Archive

Archive for September, 2011

Ballard Restaurant News – September

Twin brothers reopening Bad Albert’s in October.

New Vietnamese Restaurant to open on 15th.

Piada Italia/Seattle burger Company closed before we made it there. Too bad, a friend claimed the burgers were awesome.

Seattle Weekly talks Manhattans at Paratii Craft Bar.

Harlow’s Saloon closes … only to open soon as a Scottish themed bar.

Two empty storefronts in Ballard have liquor license applications in their windows:

On Leary, across the street from Sunny Teriyaki: Belle Clementine

On Ballard Ave, across the street from the Tractor Tavern: Bardot.

Tony’s Teriyaki and Pho -9/24/11

No Website

Location: 6315 15th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 11am-8pm

Saturday: 11am-7pm

As we enter the last few months of this project, J and I are forced to visit the, shall we say, sketchier restaurants in Ballard. Places we wouldn’t normally go to unless a friend claimed the food was amazing. We try to keep an open mind about these places with the hope that we’ll be pleasantly surprised. We had this in mind when we went to Tony’s Teriyaki on Saturday.

Tony’s Teriyaki is located on 15th, near Zesto’s. The building looks like it used to be diner or coffee shop. Square with a weird overhanging roof. The interior is just as plain. A few tables and chairs. A big cooler with canned soda. The menu of teriyaki, pho and other combos hangs above the order counter, written in faded, dry erase pen.

Although the place looked clean, neither J nor I felt like eating at there so we got our food to go.

The Service:

The woman at the order counter was friendly and our food came out relatively quick.

The Drinks:

J had a can of Coke while I finished off a bottle of red wine from Wednesday’s dinner at home.

The Food:

I chose a special combo, Beef Short-Ribs and Chicken Teriyaki with rice and a salad. This particular salad was tiny, too warm, made up of limp lettuce and carrots, and the dressing was flavorless, much like every other salad I’ve had in a teriyaki joint. Why do teriyaki joints need to add a salad to their entrees? The some of the portions for the rest of my combo were huge. Two big scoops of white rice and a ton of serviceable chicken teriyaki. The chicken pieces weren’t dry and were even slightly caramelized on the edges. The teriyaki sauce was okay as well. Not too sweet. The portion of beef short ribs was rather small and what was there was flavorless and tough.

J ordered the #18 Combo, Chicken Teriyaki with rice, salad, and 4 gyoza. The gyoza were overcooked bricks that barely finished two because they were so awful. He said he’s had better frozen gyoza. He didn’t particularly like the chicken teriyaki either, saying it was too dry. Not to mince words, “It sucked”.

The Price:

Beef Short-Ribs and Chicken Teriyaki: 8.25

Chicken Teriyaki and Gyoza: 7.50

The Verdict:

Frankly, Tony’s Teriyaki turned out to be exactly what we had assumed it would be when we first saw the place. Sub-par teriyaki. From the awful gyoza to the bland short-ribs and limp salad, nearly everything was either bad or terrible. For me, the only saving grace was the serviceable chicken teriyaki.

Needless to say, J and I won’t be returning to Tony’s Teriyaki … but at least one of the sketchier places has been crossed off the list.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , , , ,

Wingmasters Sports Bar & Grill – 9/23/11

No Website

Location: 5811 24th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2am

Sat-Sun: 10am-2pm

Wingmasters Sports Bar & Grill felt like an old school sports bar. The type found all over the United States where the only things to tell you what city/state you’re in are the posters on the wall, the games on the TV, and the theme of the menu. Dark wood paneling. Worn and torn vinyl booths. A couple of pools tables. A big elk shooting game in one corner. Pull tabs at the bar and peanuts by the handful for a quarter from a defunct gumball machine. It’s the type of place that has a bunch of regulars who hang out at the bar, watching ball games. The night we visited, a college football game, a Mariner’s game, and a soccer game were showing on the multitude of TVs.

Wingmasters, as one can guess from the name, specializes in chicken wings, offered with a choice of sauces. The menu also includes the usual array of bar food, salads, burgers, and fish and chips along with beer and a full bar.

The Service:

Our server was the only one, other than the bartender, working so service was pretty slow. Once we had finished our meal, J eventually had to stand at the bar for a few minutes before being able to pay our bill since our server never came over to cash us out.

The Drinks:

I had a pint of Widmer Hefeweizen, which turned out to be rather smooth with very little bitterness. Quite nice, actually.

J ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, which packed a punch but had too much tequila.

The Food:

I chose the Buffalo Chicken Strips and Fries. The chicken strips were of uneven quality. Some were moist while others were bone dry. The Buffalo sauce tasted pretty good with a spiciness that crept up on me. I also liked the extra crispy breading that covered the strips. The French fries that weren’t directly under the chicken strips were crispy but as the fries cooled, they turned greasy and limp.

J ordered 12 Chicken Wings in Buffalo Sauce. It should be mentioned that J has been to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York where Buffalo wings originated, so his bar for chicken wings is set very high. He took issue with how the wings were made. It seemed like they poured the sauce in the bottom of the paper-lined basket, and then placed the wings in it, without tossing the wings in the sauce. He said the wings on top were too dry while the ones in the sauce were merely okay. He was not impressed.

The Price:

Widmer Hefeweizen: 4.25

Long Island Iced Tea: 8.00

Buffalo Chicken Strips and Fries: 7.95

12 Chicken Wings with Buffalo Sauce: 12.95

The Verdict:

There were a number of things about Wingmasters that didn’t impress us. The atmosphere of the place was very insular. J especially felt this when he went up to the bar to pay our tab. It took him a few minutes to get someone’s attention, and when he did he felt like he was intruding on a private club. The wings were really pricey for the quality and quantity. King’s Hardware offers tastier wings for a better price, especially on Mondays when wings are .28 cents apiece. Really the only thing that was good was my beer.

Neither of us sees a reason to go back to Wingmasters. We can get better wings elsewhere and I can get Widmer Hefeweizen at the grocery store.

For those who might be wondering, in J’s opinion Norm’s, in Fremont, offers chicken wings that are the closest to the Anchor Bar’s original Buffalo wings.

Kelly O’Briens – 9/18/11 – Closed

Website

Location: 5410 17th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 4pm-2am

Sat-Sun: 12pm-2am

Tucked in a tiny space in the shadow of the Leva condos, Kelly O’Briens is one of the few bars located at the east end of Market street. It’s an Irish bar complete with Irish football jerseys, flags, and posters on the walls and a menu that includes shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Along one wall is a huge, wood bar and on the other is high benches giving the place a cozy, pub feel.

The Service:

The bartender/server/owner? gets brownie points for commenting on J’s D&D t-shirt, having played Vampire: The Masquerade and reading fantasy authors like George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. Service was friendly and quick.

The Drinks:

I ordered a cider, which turned out to be a Magner’s Irish Cider. Not one of my favorites since I prefer a dry cider to a sweet one.

J, as usual, chose a Long Island Iced Tea. After a sip, he said it was more like a Long Island Lemonade. J liked the lemonade quality but it just wasn’t a true Long Island.

The Food:

I had the Shepherd’s Pie, ground lamb, peas, onion, and carrots topped with mashers. The tidy bowl of shepherd’s pie came out piping hot and remained so throughout our meal. The mashed potatoes were a bit dry and not nearly buttery enough for my taste. The stew part, though, was pretty good, with lots of lamb. The rich gravy needed a little salt due to the sweetness of the lamb and nowhere near as greasy as other shepherd’s pie I’ve tried … The Old Pequliar, I’m looking at you.

J ordered the Fish and Chips, Guinness battered cod with batter tossed French fries. The cod was merely okay in both flavor and portion size. The fries, on the other hand, were great. Hand-cut potatoes tossed in a little batter to give them extra crispness. Crunchy on the outside and creamy inside.

The Price:

Magner’s Irish Cider: 4.00

Long Island Iced Tea: 8.50

Shepherd’s Pie: 8.00

Fish and Chips: 8.00

The Verdict:

We really liked the neighborhood bar feel to Kelly O’Briens even though the food was just typical pub fare. We’ve had better and worse in Ballard. They could definitely improve on some of the food … J likes the fish at Market Arms better … But the French fries were great.

Considering that Kelly O’Briens is nearer to our apartment than most of Ballard’s bars, we’ll go back at some point. J and I are curious about the happy hour menu which includes a few items, like mini corn dogs, curry fries, and lamb sliders, not found elsewhere in Ballard. And the bartender is a fantasy, gamer dude, which automatically gives the place extra points in our book.

Golden Beetle – 9/16/11

Website

Location: 1744 NW Market St

Hours:

Sun-Thurs: 5pm-11pm (Kitchen closes at 10)

Fri-Sat: 5pm-12am (Kitchen closes at 10:30)

Brunch:

Sat-Sun: 10am-2pm

Happy Hour:

5-6

For our monthly “nice” dinner, J decided we should try Golden Beetle, one of the newest high end restaurants in Ballard. Located in a space that has been home to at least 2 or 3 restaurants before being vacant for a couple of years, Golden Beetle is the second restaurant of local chef, Maria Hines. Her first restaurant, Wallingford’s Tilth, has earned national acclaim for its organic and locally sourced menu. Hines has garnered a James Beard award and is one of the few challengers to have won on “Iron Chef America”.

Golden Beetle reflects Hines’ interest in the cuisine of the Mid-East and Mediterranean. Ingredients and spices like goat, lamb, sumac, harissa, and preserved lemon are cooked using indigenous methods. The full bar uses house made infused alcohol and bitters. They also offer a weekend brunch with some interesting options you don’t see everyday.

A word to the wise, Golden Beetle is, as J puts it, “the new hotness” in Ballard so getting a table without a reservation may take some patience. J and I waited 15 minutes before we were seated in the bar section. We were told that on busy nights, such as the Friday we visited, only a few tables in the bar area are saved for walk-ins. It’s a relatively small space with a subdued Mediterranean themed décor and packed with tables.

The Service:

As I said, we had to wait to be seated, which was to be expected on a Friday evening. J eventually had to ask someone how long the wait would be since he hadn’t been told when he gave the hostess his name. Once we were seated, our server was friendly if a little distracted. Considering how packed the place was, our food came out rather quickly.

The Drink:

Golden Beetle offers an interesting array of specialty cocktails so J and I ordered from the cocktail menu rather than having wine.

I chose the Kirsch Sour, Bulliet bourbon, kirschwasser and cherry. A perfectly mixed cocktail, in which I could taste each ingredient. The sweetness of the bourbon complimented the tart cherry. I’m contemplating making my own version at home since it was so good.

J ordered the Swashbuckling Sangree, Flor de Cana aged rum, simple syrup, lemon, Golden Beetle spiced bitters, and port. He declared it “the best cocktail I’ve had during the project so far”. All the flavors melded perfectly so it tasted like true sangria.

The Food:

We chose three appetizers to get a sense of Golden Beetle’s small bites.

First, the Muhammara Dip, walnut, pomegranate molasses, and extra virgin olive oil. An interesting mélange of flavors. It was almost like a walnut butter with a strong punch of pomegranate and just a hint of spiciness. Interesting but, as is usually the case, they didn’t offer enough pita for dipping.

I chose the next appetizer, the Grilled Halloumi Cheese, halloumi cheese, padron peppers, sea salt and peppermint. I liked this better than J, who was put off by the squeaky texture of the cheese. Even though the grilled halloumi was a bit over-burnt in places, I still liked the salty flavor and the hint of peppermint. The bland padron peppers were  improved when dipped in a little sea salt.

The final appetizer was the best. Kibbeh, ground lamb, date sauce, and eggplant relish. Awesome. We easily could’ve have eaten a full plate of these and gone home happy. These lamb stuffed falafels were delicious. Moist lamb. Crunchy exterior without being tough. The date sauce added a perfect note of sweetness. I’m not usually a fan of eggplant but the relish went really well with the meatballs.

For an entrée I ordered the Chicken Bisteeya, braised chicken, carrots, and potatoes in phyllo, topped with mushrooms. The chicken in the phyllo was quite good on its own. Flakey phyllo. Moist chicken with just a hint of Mid-eastern spice. The cinnamon sprinkled around the edge of the plate mixed with the chicken quite nicely. However, the mushrooms threw the entire dish off with their overwhelming vinegar flavor. I ended up pushing them to the side, uneaten. I would have loved this dish if not for the mushrooms.

J had the Goat Tagine, a goat stew with apricot, couscous, and walnut. Although he felt the portion was rather small, he really liked this dish. Except for one large piece, the goat was cooked perfectly. Moist. Rich. All the component parts harmonized when eaten together. The sweetness of the apricot worked well with the onion and the slightly gamey goat. He commented, while eating, that he could easily imagine having a similar dish at someone’s home in the mid-east.

The Price:

Kirsch Sour: 10.00

Swashbuckling Sangree: 10.00

Muhammara Dip: 3.00

Grilled Halloumi: 8.00

Lamb Meatballs/Kibbeh: 11.00

Chicken Bisteeya: 20.00

Goat Tagine: 24.00

The Verdict:

Golden Beetle was good but should have been better for the price. The drinks, kibbeh, and J’s entrée were great but J felt the portion sizes left something to be desired. We’ve been to a good number of high-end restaurants in Seattle and elsewhere in the US and, for the same price, have had better and larger meals.

I felt the quality was uneven. A few good items, a couple so-so ones, and my disappointing entrée. I would expect the quality to be more consistent now that they’ve been open for over six months … especially for the price.

Having said that, J and I will most likely return to Golden Beetle for happy hour or brunch. The cocktails were outstanding. I’d like to try some of the other small bites and the weekend brunch menu includes some intriguing items … especially the spiced donuts.

Snoose Junction Pizzeria – 9/12/11 – Closed

Website

Location: 2305 NW Market St

Hours:

Sun-Thurs: 11am-11pm

Fri-Sat: 11am – 3am

Within the boundaries and rules of this project, there are really only two pizza joints in Ballard, Flying Squirrel and Snoose Junction. Sure, places like Palermo and Zayda Buddy’s offer pizza on their menus but it isn’t the main thing. So when J and I decided we felt like pizza for dinner, we chose Snoose Junction so we could declare our favorite pizza in Ballard … kind of a foregone conclusion.

Snoose Junction is located on Market Street right next door to India Bistro. The non-nonsense interior includes a few wooden booths and a couple long picnic tables in the front seating area. There are a few more tables and chairs in the back area along with a couple of pinball machines and a wall of gig posters from Seattle’s heyday in the music world.

Snoose, especially in the back seating area, is not a quiet restaurant. Something about the acoustics magnifies everything. Music. Pinball machines. Any sort of noise above normal speaking level. If you want a quiet dinner, I’d suggest going elsewhere.

Along with a large menu of specialty and build-your-own pizzas, Snoose offers appetizers beyond the usual breadsticks, salads, calzones and Panini. They have a couple of good lunch specials as well. Soda, wine and beer, both on tap and bottled, are available.

Honestly, possibly the best thing about Snoose Junction are their weekend hours. On Friday and Saturday nights, they are one of the few … if not only … places in Ballard open until 3am. It’s a perfect place to grab a late night slice after Ballard’s many bars have closed.

The Service:

Our server was very friendly and helpful. She turned down the music when we started to move because it was so loud. After I ordered wine, she noticed the cork was askew and came back to make sure it tasted okay. Also, the pizza came out very quickly.

The Drinks:

J chose a bottle of Wyder’s Pear Cider, which he said was okay, and very “Peary”.

I ordered a glass of Naked Grape Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine turned out to be very mild with a slightly sweet flavor. Not bad.

The Food:

In order to bring some variety to the review, we opted for a specialty pizza with each half being different.

The half I chose was the Aglio di Capra, mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, goat cheese, and fresh tomatoes on a garlic oil base. I liked this half quite a bit. The garlic oil base gave the crust a salty, garlicky flavor that was subtle. The huge roasted garlic cloves were a neat addition but they were just too big and completely overwhelmed the other flavors. I set the bigger of the cloves aside most of the time. The goat cheese was a nice alternative to the usual pizza cheeses but I wish it had been a bit stronger. Both J and I were impressed, though, by the fresh and not at all mushy tomatoes.

J chose the Porcellino, prosciutto, provolone and red onions on a tomato base, for his half. He felt it was a “serviceable” pizza but I wasn’t all that thrilled. The red onions could have been distributed better. Instead they were clumped together in overly sweet piles. The prosciutto was bland and, oddly enough, too fatty for my taste.

The Price:

Wyder’s Pear Cider: 4.00

Naked Grape Cabernet Sauvignon: 7.00

½ Aglio di Capra: 12.00

½ Porcellino: 12.00

The Verdict:

Snoose Junction does have a number of things to recommend it. Their specialty pizzas, with fresh ingredients and a good crust, are certainly better than Domino’s or Papa Johns. They do bike deliveries in Ballard, which is nice when you’re too lazy to leave the house. And being open until 3am on weekends is not only a good move financially, but a slice is a good option for after hour’s munchies. It’s not bad pizza …

But it’s just not as good as Flying Squirrel Pizza at the Sunset Tavern. Their pizza is sublime and a far better deal. For the price of our pizza and drinks at Snoose, we could have easily ordered either an appetizer or a couple extra drinks at Flying Squirrel.

Yes, we’ll order pizza from Snoose again. Their hours are far better than Flying Squirrel and the fact that they deliver mean we will be repeat customers but we both agree that we feel a bit of relief having finally reviewed Snoose Junction if only so we can go back to Flying Squirrel for our pizza fix without feeling guilty.

O’shan Sushi – 9/3/11

Website

Location: 5809 24th Ave NW

Hours:

Tues-Sat: 4:30pm-9:30pm

Sunday: 4:30pm-9pm

Since it was warmer than usual early Saturday evening, J and I decided we wanted sushi for dinner. I looked at the Ballard restaurant list on our fridge and realized we could finish off the sushi restaurants in Ballard by choosing O’shan Sushi.

O’shan Sushi, located on 24th Avenue, looks like the tiny sushi bars I’ve seen on travel programs. Limited seating. Shoji screens on the walls. Large bottles of sake wrapped in white rice paper lining one part of the bar. Dark wood. Soothing blue walls. It really is an atmospheric, romantic little place.

They offer a surprisingly large menu of Japanese food for such a small space. A long list of appetizers. A few dinner plates like yakisoba and udon. And sushi menu with many unique roll options. Our interest was immediately piqued by the choices.

The Service:

Our server was friendly and fast even though she was the only person working the quickly filling restaurant.

The Drink:

I ordered a small glass of Kurosawa Kimoto Junmai, a crisp, refreshing sake with fruity undertones of melon and berry. Very nice.

J chose the House Cold Sake which he declared was “Passable.”

The Food:

The sushi roll choices at O’shan were so varied and interesting that rather than ordering our usual gyoza appetizer and two rolls, we opted for three sushi rolls.

First, the O’shan Roll, spicy salmon and cucumber topped with albacore, avocado, house ponzu sauce, and scallions. The server had described this roll as being topped with “seared tuna” so we expected the tuna to be obviously seared. Instead it was more like a lit match was held above the roll for a couple of seconds. Just the faintest sear. J found the tuna to be slimy while I just thought it completely lacked flavor. Not the best roll.

Next, the Tuna Poke Roll, tempura fried scallion and cucumber topped with tuna, avocado, and sweet chili sauce. This roll had the same issue as the first. Slimy, flavorless fish.  The weird, tempura fried scallion were too slippery to eat. And until I re-read the description, I honestly thought the sweet chili sauce was a melon sauce. It didn’t have any chili flavor and was far too sweet. Not a good roll either.

Finally, the Salmon Skin Roll, crispy salmon skin, gobo, avocado, kaiware, and cucumber. The best roll of the three. The crunchy texture was fairly tasty change from the limp, sliminess of the previous rolls. The flavors melded well. Another reason for preferring this roll is because it had the least amount of O’shan’s sushi rice.

Overall, the rice at O’shan was not good. Gummy to the point of almost being like glue. Horrible texture. The rice was also way too sweet. So sweet, in fact, that the cloying sweetness interfered with the flavors of the rolls. Even the salmon skin roll, that we actually liked, tasted too sweet. Since rice is the foundation of sushi rolls, if the rice is bad then the roll can’t be saved … unless it has a minimum amount of rice.

The Price:

Kurosawa Kimoto Junmai Sake: 7.00

House Cold Sake: 8.00

O’shan Roll: 10.50

Tuna Poke Roll: 12.00

Salmon Skin Roll: 5.00

The Verdict:

O’shan Sushi turned out to be a real disappointment. We had high hopes when we walked in. The atmosphere is lovely, calm and romantic. The service was good. My sake, at least, was tasty and refreshing. But none of that changes the fact that the sushi did not taste good. Gummy rice. Flavorless, slimy fish. Weird textures. The bad rolls overwhelmed the positive impression we had of O’shan.

Even though we really liked the feel of O’shan, unless someone tells us the food has improved, we won’t be back.

Now that we have eaten at all four of Ballard’s sushi restaurants (Shiku, Moshi Moshi, Sam’s Sushi, and O’shan), J and I feel that we’re ready to declare our favorite sushi restaurant in Ballard.

We agree that our favorite sushi place is Shiku. Great atmosphere. Tasty gyoza. Huge rolls. A rotation of interesting specials. Fresh, flavorful fish. The best Long Island Iced Tea (so far) and the neatest women’s restroom in Ballard.

Moshi Moshi comes in a very close second for their great Happy Hour menu. I would Sam’s Sushi is third for the size of their rolls and the price. O’shan gets fourth place only because their rolls were not good.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , ,