learned today, was just taken off the Seattle menu because there’s not enough demand for it here.

This is truly a sad state of affairs, because the poke at Genki–a zesty salad of ahi bits, onions, garlic and soy-sesame dressing–is the best poke we’ve had outside the islands. Not enough demand, the Japanese sushi chef explained. The Genkis in Hawaii and Japan still serve poke–it’s one of the chain’s most popular items. But not in Seattle. Hello?

Aside from the freshness of the fish and great deals ($1 sushi at Happy Hour!), Genki also offers fantastic options for vegetarians and hard-core sushi eaters, which may explain why two-thirds of the customers are visiting Japanese. My hunch is that this place is just a wee bit too authentic for the likes of Seattle. Seriously, folks: Who was going to grab those big hand rolls of natto riding along the belt? (If you’ve never tried these slimy fermented soy beans before, recall what you did with your finger and your nose as a small child…Natto is eerily similar…)

Speaking of kids: Genki is a great place for little ones. First, there’s the instant gratification of the kaiten: My daughter ate eight tobiko rolls that she grabbed off the line with her tiny hands. So what if she went to bed smelling like bait.

Then, there are the a la carte menu items, conveniently served in appetizer portions for bar-style grazing. This means that the order of tempura udon or chicken teriyaki is down-sized to perfect dimensions for little appetites. Considering that these items are all priced well below $5, you’ll be extremely pleased with the final bill.
Genki Sushi on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Bar, Japanese, Kid Friendly, Lunch, Vegetarian Friendly

Tutta Bella

Repeatable: Maybe. Visits: 2+

Tutta Bella Pie

Tutta Bella Pie

Seattle is not New York or Chicago, so you can fuhgeddabout all the fine distinctions that make pies worthy of either the Big Apple or the Windy City.

Still, Seattle’s trying. Tutta Bella isn’t exactly news anymore, but it’s representative of the wave of artisanal pizzerias that have recently opened up.

Without naming additional names, let me say that there’s an eerie similarity to these pizzerias, and I’m just holding Tutta Bella up as the most obvious and established offender: paper thin crusts splotched by bubbles of black char.

Burnt dough simply doesn’t taste good–I don’t care how much sauce, cheese, or creative topping is surrounding or covering these ugly boils. And yet for some reason, the local fancy pizzerias insist on offering up these offenders. Why?

Until I actually experience a pizza that is not partially burnt, sooty, or charred, I cannot recommend Tutta Bella without reservations. That simply hasn’t happened yet. At best, I can salvage a piece or two from an entire pie. And then I wonder: Is it really worth the trouble and expense?

That rhetorical question makes me think of the ne plus ultra of American pizzerias, Pizzeria Bianco. Located in, of all places, Phoenix, Arizona, Bianco offers up the kind of pizza that I will gladly suffer a trip to the dessert just to eat–pizza that’s worth a great deal of trouble and expense. (And Phoenix is much closer than Chicago and New York!) In April, we ate there twice; I stood in line for an hour both times to hold our places. As we were boarding the flight back to Seattle, my husband and three children walked on carrying their own boxes from Pizzeria Bianco. “Is it really that good?” someone asked. My children nodded solemnly, clutching their boxes for dear life. They’re still talking about the experience wistfully, asking when we’re going back. “Mama, that pizza was the best pizza in the world.” “Not quite,” I say. “There’s a couple places in Italy I gotta show you…”)

South Lake Union
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Columbia City:
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wallingford:
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria (Wallingford) on Urbanspoon

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Filed under 15654811, Casual, Italian, Kid Friendly, Lunch, Pizza

Tilikum Place Cafe

Repeatable: Yes! Visits: 6

Because I review the lovely Tilikum Place Cafe in this week’s edition of Seattle Weekly (on newstands Wednesday), I won’t repeat myself (it’s a rave review; one of the best eating experiences I’ve had in Seattle in recent memory). Instead, I offer a recipe from the chef, Ba Culbert, whose culinary talent I deeply respect and whose food I adore. If you haven’t discovered this gem of a restaurant yet, go quickly–before the stampede hits. (And, no, this review doesn’t mean that I’m back in full-time action as a professional reviewer; I’m simply covering for Jonathan Kauffman while he’s on vacation.)

For selfish reasons, I’m glad she’s sharing the recipe for her divine baked beans. Here she is in her own words:

“In England, beans on toast are a staple, stop-gap meal.  While it is usually Heinz beans from a can on a slice of toasted white bread, it can still be a very satisfying meal. As my mother is from England, “beans on toast” was a familiar standby (popular on the “make it yourself” dinner nights) in our family–and I mean the ones from a can. Every once in a while, though, my mother would start from scratch and make a big pot of baked beans. I remember the delicious smell wafting through the house and getting excited for dinner. Her beans, as are these, were a bit of hybrid between an English and an American Boston Baked Bean. However, whichever side of the Atlantic you’re on, they ought to be good.”

TPC’s Baked Beans:
Ingredients
4 cups flageolet beans, soaked over night (navy or white beans may also be used)
1 ea carrot
1 rib celery
1 ea onion
sachet 1(black peppercorns, thyme, bay)
water to cook beans
oil for searing pork
2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into three or four large pieces
4 oz slab bacon, cut into 1/2″ dice (sliced bacon is just fine also)
1 ea smoked ham hock (optional)
2 ea onion, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tbls tomato paste
2 cups diced tomato (canned)
sachet 2 (allspice, cinnamon stick, fennel seed, thyme, bay leaf, black peppercorns)
molasses
apple cider vinegar
maple syrup (to taste)
2 tbls whole grain mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the soaked beans with the mirepoix and sachet 1 in plenty of water until they are tender.  Remove the mirepoix and reserve the cooking liquid.  This may be done a day or two ahead or the same day.  (If the beans are cooked ahead of time, cool them in the liquid so they remain tender.)
Generously salt and pepper the pork shoulder and brown in a large heavy bottomed pot with a well fitting lid.  Remove when brown and add the diced bacon.  Render out the bacon for five minutes or so, being careful not to burn the bottom of the pan.  Add the diced onion and garlic and cook until translucent.  Add tomato paste and stir for a few minutes to coat bacon, onion and garlic.  Deglaze with a little apple cider vinegar.  Add the beans with their cooking liquid, the diced tomato, sachet 2 and 1/4 cup molasses. Add the browned pork shoulder and the ham hock (if using) to the pot.  It should be quite loose or brothy at this point.  Cover and put in a 250-degree oven for about 4 hours, checking periodically to make sure it does not dry out.  If additional liquid is needed, add water or chicken stock.  When the pork is tender and and the hock falls off the bone, remove from the oven.  Let sit until it is just cool enough to handle.  Remove the ham hock and pull meat from the bones and return to pot.  Using wooden spoons, or whatever you prefer, pull apart the pork into large hunks (this should be very easy).  Remove and discard sachet.  Stir in maple syrup and whole grain mustard, adjusting to taste (you may also want to adjust vinegar and molasses too).  The beans are best if they are allowed to sit for a day to meld flavors together but may be eaten the same day.  I do not usually add salt and pepper until I am reheating the beans for service.  Enjoy!

Tilikum Place Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Bar, Breakfast, Casual, Northwest

Kingfish Cafe

Repeatable: Yes. Visits: 1

Gumbo with rice at Kingfish Cafe

Gumbo with rice at Kingfish Cafe

Twelve years ago, I wrote my first review of the Kingfish Cafe, for Seattle Weekly. I raved about the down-home, deep-fried, long-simmered Southern cooking and the gorgeous Coaston sisters who ran this popular new eatery.

Back then, blogs didn’t exist. Newspapers ruled, and reviewers relied on word of mouth to get a feel for the next big story. An amazing new restaurant often spent up to six months waiting to be reviewed; in that time, their customer base grew by word of mouth, and the kitchen got their act together with plenty of trial and error.

Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same–and thank god the Kingfish is the same homey, comfortable space I remember, with the same wistfully Southern menu: fried chicken, gumbo, hoppin’ john, okra, collard greens, cornbread, biscuits and gravy, catfish, Red Velvet cake. These classics are as fiesty and finger-lickin’ as ever. And the elegant twins, Leslie and Laura, still greet diners at dinnertime, who flock here to see them as much as to savor the fare. There aren’t many tried-and-true classics like the Kingfish in Seattle, so if you haven’t been in awhile, it might be time to take a stroll down memory lane.
Kingfish Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Casual, Southern