Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In the Bowl: Vegetarian Noodle Bistro, Capitol Hill, Seattle

It's a widely-known rumor that In the Bowl puts crack-cocaine in their curry which makes all manner of Capitol Hillian crave their food for a fortnight. The mister and I have been many times, but tonight we had a 9pm itch that only In the Bowl could itch. It also happens to be about 300 feet from our front door, and that they are the fastest take-out on the hill, but these do not discredit our adoration.

Though the regular menu is quite expansive, we almost always order off the specials. Tonight it was pumpkin curry with pineapple, mango, green peppers, and fresh tofu. It was seriously spectacular.

In the Bowl is also solely responsible for my introduction into the perfection that is the UDON noodle. I had never tried it before, and now I dream about this noodle. The texture, the taste. Oh, udon, take me away...


When the mister and I move out of the city, you can bet we'll be making trips back into the parking lot hell that is Capitol Hill just to hit this joint.

Bottom Line
Flanders sayz: "Noodley-oodley perfection.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Hopvine, Captiol Hill, Seattle

I feel completely ashamed that it's taken over a year of living on Capitol Hill to dub The Hopvine as the perfect neighborhood pub. Thank god it's pleasantly missing the "cool" factor this snob has come to dread.

It was moving week, and the mister and I were famished. We knew we needed to eat before we took another load to our new place, so we decided to head up to VIOS in Madison Park. They were closed (note: VIOS only breakfast and lunch). So we then drove by The Kingfish Cafe, one of our favorite (though gastronomically challenging) places to eat. Closed.

So we drove back to 15th and settled on The Hopvine because 1) we found a parking spot right in front of it and 2) we've been meaning to try it - and it did NOT disappoint us.

I am a snob, yes. But my mister is the beer snob. The Hopvine delivered us a tasty pour of some respectable breweries (Baron Oktoberfest and Big AL Hop Soup), plus AMAZING SOUP.

I know, totally random that this dive would have gourmet soups, but I tell you - the soup here was way better than anything we tasted at LARK (see review here) for way cheaper. The mister had a tequila, bacon, and juniper soup whereas I vacillated between the melon gazpatcho and the chanterelle mushroom soup and finally settled for the later. So friggen tasty! To compliment our delicious beers and soups, we also ordered the greek pizza, which was also very good...but honestly, we could have been fat and happy on just beer and soup.

Bottom Line
The best dive on Capitol Hill.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bleu Bistro, Capitol Hill, Seattle

It was the first fall rain of the season, and I decided to treat myself to a lunch date at Bleu Bistro. I wanted to sip wine and reply to a letter from my sister in an inspiring ambiance, so I walked up the hill.

The last time I had been in Bleu, I had the most fabulous bartender attending to me and the mister. She listened to my typical drink palate and then finally concocted me a Hendricks martini with an orange twist. I loved it so much that I've been ordering my martinis with an orange twist ever since. The experience, service, and food was great.

Upon entering by myself, I find a cozy little booth for two that will be perfect for hiding away with my thoughts. The bartender promptly greeted me with more than the usual "I have to do this because it's my job but I would rather be sitting on my couch playing Halo." Bleu has a smokin' happy hour, by the way, and he introduced me to all the ins and outs of that while I decided.

Malbec and Macaroni for me, thank you very much. That's just the kind of snob I am.

So what's interesting about this situation is not how awesome Bleu Bistro is, because I assume that you already know that I would never go back to a place that was sub-par. But about 1/3 of the way into my wine and 1/2 of the way into my letter, an aspiring old rapper decides I need to be the bearer of the lyrics he's working out in his head. He literally appeared at my right shoulder and went off. He spouts of these HORRIBLE lyrics, but instead of my usual disinterested response, I try and talk myself into being kind because after all, he may actually be an aspiring artist and not just trying to pick up on me.

(Note to self: Trust gut)

He actually starts stumbling over his rhymes and tells me it's because "I am too beautiful," and he wasn't expecting me to be "so beautiful." Oh, and "am I alone?" Mmmhhmmm. So eventually he leaves because of my paralyzing beauty, and the bartender comes to check on me.

Now this is bartending at its finest. This guy was TOTALLY busy, running his ass off bartending and waiting tables, and he takes the time to stop by and make sure I was not being molested by this wanna-be, 39 yr-old Eminem. I assured him I was fine, and thanked him profusely for his kindness.

But then Eminem came back.

He sat his sorry ass right down across from me and said, "I'm joining you." I mentioned that I was on my way out and was busy writing, but he assured me he just wanted to sit silently. Apparently my beauty was so vast that he needed to absorb it for himself.

So I'm totally uncomfortable, working up the nicest way possible to tell this guy he was seriously a loser, but instead SUPERBARTENDER tears off his shirt and tie only to reveal his power-jumpsuit-lycra thingy they all wear and heads over my way!

-Dude. I think she wants to be alone.
-Oh really? I just asked her...
-Yeah, I think she's trying to be nice.


-Oh, that's interesting you would think so, but she assured me...I mean I'm just...
-Dude. I'm not trying to be a dick. But leave.
-WHOA! Okay man, sheesh.


I left a fatty tip.

It's not that I can't defend myself, it's just that I didn't want to make a scene. But my wonderful bartender-in-shining-martini glass showed up and made me feel like the most important patron in the room. And that, my fellow snobs, is the trickery only really great restaurants can pull off.

Bottom Line
Bleu Bistro is the haven for single-diners everywhere.
Except middle-aged-white-wanna be rappers.

Also, the food and drinks are good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

LARK, Seattle

You know, the mister and I really (LIKE REALLY) wanted to enjoy LARK. We had heard quite a bit about it and walked all the way over there (okay, it's only 1 mile, but when is the last time you walked a mile for a fine dining experience), but we left feeling like we just shelled out a small fortune for really "meh" food.

Reasons to go to LARK:
  1. AHHMMAAZING wait staff. They were so incredibly warm, welcoming, friendly, and knowledgeable. I mean we show up without reservations at 7:30 on a Saturday night - which would give ANY concierge a reason to be cranky with us, but instead we were greeted immediately and assured that we would have a table within 20 minutes...oh, and did we want to go next door to LICOROUS and have a cocktail? They would call them and let us know when our table was ready. And truly, one of the things I love about dining in Seattle is that no dining is off limits, no place too elite. Once we had settled at our table, our delightful server spent plenty of time with us explaining the menu (because it needs it, sadly) and helping us chose a bottle of wine (which was not good, but whose fault is that really?). Perfect score for service.

  2. The ambiance. Truly, it's so quaint in that place. I told the mister that it reminded me of this hole-in-the-wall bistro in Paris. Very simple decor, but intentional and perfectly executed. I felt at home and at ease.
Reasons not to go to LARK:

  1. The food. The mister and I kept looking at each other with wide eyes ,"This is good, RIGHT?" and coming up short. We ordered a cheese plate, it was good, but it's hard to fuck up cheese. Then we ordered...hmm. I am honestly sitting here trying to grasp what it is we decided on because the menu was JUST THAT FRENCH.

    Side note here: We are no stranger to French cuisine, culture, or language. Two French foodies should easily be able to decipher a menu. Either we were exhausted or took a stupid pill, but we honestly had no idea what we were ordering. And that's where it's important to include descriptions of food on your menu. This seems like a silly (or I daresay, pretentious) oversight.

    So whatever it was we ordered...wait, I JUST REMEMBERED. We had some duck dish. It was okay. We had some sort of tomato salad, of which the heirlooms were the star of the entire night. We tried a whitefish special, which was bland and four bites total at best.

  2. Price.
    Mediocre Wine : $40
    Cheese plate: $12
    Fish: $16
    Duck: $18
    Steamed Mushrooms : $10
    Tomato Salad: $10
    Grand Total: Somewhere around $120-$140 including tip.

    Side note here about the Snob's guide to pricing: I AM NOT CHEAP. I have NO problem spending small fortunes on dining experiences. But I do expect that if I have paid over $100 for two people that I would leave the establishment on a fluffy cloud of culinary bliss.
Bottom Line
Either we ordered all the wrong things, or LARK is simply larking about.

Bad, I know.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ray's Boathouse & Cafe, Ballard.

It's a gorgeous day in Seattle, and my friends and I head out to Ballard...to the famous Ray's Boathouse & Cafe to celebrate a birthday, sunshine, and food. We make reservations for the cafe, but arrived early enough to secure a wonderfully private corner of the deck.

Side note to the skin-cancer conscious: No umbrellas. Bring a big, BIG hat.

We sit down and are greeted sweetly by our meek server, who has informed us that the birthday girl's husband has a surprise for the table, and she would be back shortly with said surprise. We assumed it was a bottle of champagne, and though we were right, we had to wait for the grapes to be crushed, the champagne to be bottled, corked, and shipped from France before it came to our table.

So there we are, all young and beautiful and ready as hell to drop some cash once we'd had our introductory toast, but no...we are trapped to our table with the promise of a "surprise," (why didn't she just inform us that it was champagne? how were we supposed to know that it wasn't a stripper to jump out of a cake, because if that were about to happen, i needed to run and get some small bills!) and ABSOLUTELY.NO.HOOCH. Unacceptable.

Finally, after 10 years, our bottle arrives, and how it goes down easily. We hem and haw over the menu for probably about 15 minutes before we can even agree on an appetizer. We decided on the calamari, which comes rather quickly (or was that the effect of the champagne) but without marinara, which is totally fine. So...we wait and wait for our server to come back within the vicinity of requests, and I politely ask for marinara. At this point, the deck has filled up and our server has god knows how many tables...nice going, management, for whom I blame the rest of this review.

The marinara arrives after 90% of the calamari is gone. Again, really poor form for an upscale restaurant.

But we are easy, quickly ready to forgive and move on.

We order food and another round of cocktails.
The birthday girl orders a house mixed-drink specialty, but doesn't like it sweet, so asks for the sweetness factor to be decreased...and if this were possible? Is it?

Oh yes, no problem.

Only it was a problem. Perhaps the bartender should have known to either refuse to make the drink because it was going to be a serious disaster if the recipe were altered or to TASTE the cocktail before sending it out to the table. It was gross. Seriously gross.

We had to wait for our server to return before we could fix the situation by ordering something else...something less complicated. And friends, fellow snobs, this is just the kind of lack of drinking etiquette that pisses me right off...IF YOU MUST CHARGE $10 FOR A COCKTAIL, THEN YOU MUST KNOW HOW TO SERVE IT PROPERLY AND WITH PRIDE.

Sidenote: This is also yet another reason I despise corporate restaurants.

Well, our food comes. It's fine. It's tasty for a tuna melt and caesar salad. The other dishes were simple, but a bit messy...too many flavors covering up the fine taste of Seattle's seafood. My friend had to piece apart her fish and make a new little concoction with her bread in order to taste it. Again...if your entree is $15, you should not, I repeat NOT, have to recreate it in order to eat it.

At this point, we were done. Ready for our check. We still enjoyed each other, but it was SO distracting to be taking such unprofessional care of, and we managed to drop over $100...so I felt especially frustrated.

I will not return to Ray's Cafe for any other important meal...but I do hear the happy hour is amazing and NOTHING can beat that view of my puget sound. So if you find yourself in a wandering mood where you don't care how the evening goes, head on over to Ray's.

Bottom Line
It's the perfect place to expect nothing of.

Sidenote: This review is of the cafe, not the boathouse. I am eager to get back and waste more money giving the "upscale" section a chance.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chutney's Grille on the Hill, Capitol Hill, Seattle

The mister and I were in a wandering mood. How this mood took us 10 blocks uphill (with laptops in tow), I'll never know, but I am surely joyous that it did so.

After an iced-tea cool down at Victrola on 15th (a place we love, btw), the mister was getting hungry. We decided to head to Chutney's, which was the closest Indian food, and he had a hankering for some curry.

We have a soft-spot for Indian culture, and were curious how a chain restaurant could possible compare to Naan-N-Curry (our favorite!). Since Naan-N-Curry is Pakistani (northern) and Chutney's is southern cuisine, we knew the differences would be obvious...so we just stopped comparing.

The place looked a bit dead when we came in, and the air conditioning was too cold to sit inside (mental note for those HOT DAYS!), so we camped on their large outdoor patio. We were immediately greeted by the friendliest Nepalese (we found out later) man. When Joel said thank you in Hindi, we made an instant connection. How he loved talking about his life and culture and how Seattle was great because people still walk (he had just returned from culturally-rich Dallas, TX). After a while, more and more people trickled in...

Yeah, so we felt at home...
But the food? We wondered.

We ordered a Coconut Curry Stew with lamb to share (never, never order more than one entree for two at an Indian restaurant, or you will have to be rolled out of there), some basmati rice, and the regular naan. It was really good! I have no idea how we still spent just over $40. Wait, it was probably our two cocktails. :)

The evening was quite pleasant with our conversation, our server, and our food.

Bottom Line
Absolutely worth the walk, but probably try somewhere else if driving.

the secret snob

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Broadway Grill, Capitol Hill

Funny thing about The Broadway Grill. When I didn't live on Capitol Hill, I would have no problem showing my face here. I went two or three times and didn't think anything of the overpriced booze and poor service. I would say that I EVEN enjoyed it.

Upon the mister and I relocating to Capitol Hill 1.5 years ago, we have not been back. It was a subconscious omission, however. We only slightly noticed that their music is borderline annoying or that the touristy/hipster clientele is trying too hard. We were just distracted by all the other choices available to our walking feet.

My friend came into town last week. We wanted to have lunch with outdoor dining, and so we just made an excuse to try this place again (I had secretly wanted some confirmation to my elitist avoidance of this silly place). We made the mistake of going to an already lame restaurant during lunch traffic.

We sat at our table for 10 minutes before greeted.

Upon greeting, the totally ditsy boy-stud who waited on us greeted us with "What do you want."

I told him a bottle of rose, and he blankly agreed.

The bottle arrived 9 minutes later.

Upon arrival, he asked me if I wanted to taste it.

Of course.

He then poured me a bit AND my friend a bit.

The rose was completely disgustingly sweet.

This was the only bottle on the menu.

This bottle cost $32.

The server left.

Without taking our order.

We sat for 6 minutes.

He came back.

He didn't write anything down.

He forgot our appetizer.

Our food came 35 minutes later.

I asked him where our appetizer was.

He smiled with vacant eyes..."Oh. Did you order one?"



No offer for recompense.

No check back.

He had 4 tables.

We may as well have eaten at Applebee's.

Truly, the only thing remarkable about this place was my visiting friend and her witty conversation.

Bottom Line

I love my friend. I'll prove it by never taking her to The Broadway Grill again.

the secret snob

Thursday, June 25, 2009

VIOS Cafe and Marketplace, Capitol Hill

I drive by VIOS on my way to my hairdresser about 6 times annually. I finally decided to treat my newly colored hair to a lunch and writing date (I am, in fact, IN VIOS as I type this). I had no idea what to expect, as it advertises itself as a Café/Marketplace.

First of all, there is no WIFI. This is really quite unforgivable in Seattle Café. I unsuccessfully tried to access a poor neighbor’s signal, to no avail. I have a feeling this happens a lot to quest387, sad little unsecured network it is. Strike 1.

Secondly, as I walked up to the counter to order, I was expecting the cashier to help me decide or at least explain some of the workings (it’s really not that obvious if you are not familiar with Greek cuisine). I was instead greeted by a very curt female who had no patience whatsoever with my not knowing which sides I wanted with my lamb kabob right away. I didn’t even understand where the sides were listed (again, it’s really not that obvious). Then, instead of helping me by listing off the choices (she should have them memorized, after all), she waited in silence as my confused eyes wandered around looking for anything that said "SIDES." Strike 2.

Ah, but then my entire mood changed. Perhaps my low blood sugar was making me a bit cranky, for when my kabobs arrived…Oh DEAR GOD…I was in Tzatziki heaven. Now that my belly is full and I’ve entered my coffee coma, this place is starting to look better. As I look up at the then-curt cashier, I mark how decidedly friendly she seems. I’m even almost glad that there is no internet to distract my flow of words. The atmosphere is warm and inviting with friends meeting for a late lunch or singles lingering over a newspaper. I admire a mother reading as she holds her chubby baby.

And so I suppose I must give VIOS a thumbs up. And I also suppose I must return post haste for another taste of that addicting Tzatziki, if only in a quest to find strike 3. Oh the sacrifices I am willing to endure for you!

Bottom Line

A lamb kabob covers a multitude of sins

the secret snob

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smith, Capitol Hill

I vowed never to go back to Smith again. It was the great snow storm of 2008, and all the restaurants on Capitol Hill were so busy one could barely secure a table anywhere. Because driving was an equally impossible task, all manner of people were walking to any foodery they could find. When QFC’s shelves started to empty, the panic set in.

This is the general hysteria into which I walked when attempting to go to Smith. Not only was there truly cacophonous clamor evading from the doors, but there was no space to wait for our table inside, out of the snow-covered ground. Granted, we had a group of 6, but even a group of 2 was being quoted a 1.5 hour wait. We went on to 22 Doors and squished into a booth and had a less than amazing time, disgruntled as we were by frostbite and Smith rejection.

I am rather glad that I decided to give Smith another chance. I decided to meet my lovely friend in crime (with whom I’ve gallivanted all over town in a weekly search for an authentic German pub) for happy hour. I opened the doors that once kicked me on the way out and noticed immediately the wonderful din of quiet conversation and beer swigging.

Our bartender was awesome! He managed to keep our lovely Belgians filled and recommend some saucy episodes of South Park…and I don’t even watch South Park. I am the kind of beer drinker that actually likes talking to bartenders, and he knew precisely where to interject in our conversation and when to get lost. I really the underrated the social prowess of a good barkeep, for surely a bartender is just as much a sociologist, psychologist, and philosopher as he is a drink slinger.

Truly one of their most wonderful assets is their menu. The happy hour prices were totally reasonable; I tried the macaroni and peas*. My side-kick ordered the great sweet potato fries with a sage aioli that was dangerously tasty. My mister arrived sometime later and ordered the pork loin…and that was some tasty swine.

First impressions are hard to break. Though I have come around to appreciate what Smith has to offer Capitol Hill, I will never forgive a place that does not attend to the noise-factor in initial design. I was there when Smith was both obnoxiously loud and pleasantly vacant and in either case, the open-room design is their fatal flaw.

Bottom Line

Smith, you are forgiven.
Your beer, service, and eats demand respect…but only on Wednesday afternoon at 4:30pm.

the secret snob

*DISCLAIMER: Though I am a self-proclaimed and proud snob, I do not deny my white trash upbringing and consequential subconscious gravitational pull towards said cuisine.

Previously Stated Snobbery