Archive for May, 2011

The BalMar – 5/23/11


Location: 5449 Ballard Ave NW


Mon-Sun: 5-2

Happy Hour:

Mon: 5-11

Tue-Sun: 5-7

7 days a week after 10pm

J and I decided to see the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie on Monday and chose the BalMar for our pre-movie dinner.

BalMar opened a few years ago in an old brick building next to India Bistro. The exterior and interior makes it look like a transplant from Belltown. Exposed grey steel and red brick. There are two levels, the main bar area that is open every night and the upper level, which has its own bar and a couple of pool tables, that opens depending upon how busy it is. On Friday and Saturday nights the BalMar clientele tends toward a douchey, Belltown sort as opposed to the more casual Ballard crowd.

Unless you’re fond of the Belltown crowd, I would avoid the BalMar on the weekends. The rest of the week is far more relaxed. There were only a few people there when we took our seats at one of the tall bar tables. Although they offer Happy Hour food prices all night on Mondays, J and I chose from their short entrée list.

The Service:

Both our server/bartender and the busboy were friendly, polite and quick. The bartender was especially helpful when J requested a bartender’s choice rum drink. He came up with a great choice off the top his head.

The Drinks:

I chose a Southside from their specialty cocktail menu. I don’t usually choose gin drinks but this one, a refreshing mix of gin, mint and lemon, turned out quite nice.

The bartender made a White Lion for J. He used a light rum and a nectarine liquor that turned the drink a pale grey/purple. J found it very refreshing and tasty.

The Food:

J was curious about the Grilled Cheese sandwich since it used gouda and caramelized onions. In his words, “Fucking awesome. The best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve had in my life.” He chose fries as his side and these were very, very good as well. These were twice fried, giving the fries a great crunchy texture, and served with a white truffle aioli that was out of this world.

I ordered the Grilled Top Sirloin Steak topped with herbed shallot butter and Mac & Cheese. The steak turned out to be flavorful and tender with the butter complimenting it with a light onion flavor. My only issue with the steak was that I requested it be cooked medium-rare and it arrived closer to medium. The small crock of mac & cheese negated that small misstep by being amazing. Rich and cheesy with a lovely, baked and crunchy top. Great mac & cheese.

The Price:

Southside: 8.50

White Lion: 8.50

Grilled Cheese: 8.00

Grilled Top Sirloin Steak: 12.00

The Verdict:

We both like the BalMar although we tend to forget it’s there. Never had bad service or food there. The staff is friendly. The drink menu is not only extensive but one of the most creative in Ballard. It manages to be sophisticated without being pretentious. I can definitely imagine going back at some point. Especially for their Happy Hour food menu, which includes divine Deviled Eggs, which they were sadly out of the night we visited.


Anne’s Teriyaki – 5/20/11

No Website

Location: 2246 NW Market St


Mon-Sat: 11-9

Ann’s Teriyaki serves no-nonsense, cheap ass teriyaki from a storefront that looks as if the interior hasn’t changed since a previous incarnation as a Greek restaurant. Pale blue walls are lined with an inexplicable, completely useless shelf. The wall opposite from the service counter hosts a Greek themed mural. Considering I’ve never seen more than 5 or six patrons in the place at one time, there are a huge number of tables in the dining area. Even though I know it’s been there for at least 6 years, Ann’s Teriyaki has a “just set up shop” vibe.

The Service:

We received polite and quick service from the lady working the counter.

The Drinks:

J got a can of Coke and I chose a bottle of water. They do offer beer as well.

The Food:

Since they offered it, I got an order of Potstickers which were perfectly serviceable.

From their huge menu, I chose the Spicy Lemongrass Beef with onions and green peppers. My order came on a huge plate with a giant scoop of white rice. The beef turned out to be well cooked and tender with quite a bit of spice to it from a liberal sprinkle of red pepper flakes. The floral lemongrass flavor nicely came through in the sauce. The peppers and onions were cooked perfectly, retaining a nice crunch and snap. I could’ve done with a bit more beef, though. There was still a hefty portion of vegetables left once I finished eating the beef.

J ordered the Ann’s Special Noodles with pork. He found it good but unexpectedly bland. He ended up adding hot sauce.

The Price:

Coke: .75

Water: 1.50

Potstickers: 3.00

Spicy Lemongrass Beef: 6.75

Ann’s Special Noodles: 6.75

The Verdict:

Ann’s Teriyaki is a perfectly serviceable, no frills teriyaki joint. The food is okay and incredibly cheap. The service is quick. It’s just nothing special. Since we have two other teriyaki joints to try, it is still up in the air whether Ann’s is the best teriyaki in Ballard. We’ll see …

Frankly, I doubt we’ll go back. If either of us is in the mood for cheap Asian food it’s far more likely that we would go back to Uma Thai.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , , ,

Ballard Brother’s Seafood and Burgers – 5/15/11


Location: 5303 15th Ave NW


Mon-Sat: 11-9

Sun: 12-8

Ballard Brother’s Seafood and Burgers is probably better known by their presence at various Seattle festivals and fairs. Their big red booth can be found at the Fremont Solstice Festival, Ballard Seafood fest, Bumbershoot, etc. They specialize in blackened salmon burgers.

Their brick and mortar restaurant sits on 15th next to Wendy’s, which is kind of fitting since it’s pretty much homegrown fast food. The big red building looks huge from the outside but isn’t really all that big on the inside. A row of booths runs along the one wall with a few tables and chairs in the middle. The huge menu board lists everything from beef, salmon and chicken burgers to salads to a long list of fried seafood options.

The Service:

Polite and pretty quick.

The Drinks:

J ordered a Coke and I grabbed a bottle of water.

The Food:

I chose their specialty, a Cajun Blackened Salmon Burger with fries. While the salmon was obviously fresh, I was not all that fond of the blackening spices used. The spices gave the burger an unappetizing, bitter/burnt taste. The Cajun sauce seemed a bit bland. The okay fries were a bit thicker than normal with a crunchy coating. I think the only thing I liked was the soft, wheat bun.

J ordered the 4 pc. Cod and Chips. Although he usually prefers a tempura coating on this fried fish, he liked the flakey breading, which, he felt, gave the fish a much lighter taste. He also appreciated the homemade tarter sauce and the fries better than I did.

The Price:

Coke: 1.75

Bottle of Water: 1.50

Cajun Blackened Salmon: 8.49

4 pc. Cod and Chips: 8.41

The Verdict:

Basically Ballard Brother’s offers fresher and better tasting fast food. The fish was fresh, well cooked and the choices given are more interesting than Wendy’s or McDonalds but these mild pluses aren’t enough to get us to go out of our way to return. We just don’t normally eat fast food and it would take something fabulous to get us to eat that type of food. This just wasn’t that special.

Salmon Bay Café – 5/15/11


Location: 5109 Shilshole Ave NW


Mon-Sat: 6:30am-2:30pm

Sunday: 7am – 3pm

The Salmon Bay Café is another of those bastions of Old Ballard. It sits among the industrial buildings and marine works along the back edge of Ballard proper. Upon entering you see that it’s an old school, blue-collar diner that’s probably been there, in some form, since the 1960’s. A mish-mash of styles and decoration. Dark faux wood paneling here. Floral wallpaper there. Faded photos of ships, captains and kids with fish.

The Service:

Our server was very friendly and gets points for complimenting J’s d20 pendant. The only problem with the service was that it took a while between J’s meal arriving and when mine did. It was odd because the restaurant wasn’t that crowded and what I ordered wasn’t something that should have taken extra time.

The Drinks:

J had pretty good coffee and I had cranberry juice.

The Food:

J chose something he was surprised to see on the menu, Eggs and Polish Sausage with homefries. The eggs were cooked exactly as he had requested and the Polish sausage made a tasty and interesting compliment to them.

I ordered the Fremont Omelette, a four egg omelette filled with bacon, tomatoes, avocado and cheddar cheese with a biscuit and homefries on the side. The biscuit, while homemade, was tough rather than fluffy. The homefries actually tasted better than most, fresh with a great textural mix between crispy skin surrounding well cooked interiors. The omelette came to me overflowing with thick, salty bacon and better than usual cheddar cheese.

The Price:

Coffee: 1.50

Cranberry Juice: 3.25

Polish Sausage and Eggs: 8.95

Fremont Omelette: 8.95

The Verdict:

The Salmon Bay Café serves up a pretty good breakfast for an old school diner. Rather than tasting like everything came out of a bag or from a can, the food tastes home cooked. But the service, at one point, left a bit to be desired and I found paying $3.25 for a glass of generic cranberry juice to be a bit much.

Their breakfast was better than Vera’s but I think we’ll stick with our Ballard breakfast of choice, Bad Albert’s.

Moshi Moshi Sushi – 5/8/11


Location: 5324 Ballard Ave


Mon-Thurs: 4:30-11

Fri-Sat: 4:30-1am

Sun: 3-10

Happy Hour:

Mon-Thurs: 4:30-6, 10-11

Fri-Sat: 4:30-6, 11-1

Sun: 4:30-6, all night at the bar

I craved some sushi so we chose our destination from the remaining 3 sushi restaurants using the time honored method of rolling a d6. Moshi Moshi, the most up scale of the Ballard sushi joints, turned out to be our randomly picked destination.

We lucked out going on a Sunday. The Happy Hour menu is available all evening on Sundays when you take a seat at the L-shaped bar. Moshi Moshi feels kind of like a Belltown restaurant. A chic, industrial feel with muted tones and metal. A hostess at the door. Two levels of seating. A pretty nice place.

The Service:

Considering that Moshi Moshi was hopping, the service we received was quick and courteous. As usual for a sushi place, our order arrived quickly, even though we ordered a few things that were cooked.

The Drink:

I chose a small glass of Moon Ring sake which tasted light and ricey. J couldn’t resist ordering Demon Slayer sake which was nearly like water and better than the Moon Ring. Unlike some other sushi place, sake at Moshi Moshi is served as 4 oz shots rather than in a sake carafe.

The Food:

Since the Happy Hour menu had a great selection of relatively cheap choices, we decided to get a few items from it and one roll.

First appetizer, Edamame, steamed soybeans with sea salt. The bowl came to us still steaming. I found the edamame to be a bit overcooked making the beans mushier than I prefer.

Another appetizer we tried was the Agedashi Tofu, fried tofu with soy dashi, ginger, scallion and bonito flake. I’m not usually a fan of tofu but I’ve tried and liked fried tofu at a couple of places. This fried tofu was less fried and more like regular tofu with a slight covering of panko that got soggy real fast. Definitely had too much of the squishy, slimy taste that makes me not like tofu in the first place.

We also ordered the Beef Kushi Sashi, flat iron teriyaki beef on skewers. This turned out much more to my liking with tender, flavorful beef with a slight sweet and salty taste.

Next appetizer, the Gyoza, pan fried dumplings filled with pork, beef and shitake mushrooms with gyoza sauce. These, too, were very good with a nice mix of flavors and textures in the filling.

Our last choice was the Kalbi Short Ribs, teriyaki marinated beef short ribs. Like the skewers, the beef was very tender and lacked the gristle that I’ve found renders some kalbi short ribs nearly inedible.

For our roll we chose the Moshi Moshi 2.0, king crab, cucumber, shiso topped with scallions, scallops and salmon. Considering the array of appetizers, it turned out to be a blessing that this roll was very light compared to many sushi rolls. The creamy crab filling was delicious and the scallops and salmon were extremely fresh tasting. The only problem I found was that it was a bit on the small size for the price.

The Price:

Moon Ring Sake: 9.00

Demon Slayer Sake: 11.00

Edamame: 1.95 (Happy Hour Price)

Agedashi Tofu: 2.95 (Happy Hour Price)

Beef Kushi Sashi: 2.95 (Happy Hour Price)

Gyoza: 3.95 (Happy Hour Price)

Kalbi Short Ribs: 3.95 (Happy Hour Price)

Moshi Moshi 2.0 Roll: 14.00

The Verdict:

Moshi Moshi is a nice sushi place. The Happy Hour menu is incredibly inexpensive and has a great selection of good food. It’s possibly the best Happy Hour deal in Ballard. I could see us going back to Moshi Moshi for that alone.

But is it the best sushi in Ballard? … No, I still prefer Shiku. The sushi roll we had at Moshi Moshi, while good, wasn’t really worth the $14.00 they charged. If you’re going to spend that type of money on sushi, it should be fabulous not merely “good”.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , , ,

Thaiku – 4/28/11 – Closed


Location: 5410 Ballard Ave NW


Mon-Thurs: 11:30-9:30

Friday: 11:30-10:30

Saturday: 12-10:30

Sunday: 12-9:30

Fu Kun Wu Bar:

Mon-Sun: 5-12

Thaiku has been the Thai restaurant in Ballard for years. Before J and I moved to Fremont for a couple of years, we always went to Thaiku. The service was great. The food tasted fresher than your run of the mill Thai place. There is a creative selection of alcoholic beverages on the menu. Even the décor, in the large, romantically lit main room and the over the top, Thai apothecary shop back bar, Fu Kun Wu, is a higher class take on the usual Thai restaurant kitsch.

When we moved back to Ballard last year, Thaiku was one of the first restaurants we visited, expecting the usual great experience. Which we didn’t get. The service was lackadaisical at best, rude at worst. The food was greasy, bland and lukewarm almost to the point of inedibility. After having an awful time at Thaiku twice, we started driving back to Fremont whenever we got the craving for Thai food. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that we revisited Thaiku for this project.

The Service:

I’m happy to say the service this time regained its high marks. The server was friendly, quick and polite. The serving of the courses was spot on. Virtually the minute we finished with our appetizer, our entrees arrived, piping hot. Stellar service.

The Drinks:

I chose a nice, refreshing rose.

J ordered one of Thaiku’s specialty cocktail, the name of which neither of us can remember. It was served in an aperitif glass and contained brandy, if we remember correctly. He did quite enjoy it.

The Food:

For an appetizer we ordered the Giow Tawt, crab meat and cream cheese wrapped in a wonton, deep fried and served with plum sauce. One of the lighter Giow Tawt (crab Rangoon) in Seattle. Not greasy at all and perfectly complimented by the tart, almost citrus flavored plum sauce.

I chose the Chicken Pahd Kee Mao, wide rice noodles with red curry paste, green onion, baby corn, red and green peppers, cabbage, carrot and egg. Delicious. The vegetables were wok fried to a perfect al dente letting their natural flavor come through without being overwhelmed by the sauce. The sauce created a caramelized coating over the noodles and chicken which was enhanced by an ever so slight spiciness. Probably one of the best Pahd Kee Mao dishes I’ve had in Seattle. Well up to their old standards.

J ordered the Tofu Pahd See Iew, wide rice noodles with Chinese broccoli, black pepper, egg in a sweet soy sauce. He said it was really good even though it wasn’t very spicy. Everything was cooked perfectly.

The Price:

I’m having to guess at the price since Thaiku doesn’t post prices on their website.

Rose: 7.00

Mystery Cocktail: 9.00

Giow Tawt: 6.00

Pahd Kee Mao: 8.95

Pahd See Iew: 8.95

The Verdict:

Thaiku has redeemed itself. Everything about our visit hearkened back to why we loved the place. Great service and excellent food. Last year must’ve been a bad year for them or something because our meal was awesome. After reviewing three of the five Thai places in Ballard (a new one will be opening up soon), Thaiku is destined to become our choice for sit-down Thai food while the tiny Uma Thai, with its good food at cheap prices, will likely be our go-to restaurant for quick, take-out thai.

Yes, we’ll go back to Thaiku … if they keep up the good work.