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Posts Tagged ‘Moderate’

The Gerald – 4/13/12

Website

Location: 5210 Ballard Ave

Hours:

Tues-Sat: 4pm-Close

Sunday: 10am – 2pm

Happy Hour:

4:30-6pm

10:30-Close

The Gerald, located on Ballard Ave across the street from The Tractor, is Ballard’s newest bar/restaurant. It’s a chic place with a 60’s style in keeping with the 50th anniversary of the 1962 World’s Fair. Dark, wood paneling. Funky, geometric wallpaper. Nubby upholstery on the cushions of the booths. An European style that is somehow comfortable rather than overblown. Having seen photos of The Gerald on various Seattle restaurant news websites, I thought it would have that overly hipster vibe of some Capitol Hill bars. Instead The Gerald had a comfortable, friendly Ballard feel to it.

They have a great list of classic cocktails with quirky twists. The menu is full of comfort food favorites done through a foodie filter. Veggies chips. Duck deviled eggs. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Swedish meatball sliders, as a nod to Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage. On Sundays they offer an eclectic brunch menu.

The Service:

Our server was friendly and chatty and interested in how our food and drinks were since she had not yet tried everything on the menu. On top of the friendly service, the manager/head bartender noticed from across the room that the color of J’s drink was wrong, meaning it was missing a key ingredient. So she came over to our table to fix the drink and make sure it tasted better.

The Drinks:

I ordered The Aviation, house infused kaffir lime gin, lemon, luxardo, and maraschino liqueur. I’m not usually a gin fan but his cocktail was quite refreshing with a sharp, almost spicy undertone.

J had a Moscow Mule, ginger and spice infused Fris vodka, lime, and house-made ginger soda. At first J found his cocktail good but a little too gingery and sweet. When the bartender added the missing ingredient, bitters, the cocktail became far more complex and balanced.

The Food:

We started with a couple of appetizers. First, the Deviled Duckies, 4 deviled duck eggs spiked with horseradish. The hard boiled duck eggs were firmer and chewier in texture than regular deviled chicken eggs. The filling had a subtle spiciness that tickled the back of the throat rather than making you sweat. The horseradish complimented rather than overwhelmed the egginess. These deviled eggs were so rich that two each was just enough.

Our other appetizer was the Devils on Horseback, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with asiago cheese. The asiago cheese, instead of the more common blue cheese stuffing, was a nice substitution. Its salty sharpness complimented the sweet, caramelized flavor of the date. The bacon wrapping, which can sometimes be over or under cooked, was broiled to a perfect state between crispy and chewy. We both liked the presentation of the dates on a bed of arugula. While most would ignore the arugula, we found it a perfect palette cleanser.

I ordered the Gourmet BLT, applewood-smoked bacon, arugula, and tomato with Tillamook cheddar, red onions, mayo, and avocado served with veggie chips. I was surprised when the sandwich arrived untoasted. I don’t think I’ve ever had a BLT from a restaurant without the bread being toasted. It was an oddly brilliant idea, the soft bread insuring that the interior ingredients wouldn’t slip out. The bacon was perfectly cooked. The grated Tillamook cheese only slightly melted onto the bacon allowing its sharp flavor to come through clearly. I really liked their use of spicy arugula instead of lettuce which gave what could have been a boring BLT a complexity. All in all a very good BLT.

The side of veggie chips was quite good as well. Especially the salty, fried greens which weren’t greasy or under cooked. Next time we may order a whole bowl of veggie chips for an appetizer.

For his entrée, J chose the Sweet Chorizo Grilled Cheese, smoked gouda with house-made chorizo and sliced tart apples with apple slaw. J described his sandwich as “a deconstructed cheese burger”. They used grated gouda which melted better over the spicy chorizo. Very different than any grilled cheese he’d ever had. Not as greasy or heavy. No big glop of cheese. No ingredient overpowered any other making for a surprisingly balanced sandwich. The apple slaw was hard to figure out since it was so unique. It tasted like slaw but with tart, Granny Smith apples and a hint of Chinese five-spice powder.

The Price:

The Aviation: 10.00

Moscow Mule: 10.00

Deviled Duckies: 6.00

Devils on Horseback: 7.00

Gourmet BLT: 10.00

Sweet Chorizo Grilled Cheese: 10.00

The Verdict:

The Gerald is a welcome addition to Ballard Avenue. Outstanding cocktails. Great service. Good food with a homey menu with a twist. There are definitely a number of other things on the menu that we would like to try. The Swedish meatballs and the chicken and waffles are at the top of the list along with trying out their Sunday brunch. We’ll be back.

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Copper Gate – 12/29/11

Website

Location: 6301 24th Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 5-12

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sun: 5-7pm

For the penultimate restaurant of this project, J and I went to Copper Gate with a couple of friends. We’d heard good things about Ballard’s only (for the moment) Scandinavian bar/restaurant and were looking forward to finally eating there.

Located on the north end of 24th, from the outside Copper Gate looks like a dive bar. A great art deco neon sign hangs over the red front door. The lighting inside and out is low, so at first we weren’t sure they were even open. The interior mixes the sparseness of Scandinavian décor with walls covered with old, pornographic art and photos. The huge Viking ship bar dominates the center of the restaurant, its dark wood contrasting with the white washed walls and furniture. Copper Gate has its own quirky style that makes it one of the neatest bars in Ballard.

Considering its long Scandinavian history, it’s surprising that Copper Gate is the only place in Ballard that serves dishes from Sweden and Norway. They offer small plates of dishes like gravlax, pickled herring, and Swedish meatballs along with a full bar with local draft beers, wine, liquor, and Aquavit.

The Service:

Our servers were friendly and unobtrusive. We ended up staying for a good, long time and they had no problem with us sticking around.

The Drinks:

Since we were there with friends for a few hours, J and I ended up having a couple of cocktails each.

For my first cocktail, I ordered the Stor Agurk, Aalborg aquavit, lemon, sugar, and cucumber. A bright, crisp drink with a flavor that reminded me of Thai food for some odd reason.

J’s first drink was the Epplecider, brandy, Gamel Dansk, curacao, and apple juice. He said it tasted like an alcoholic apple cider without the fizz. Very innovative in his opinion.

My second drink was the Kir Jaral, Heering cherry liquor and Marquis de Perlade sparkling wine. Very good. A nice cherry flavor without being overly sweet. Sparkling and crisp.

At the behest of J’s friend, T, he ordered a shot of Lysholm Linie Aquavit. He quite liked its stinging, strong alcohol taste. It was like Jaegermeister’s kinder, gentler brother.

The Food:

We started with the Pommes Frites with dill and curried ketchup. They had a nice dill flavor but were just not hot enough. We’ve noticed a trend with a few new restaurants lately of serving fries just over lukewarm. Fries should be hot, otherwise they tend to go limp quickly, like these did. The curried ketchup, on the other hand, was awesome with a strong curry flavor. The fries ended up a vehicle for the ketchup.

Our other starter was the Gravlax, cured salmon, pumpernickel, and dill mustard. J doesn’t usually like pumpernickel bread but found the combination of bread, mustard, and gravlax amazing. Every element complimented the other. The strong bread, the sharp-sweet mustard, and the smoky salmon with its hint of sweetness. The salmon was perfectly cured to a point between a soft lox and a firm smoked salmon. J said it was one of the best appetizers he’s ever had and when we go back to Copper Gate it will be ordered again.

For his small entrée, J ordered the Swedish Meatballs with celeriac-potato pure and lingonberry preserve. The combination of each component created a perfect bite. Exactly what a Swedish meatball should taste like rather than merely being an Italian meatball in Swedish style gravy. Our friend, T, says Copper Gate makes some of the best Swedish meatballs in Seattle. The celeriac-potato puree was perfectly creamy. All in all, J loved this entrée.

I chose a couple of small entrees to share with the table. First were the Fish Cakes with lemon zest, tarragon aioli, and parsley salad. Honestly, these chubby fish cakes were rather bland. The interior was the consistency of a sponge cake with a very mild fish flavor. The battered exterior wasn’t fried crispy enough to create the much-needed contrast with the spongy interior. The soft exterior and interior made the whole thing rather unappetizing. The tarragon aioli was nearly as bland and added nothing to the flavor of the fish cake.

My other entrée was the Coriander Honey Pork Skewers with apple salad. These were killer. Tender with just a hint of spice. The huge, porky skewers were seasoned so well that I savored each bite. Delicious. Another item that I will order again. The apples on the side were crisp and tart, contrasting well with the fatty, spicy pork.

Our friend, A, ordered the Mussels in Aquavit-tomato broth with bacon and let us have a bite. Amazing. The mussels were perfectly cooked. The delicious broth wasn’t too acidic and had just a hint of herbaciousness from the Aquavit. A mere taste of this dish convinced J and I to order it whenever we go back to Copper Gate.

For dessert, the four of us shared the Glogg Iskrem, Glogg poached pears and vanilla ice cream. The ice cream held up very well to the slightly warm, mulled wine sauce. The poached pears remained quite crispy in the spiced wine sauce. Very good.

The Price:

Stor Agurk: 9.00

Epplecider: 8.00

Kir Jaral: 9.00

Lysholm Linie Aquavit: 8.00

Pommes Frites: 6.00

Gravlax: 9.00

Swedish Meatballs: 9.00

Fish Cakes: 9.00

Coriander Honey Pork Skewers: 9.00

Glogg Iskrem: 6.00

The Verdict:

Copper Gate has really good food for what is essentially a bar. The atmosphere is creative and comfortable … unless you find photos and paintings of naked women offensive. The specialty cocktails are unique. The food shines with a nod to Ballard’s heritage. The gravlax, alone, is better than some entrees we’ve spent more money on. Sure the fries and fish cakes were misses but Copper Gate’s fresh take on traditional Scandinavian cuisine is well worth the trip. We will go back, no doubt about that.

Ravioli Station – 12/27/11 – Closed

No Website

Location: 4620 Leary Way NW

Hours:

Lunch:

Tues-Fri: 11:30am-2pm

Dinner:

Tues-Fri: 5pm-9:30pm

Sat: 5pm-10pm

Sunday: 5pm-9pm

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 5-7pm

Sunday: All Day

Ever since moving back to Ballard, we’ve been curious about the Ravioli Station. Housed in a wedge shaped building that looks like an auto shop, it’s located in the industrial no-man’s land between Ballard and Fremont. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone by the Ravioli Station in the evening, looking in at an interior empty except for a couple of people sitting at the bar.

The night we went, the Ravioli Station was exactly that, empty but for one guy at the bar. It’s a small place, cheerfully painted and homey. J liked their choice of punk music immediately, spending most of our time there singing along. There are about a dozen tables and a bar with cool bar stools made from large pistons.

Their menu consists of salads, appetizers, and various pasta dishes. The specialty is ravioli, naturally, which comes in various flavors with four choices of sauces. There’s a full bar with draft beer and wine as well.

The Service:

Other than the guy at the bar, we were the only patrons. Our perky, friendly server readily answered any questions we had.

The Drinks:

I had the House Red wine, a generic, nameless peppery wine that was actually quite good.

J ordered a Rum and Coke, which was happily strong on the rum side.

The Food:

As a starter, the server brought a plate of lightly toasted foccacia bread and bowl of herbed oil. The foccacia bread was fine but the oil was delicious. Herby. Oily. So salty. I wish I could’ve taken a jar of it home with me.

I ordered a side sized Medin’s Mixed Green salad, carrots, cabbage, gorgonzola, toasted pecans, tomatoes, and olives tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. A large portion with an interesting combination of flavors. Fresh, crisp vegetables mixed with the spicy, roasted pecans and the strong gorgonzola cheese. The balsamic vinaigrette was just a bit too sweet but otherwise, on the whole,  it was quite good.

My entrée was Medin’s Pasta, spaghetti, prawns, olives, scallions, anchovies, and garlic with marinara sauce. A huge bowl of pasta with a pile of shredded parmesan on top. The spaghetti was a little past al dente. The marinara sauce tasted of sweet, caramelized tomatoes and salty anchovies. A very fishy sauce. The prawns were rather small but numerous. Each entrée came with a large, fried, cheese ravioli which was a little greasy, to be honest. All in all a pretty good dish.

J chose the Ravioli Sampler, one each of their raviolis (cheese, spinach, grilled sirloin, butternut squash, and chicken) with a sample of their four sauces (marinara, alfredo, tomato cream, and roasted red pepper). He thought it was neat that he didn’t have to choose just one ravioli and sauce to try. The beef was shredded rather than ground. The chicken had an interesting flavor that we couldn’t put out finger on. Some of the sauces were tasty but a little too rich. He liked the fried ravioli more than I did.

The Price:

House Wine: 8.00

Rum & Coke: 3.00

Side Medin’s Mixed Greens: 3.50

Medin’s Pasta: 14.95

Ravioli Sampler: 14.95

The Verdict:

The Ravioli Station was a nice, little place with a good atmosphere and friendly service. It felt like a bar trying to be a restaurant. The herbed oil and salad were delicious and the rest of the meal was good. The only issue we had was with the price. It seemed a bit pricey for food that was merely good rather than outstanding. We’ve had far better meals during the course of this project for equal if not less money. For instance, the amazing gnocchi J had at Pasta Bella was less expensive.

Since the Ravioli Station is a bit out of the way, we probably won’t go back any time soon. In some ways we hate to give this place a nominally “meh” review. The service was friendly and the atmosphere was great. If the price went down by just a bit, it might be worth the trip but as it is, we would rather go back to Pasta Bella when we’re in the mood for Italian food.

The Sexton – 12/18/11

Website

Location: 5327 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Tues-Sun: 5pm-2am

Closed Monday

Happy Hour:

Tues-Sun: 5-7pm

The Sexton opened in Madame K’s old space last weekend. For months I’ve walked by the space wondering when they were going to open and curious to see what had been done to the place. Gone are the dark red walls and bordello chic, replaced with a  white washed walls and Southern rustic décor. The silverware doesn’t match. Some of the drinks come in tall jam jars. There’s even a trio of Mason jar chandeliers in the back seating area. The layout is still similar. Small bar in the front, open kitchen in the middle and a patio out back. The whole place is very airy with high ceilings. The Sexton has a certain style that is becoming more common in Ballard. The best way I can think of to describe it is … The Sexton is the type of restaurant I would expect to find on Capitol Hill. Simple. Stylish. A bit pretentious but not in a bad way.

The Sexton specializes in small-plates of Southern style food. Pork ribs. Hush puppies. Collard greens. Served along with their homestyle food is an extensive bourbon list and some creative cocktails.

We showed up at 5 on a Sunday night a couple of days after they opened with our friend, AJ. By the time we left an hour or so later, the place was nearing capacity. Considering The Sexton is, as J puts it, “the new hotness”, don’t be surprised if it’s crowded.

The Service:

Our server was really nice and friendly. Attentive without being intrusive. She was really apologetic when the first two bourbons AJ ordered off the list were not available. As we left, AJ stopped to compliment the chef and received a fist bump in return.

I think the only issue we had were the flimsy paper napkins. Considering a lot of the food on their menu is finger food, the napkins fell apart pretty quickly and there were not near enough of them. Yeah, nitpicky I know. Ask for extra napkins right off the bat.

The Drinks:

Since we were hanging out with AJ, J and I ended up each ordering a drink from their specialty cocktail menu both before and after our meal.

I started with Daisy’s Last Stand, Serrano-infused tequila, lime, grenadine, ginger, and soda. A very crisp, summery drink with a nice tequila burn. The heat from the Serrano was very subtle and combined unexpectedly well with the ginger.

My after dinner drink was The Phoenix Stakes, bourbon, plum syrup, lemon, and cardamom bitters. The opposite of my first drink. Rich, thick, and sweet with just a hint of autmny spice. It was almost like drinking dessert.

J’s first drink was Widsith’s Revenge, aged rum, lime, falernum, Aquavit, and Italian vermouth. Another summer drink. Light but not, as he put it, “foofy”. Not super sweet. He was impressed that he could taste each of the components yet it was still mixed quite well.

His second cocktail was the Lash and Steel, rye, dubonnet, amaro nonino, and absinthe. It wasn’t so much a cocktail as a mixed shot. An old-fashioned style cocktail with liquor and not much else. Mixed well with no one element overpowering the others.

The Food:

We each ordered a side dish and a main entrée style small plate.

I chose Hush Puppies with red pepper aioli as my side. So light and fluffy on the inside and delightfully crispy on the outside. The corn meal flavor was strong and there were chunks of corn kernels in the batter. Not greasy or heavy. The red pepper aioli could’ve been a bit stronger but it was tasty none the less.

J started with the Sexton Mac, bacon roux, five cheeses, arugula, and balsamic redux. A rich, perfectly cooked mac and cheese. He commented on how well seasoned it was, when other mac and cheese he’s had invariably need a little salt and pepper. The bacon roux gave it a faint hint of porky flavor. The addition of the arugula surprised J and really added a nice, peppery note to the dish. One of the best mac and cheese he’s had for quite a while.

My entrée was the Herb and Honey Twice Roasted Chicken with cider jus. Moist and tender with crispy edges. It was nearly half a chicken with a wing, thigh, and part of a breast. The au jus was honey sweet with an underlying herb flavor. It was so good that I took to dipping the hush puppies in the jus.

For his entrée, J ordered the Sage and Cider Braised Ribs with coleslaw. So good. The chef wasn’t afraid to give the edges of the pork a bit of char. The meat was so tender that it could be cut with the handle end of his fork. Moist all the way through. The au jus was delicious. He liked how nothing like flour or cornstarch has been added to the jus as a thickener. His only complaint was the plating of the coleslaw under the pork. The au jus made it soggy and the flavors didn’t mix that well. J wished they’d just served it on the side.

The Price:

Daisy’s Last Stand: 8.00/6.00 Happy Hour Price

The Phoenix Stakes: 9.00/7.00 Happy Hour Price

Widsith’s Revenge: 10.00/8.00 Happy Hour Price

Lash and Steel: 10.00/8.00 Happy Hour Price

Hush Puppies: 6.00/5.00 Happy Hour Price

Herb and Honey Twice Roasted Chicken: 11.00/10.00 Happy Hour Price

Sexton Mac: 8.00/7.00 Happy Hour Price

Sage and Cider Braised Ribs: 13.00/12.00 Happy Hour Price

The Verdict:

The Sexton was very good for a place that had, literally, opened two days before. The service was great. The cocktails interesting and tasty. The food was delicious and full of flavor. The braised rib was crazy good. Yes, it’s a bit pricy but worth it. Honestly, one of our favorite meals of the project. We will go back no doubt about it.

Smokin’ Pete’s BBQ – 12/3/11

Website

Location: 1918 NW 65th

Hours:

Tues-Sat: 11am-9pm

Sunday: 11:30am-9pm

Seattle has never been much of a BBQ town. For a long time, there have been just a handful of BBQ joints scattered all over the city. Smokin’ Pete’s, on the corner of 65th and 20th, has been the Ballard BBQ outpost for years. Housed in a bright yellow building, Smokin’ Pete’s is the place I always took my BBQ loving father. It’s a simple place with two glass deli cases flanking the cash register and a few tables. The menu, naturally, consists of BBQ meats, pork, chicken, and beef, along with sides like potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, etc. They offer canned sodas, a couple of ciders, and beer.

The Service:

The guys at the counter were friendly and our orders came out pretty quick.

The Drink:

J and I each had a can of Faygo Root Beer.

The Food:

J ordered a small plate of Singin’ Man Pork Ribs, Memphis dry rubbed pork ribs with a piece of cornbread and mac and cheese. He found the meat dry and tough enough that it needed the thin, too sweet BBQ sauce to make it palatable. The cornbread was equally dry and rather flavorless. The mac and cheese tasted like the stuff they sell in the deli at Fred Meyer. Not quality BBQ.

I chose the Working Man’s Lunch, a slow smoked beef brisket sandwich with hush puppies. The beef was moist and had good flavor but had large, gelatinous chunks of fat running through it . The sauce was too sweet for my taste. The baguette, that the brisket was served on, was oddly greasy. The whole sandwich felt kind of thrown together. The hush puppies had the consistency of a white cake and was just as bland. I expect hush puppies to have a distinct corn flavor and some heft to them. These didn’t.

The Price:

Singin’ Man Pork Ribs: 13.75

The Working Man’s Lunch: 8.00

The Verdict:

We were disappointed by Smokin’ Pete’s. The sauce was mediocre. The meat was either too dry or too fatty. The sides were so generic that they might as well have come from a grocery store. We’ve eaten at Smokin’ Pete’s before and thought it was okay. Now, not so much. It seems like they got too used to being the only BBQ game in Ballard. They haven’t had any competition for years so it’s like they slacked off on quality. Now that not one, but two BBQ places have (The Boar’s Nest) or will (Bitterroot) open in Ballard, Smokin’ Pete’s needs to step up their game because, frankly, The Boar’s Nest blew them out of the water on all fronts.

La Isla – 11/25/11

Website

Location: 2320 NW Market St

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 11:30am-2am

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 3pm-6pm, 10pm-12am

Sunday: 3pm-6pm

La Isla is another unexpected and interesting ethnic restaurant in Ballard. It opened a few years ago just off the corner of Market and 24th, next door to Kitchen and Things. La Isla serves Puerto Rican cuisine in a fairly large space that once housed two retail stores. Someone I know said its location, surrounded by retail spaces as it is, reminded him of a restaurant in a strip mall. The interior is painted with bright colors and decorated with a Caribbean flair. The night we went it was nearly at full capacity.

La Isla’s menu is filled with unique appetizers and entrees that lean heavily towards garlic, meat, and plantains. I wouldn’t say it was really suitable for vegetarians. Many of the offerings probably can’t be found anywhere else in Seattle. The drink menu consists of a number of Caribbean inspired cocktails and an extensive rum selection.

The Service:

Our server was friendly and took our orders quite quickly. Unlike many places we’ve been to, they gave a longer than normal space of time between our appetizers and entrees. This may have just been a product of being rather busy that night but it was quite nice regardless.

The Drinks:

J ordered the Caribbean Crush, dark, coconut, and 151 rum mixed with a splash of Kahlua and fruit juices. Tasty with a strong coconut flavor that completely masked the considerable amount of liquor in the drink.

I had a Mojito, light rum with muddled mint and a splash of soda. It had a different flavor than other mojitos I’ve had. Very minty but it didn’t seem to have a lot of rum in it. I think they must’ve used club soda rather than Sprite for the splash of soda, which gave the drink an odd flavor.

The Food:

Since the menu was so interesting, we decided to order a couple of appetizers along with our entrees.

A friend suggested the Carne Frita, bone-in pork “wings” marinated in adobo, flash fried, and topped with sautéed onions and served with caldo sauce. Very moist and flavorful pork chunks. J said if they’d added a couple more pieces, the Carne Frita would have made a good entrée. The only thing that was a bit off was the caldo sauce. It was far too mild to go up against the meaty flavor of the pork.

We also ordered the Gandules Dip, a blend of onions, garlic, red pepper, green pigeon beans, olive oil, vinegar, and spices served with tostones cups. Interesting, in a good way. The dip had a strong olive oil flavor with hints of vinegar and citrus. A neat little do-it-yourself appetizer. The starchy tostones cups held up nicely to the dip without getting soggy.

For his entrée, J chose the Bisteca Encebollado, an 8 oz cut of churrasco steak, marinated in olive oil, garlic, and vinegar sauce, topped with sautéed onion and served with beans, rice, tostones, and al ajillo sauce. A huge amount of food. After trying a bit of the steak, J wished he’d spent the extra $1 for the spicier option because it was just a little bland. He ended up eating the steak with the super-garlicky al ajillo sauce for the extra flavor boost. He also felt the steak was a bit tough. J loved the beans and rice so much that he left some of the steak in order to finish them. The sides were so good that he wondered if La Isla served the beans and rice on their own on their lunch menu.

I ordered the Chuletas a la Criolla, two 6 oz pork chops, marinated in lemon and adobo, pan sizzled and smothered in red Creole sauce with beans, rice, tostones, and al ajillo sauce. Another portion of food so large, it couldn’t be finished. Oddly, the pork chops were moist and a little tough at the same time. The chops had just a faint hint of lemon to them. The red Creole sauce, made of onions and red peppers, was a little bland and overcooked for my taste. I like a bit more crunch to my veggies. The tostones and bright al ajillo sauce made a nice little side dish to the rest of the meal.

The Price:

Caribbean Crush: 8.50

Mojito: 7.50

Carne Frita: 7.50

Gandules Dip: 7.00

Bisteca Encebollado: 15.50

Chuletas a la Criolla: 15.00

The Verdict:

La Isla serves good food with a very unique flavor profile. The ingredients were fresh, the portions huge, and the super garlicky al ajillo sauce stole the show. I think our only issue was that the food was really heavy. The appetizers alone can fill you up and adding an entrée to that caused us to still feel stuffed the next morning. I would definitely suggest ordering drinks and a few appetizers or drinks and an entree rather than having both. Also if you go in expecting spicy, Latin American style food, you’ll be disappointed. The Puerto Rican cuisine at La Isla has a more sweet and sour taste with large hints of citrus and garlic. We are both intrigued enough about their menu to go back for more.

Jhanjay Vegetarian Thai – 11/12/11

Website

Location: 5313 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Mon-Fri: 11-10

Sat-Sun: 12-10

Since our vegetarian friend, TN, was coming over to hang out on Saturday, we decided it was the perfect time to finally visit Ballard’s only completely vegetarian restaurant, Jhanjay Thai. I will admit to being an unrepentant omnivore, so I’m not very familiar with vegetarian cuisine. I’ve tried a couple of vegetarian places and found the cuisine uniformly bland. J, on the other hand, spent seven years of his life as a vegan until the day he had a bacon epiphany.

Jhanjay Thai sits on Ballard Ave. just a couple doors down from Bastille. It’s a long, skinny restaurant with a décor that leans heavily towards natural materials and good lighting. Lots of wood. Plants everywhere. Their menu, which mentions that they use no fish or meat sauces, is quite large with a selection of interesting Thai dishes, some of which were unfamiliar to me. They also offer tea, coffee, beer, wine, and desserts.

The Service:

It feels odd saying this but the servers were too friendly and attentive. Every five minutes during the meal, someone would come over to ask how the food was or if we needed anything. We wondered if this was their normal service or if they had guessed we were doing a review. This intrusiveness slightly impacted our opinion of the place, to be honest. The rate that the dishes came out was way too quick. We had barely started on our appetizers when our entrees came out.

The Drinks:

The three of us shared a large pot of flavorful jasmine tea.

The Food:

We ordered two appetizers. First, the Wonton Cream Cheese, corn and diced carrots mixed with cream cheese and wrapped in wonton wrappers, deep fried and served with plum sauce. The wontons were not fried long enough; resulting in a pale, limp appetizer. The soupy filling added an unappetizing sogginess. It would have benefited from a heavier, binding element. The plum sauce was bland and forgettable.

Our other appetizer was the Tofu Satay, extra firm tofu, marinated with herbs and spices, served with peanut sauce and cucumber salad. Much better than the wontons. The very fresh tofu had a delicious smoky flavor that played off the dark, rich peanut sauce quite well. I am not a fan of peanut sauce but the deep, nutty flavor of this one almost made me one. The tofu satay was plated very attractively.

For his entrée, J ordered the Nun’s Noodles, udon noodles stir fried with enoki mushrooms and mixed vegetables in a light chili sauce. He thought it was good and flavorful but pretty spicy for a two on their spiciness scale. The udon noodles were nice and firm as were the chunks of deep fried tofu. He was surprised at the strong mushroom flavor of the thin enoki mushrooms. The sauce reminded him of good lo mein. J did feel the portion size seemed small compared with similar dishes at other Thai restaurants.

TN chose a dish she’s had many times elsewhere, Tom Kha, hot and sour soup simmered with coconut milk, galangal, mushrooms, lemon grass, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves, and deep fried tofu. The broth, while a bit thin, had a pleasant coconut flavor with just a hint of lime. She felt there could’ve been more and a better variety of vegetables though. She ended up adding garnishes from the tofu satay to her soup. The tofu had the right texture, soft on the inside. Like J, TN thought the portion size was smaller than she had expected but it did hit the spot on a cold evening.

My entrée was the Phad Ka Prau, onions, garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, chili, and deep fried tofu, stir fried with sweet basil, including a side of brown rice. The sauce had a rich garlic, spicy flavor with caramel undertones. Very good. I’ve never particularly liked tofu because it tends to be too spongy for my taste, but their deep fried tofu was pretty good. There was a nice mixture of vegetables but they were just a tad bit overcooked. Especially the green beans which didn’t have the crispiness I expected. Unlike J, I felt it was perfectly spiced and just the right portion size. Although the brown rice was of a good quality, it just didn’t have the nutty flavor I prefer.

The Price:

Large pot of Jasmine Tea: 3.00

Wonton Cream Cheese: 7.50

Tofu Satay: 7.50

Nun’s Noodles: 8.95

Tom Kha (Large): 8.95

Phad Ka Prau: 8.95

Side of Brown Rice: 2.00

The Verdict:

J said Jhanjay Thai is one of the better vegetarian restaurants in Seattle, mainly because the food was very flavorful and I have to agree. My entrée was quite good, as was the tofu satay. Even though both TN and J thought their portions were a rather small, they did enjoy their meals. I would say, as a non-vegetarian, that the food was good enough that I didn’t miss the meat. Next time we need someplace to take a vegetarian, we’ll probably choose Jhanjay Thai.

Four out of the five Thai restaurants in Ballard are actually pretty good. In our opinion, for the flavor, variety of dishes, and the awesome brown rice, Thai Thani comes out on top. Then there’s pretty much a three-way tie for second best, depending on what you’re looking for in a Thai restaurant.

Uma Thai is good for quick, cheap take-out, especially if you pay cash. If you’re introducing someone to Thai food for the first time, the mild but good dishes at Thaiku are your safest bet. And Jhanjay Thai is the place to go when there’s more than one vegetarian in a group for its flavorful, interesting entrees that even a carnivore will enjoy. That leaves Mae Ploy in last place for its okay but nothing special menu.