Seattle. The city of incessant drizzle, Grey’s Anatomy, Starbucks, Kurt Cobain and the Grunge movement, and most importantly, the true home of ‘Pacific Northwestern’ cuisine. On a recent visit in late May, we were blessed with sunny weather throughout the trip, trading in umbrellas and hoods for sunglasses and shorts. In fact, the weather was so amazing, and the city so beautiful I caught myself dreaming about moving to Seattle, settling into a cute little apartment in Belltown or Capitol Hill, filling my days with endless trips to the city’s many independent bookstores and cafes, casually forgetting that the Emerald City is a dismal grey for the better part of the year. Which probably explains the abundance of cute cafes and bookstores on virtually every block – when its cold out, there’s nothing better than settling down with a good novel (or cookbook!) and mug of hot chocolate.
In terms of cuisine, the city did not disappoint. Here are some fine establishments that you’ll want to have on your gourmet itinerary on your next visit:
Julia’s Indonesian Kitchen
Whether you’re a homesick Indonesian/Singaporean/Malaysian craving a good ol’fashioned curry the way mom or grandma used to do, or a curious epicurean in search of new cuisines, Julia’s Kitchen is the place for you. Run by mother and daughter-in-law team, Julia Suparman and Yusi Sasmitra, the restaurant boasts traditional Indonesian favorites like beef rendang (stewed beef in a semi-dry coconut gravy), gado gado (cooked mixed vegetables in peanut sauce) and pepes ikan (fish steamed in banana leaf with spicy Balinese sauce), each dish authentic in its own right. The beef rendang with its juicy chunks of beef is highly recommended, as is the tauhu telur (beancurd omelette). But the star of the menu is undoubtedly their ayam kremes, a dish of battered fried chicken topped with ‘crispy bits’ – little balls of flour and marinade deep-fried to the highest levels of crispiness, making for an experience of textures as one savours the tender portions of chicken meat alongside its crisp skin and accompanying ‘bits’……it was simply Sedap! (Malay for delicious). As always, we had a side of home-made sambal (chili paste) to provide an edge of spiciness and tie the meal together.
Unfortunately, our camera decided to take a break the evening we dined, so there are no pictures from our meal – all the more reason to make a reservation for dinner to check it out.
Julia’s Indonesian Kitchen
910 NE 65th St
(between N 9th Ave & N Roosevelt Way)
Seattle, WA 98115
Elliott’s Oyster House
I’m not a fan of oysters. Following a particularly putrid experience with an unfortunate bivalve in Singapore many years ago which left me grimacing at the memory, I’ve known well to stay clear of these prized specimens and politely decline invitations to numerous oyster buffets and festivals. So why we decided to wait in line for 45 minutes at Elliott’s Oyster House during its ‘Progressive Happy Hour’ to sample a dozen raw oysters is beyond me. Perhaps it was the fact that we were in a city famed for its seafood on a late Friday afternoon, and after soaking up the sunshine in the same city famed for its drizzle, that we felt empowered and invincible to seek out ‘new’ and ‘exotic’ experiences. There was nothing more ‘exotic’ to me at that point than eating raw oysters (ok, so escargots would come in a close second, but we’re not in France so that doesn’t count).
The verdict? Amazing. Simply amazing. I’m proud to report that we finished our dozen oysters without any fuss or embarrassment, expertly garnishing each serving with a squeeze of lemon and the house mignonette like a seasoned pro. Each oyster was a cold mouthful of briny, succulent goodness that finished with a lingering taste of the sea. It was nothing as horrid as I remembered from that initial experience many years ago, and in fact, I left Elliott’s with a renewed interest in this tiny aphrodisiac, curious to check out the local offerings in the Bay Area.
So if you’re around Pier 56 on a weekday afternoon, make your way to the restaurant slightly ahead of their ‘Progressive Happy Hour’ which runs from 3 – 6pm, Mondays to Fridays. Oysters go for 50 cents each starting from 3pm, increasing by a quarter every half-hour until 6pm by which time your most expensive oysters will only cost you $1.75 each – a steal by any standards.
Elliott’s Oyster House
1201 Alaskan Way
(between Seneca St & University St)
Seattle, WA 98101
Red Mill Burgers
Who doesn’t love a good burger? Of course, like any emotionally-charged topic like tax rates, politics and the perfect macaron recipe, the definition of ‘good’ is highly subjective, but we all know the basics: take a beef patty (preferably grass-fed) toss it on the fire, sear it on both sides and sandwich it between two slices of a toasted hamburger bun, smeared with some mayo, topped with a crisp lettuce leaf and, depending on the day, a healthy slice of tomato. Bite. Pretty fool-proof formula for a decent burger experience, and the folks at Red Mill burgers do just that. The only difference is, their resulting burgers are so mind-numblingly good that I have to write home about it. Our meal was pretty straightforward – as all burger meals are – but my Red Mill Deluxe with Cheese was just out of this world: the patty was cooked just long enough to retain its juiciness, the bread was toasted to perfection with just the right amount of lettuce, pickles and onion to provide the right balance of freshness.
I can’t rave about it enough, but this is a meal we’ll be having again (and again and again) on our future visits back to the city. Or, they could open an outlet in the Bay Area – never say never!
Red Mill Burgers
1613 W Dravus St
(between W 16th Ave & W 17th Ave)
Seattle, WA 98119
Quite possibly the only café in Seattle to screen soccer matches from the English, Spanish and French leagues, Café Presse is, for me, a pretty accurate reflection of modern Seattle: Understated stylishness. Dark wooden shelves and easy café chairs contrast with chartreuse booth seats and tables. A wall spanning the entire side of the café is covered in a wallpaper of royal blue with subtle white swirls while their impressive liquor and spirits collection is ‘framed’ by a simple cornice suspended from the ceiling. The mood is casual, the staff, professional, and the food, delicious. We had a modest Sunday breakfast of pain et beurre, freshly-baked french baguette served with butter and home-made raspberry jam, yaourt, noix et miel, yogurt with walnuts and honey, and pain au chocolat a l’ancienne, the afore-mentioned baguette with melted bittersweet chocolate. I can’t wait to go back to try their entrees, like the Duck Confit on lentils simmered with bacon, watercress and shallot butter, or their Steak-Frites, an Oregon beef hanger steak served with fried potatoes and roasted sweet pepper sauce.
1117 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122