In the Zone – Dough Zone

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It’s Sunday afternoon around 2pm and I need lunch.  I’m tired of eating sandwiches all week, trying to avoid fast food, and don’t want to eat too much as I’m going home for dinner within a few hours.  Lunch by yourself can be an awkward affair, better suited to grab and go, but you get used to it after a while.  If you want good food, you figure out how to be comfortable eating alone. I had been wanting to try Dough Zone to see how they compared to the gold-standard Din Tai Feng for soup dumplings and this seemed like the perfect time to do it.

Dough Zone was still a zoo at 2pm with a 20 minute wait for a table. The fortunate part about dining by yourself, is that they can squeeze you into the counter.

dough zone - soup dumplings

soup dumplings – I loved these first of all, they had all the hallmarks of a good soup dumpling – plenty of fillings, they poured juice when you bit into them, the skin wasn’t too chewy and they had decent flavor; Din Tai Feng still holds the crown on these though – theirs are more delicate in the wrapping and have a bigger oomph on the meat flavor; however, these are only $9 vs. their $13 and doesn’t have the benefit of being a worldwide phenomenon

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Flaming French – Pomerol

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My sister can’t get foie gras in California, so when she comes home to Seattle, we must have at least one foie gras. Since it was her birthday, we found restaurant that serves FOUR dishes using the succulent lobes – Pomerol. They’re a relatively new french restaurant in the Fremont area that has their own wood fired grill in a minimalist setting.  There’s nothing stuffy about this place, but it’s trendy without being too edgy.

Pomerol - grilled octopus

grilled octopus – a job well done on the texture, they made good use of their grill

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They’ve got CHOPS! – Porkchop and Co.

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Where should I start with Porkchop and Co???  Nutkin and crew decided to go here for dinner on a whim, not really knowing what to expect as I had heard of it in passing, but hadn’t paid much attention to it. But I’m paying attention now.  With a name like Porkchop, they were going to have to have some good pork dishes and they did not disappoint.

We made a reservation for 8pm on Saturday night, but as it turns out, that wasn’t necessary as it was mostly empty. Their menu consisted mostly of small plates, sandwiches, a 3 course pris fix dinner, and pickled veggies. And a whole chicken that Nutkin and she-Nutkin debated ordering before we decided that we were going to order family style to try more things on the menu.  That was the smartest move we made.

pickles & kimchi - pickles, carrots, cauliflower, kimchi; sadly the pickles were a little limp and the kimchi doesn't have the punch of a Korean restaurants kimchi (it's less vinegary and spicy) but is probably a good choice for people who are unfamiliar with kimchi; the cauliflowers were the standout in this starter

pickles & kimchi – pickles, carrots, cauliflower, kimchi; sadly the pickles were a little limp and the kimchi doesn’t have the punch of a Korean restaurants kimchi (it’s less vinegary and spicy) but is probably a good choice for people who are unfamiliar with kimchi; the cauliflowers were the standout in this starter

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Rich Broth, Rich Taste – Kukai Ramen

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It was Sunday at 1:45pm and my friends and I had our monthly get-together.  The line was out the door with a 20 minute wait for a party of 3.  What madness was this???  For ramen on a Sunday afternoon?  I wanted to introduce my roommate to ramen – and not of the prepackaged cup variety that many of  us were familiar with in college – but the real, rich broth and hearty noodles with meat that melts in your mouth.  Kukai is all of those things, plus the par boiled egg, with its runny yolk that completes the meal.

Kukai - garlic tonkatsu ramen

garlic tonkatsu ramen – it’s rich without being oily, punctuated by crunchy bamboo shoots and crisp bean sprouts; the noodles are al dente and firm to the chew – very different from what you may expect from packaged ramen; the kicker is the par boiled egg

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Inventive Italian – Cascina Spinasse

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My friend traveled all the way from Tokyo, and people think that he wants Japanese food, in Seattle. He was born in Seattle and Japanese food in Tokyo is much better than any Japanese food you could get in Seattle – hands down. Tokyo has more Michelin starred restaurants than Paris and even more stars overall. It kind of puts things into perspective if you think about Japanese culture and their attention to detail and their craft, that it makes sense that the same sort of reverence and obsession would be applied to food.  However, a trip to Japan and dining at one of the finest Italian restaurants is quite expensive, so we’re sticking to Seattle.  There are a few top notch Italian places on my list: Cantinetta, Café Juanita, La Rustica, Agrodulce, Rione XIII (this is more comfort food), Tavolta, and Cascina Spinasse.

Today’s choice was Cascina Spinase, after having dined at Aragona earlier this year and remembering a pretty fantastic poached egg with fontina, I thought it was time to return. We were not disappointed and ordered a smattering of dishes to get a better taste of the kitchen’s talent.  We watched, with rapture, a chef handmake pasta and breadsticks.  The food was impeccable and truly highlighted their mix of ingredients.

cascina spinasee - proscuitto and zucchini salad

proscuitto and zucchini salad – this was the first half of the antipasti sampler; prosciutto with melon, which featured a very sweet melon, in this classic pairing; and charred zucchini with cheese – like a deconstructed zucchini parmesan (fresh zucchini without a hint of bitterness plays well with the mild cheese)

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A Good Alibi – Witness Bar

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The Black Knight and I go running, and nothing sounds better after a long run than comforting southern food.  Today’s pick: Witness Bar in Capital Hill.  It’s not a super trendy bar, so we were fine in our running gear sitting on the patio. There was a birthday party with a drag queen diva and it’s a lively place, smallish but not too cramped.

Witness - chicken & waffles

chicken & waffles: Love love love the waffles, soft but so buttery! The chicken, well, probably could have used a little more seasoning, but it's the combination of sweet and salty that we're after here.

witness - pork sliders

pork sliders - a nice combination of slaw and pulled pork on a brioche bun; I was in it for the French fries though - and that horseradish cream sauce that goes with the fries! Those are pretty good fries!!!

 

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Maroon Me Here – Restaurant Marron

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My bi-monthly dinner explorations with Salumi continued this month with Restaurant Marron. There has been a lot of excitement from foodies regarding this restaurant because it was supposed to be a 16-course journey. While that menu hasn’t quite come to fruition yet, a carte blanche for $98 is. Consider it their version of the tasting menu. How is it different from a tasting menu? Chef Eric Sakai makes dishes up as he goes along and it is splendid. There is no better way to get a sense of the chef’s chops than the tasting menu (the Black Knight would agree whole-heartedly with me on this) and so both Salumi and I ordered the carte blanche and waited to see what magic the kitchen could concoct.

 

restaurant marron - avocado & kumquat

avocado & kumquat: the amuse bouche, light refreshing with just enough acidity to make you start salivating

restuarant marron - red beet salad

red beet salad – with smoke cherries and mustard green, our veggies for the night; the beets were sweet and firm pairing nicely with the crunch of the greens and light dressing; the cracker, paper thin, was full of flavor and the best part of this dish

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