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Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

The Amber Den – 2/25/2012

Website

Location: 1556 NW 56th St

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 2pm-10pm

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 4pm-7pm

Sunday: All day

Open only three weeks, The Amber Den has used its small space well, making it a much needed spot to relax and enjoy a drink at the east end of Market Street. On the corner of 56th and 17th, in a space that has seen a couple of coffee shops come and go, The Amber Den is the type of place to go for a glass of wine and a few small bites before seeing a movie at the Majestic Bay.

The comfortable space has a mixture of tall bar stools and tables and groupings of couches and chairs that invite hanging out. There is an extra loft space that overlooks the main space with a few more tables, chairs, a couch and a bookcase with an eclectic array of donated books. With free wi-fi available, The Amber Den is an interesting alternative to the typical coffee shop, inviting you to stay a while.

Their small menu consists of a variety of small bites that range from meat and cheese plates to stuffed mushrooms to harissa spiced meatballs. They serve local beer and wine along with various non-alcoholic options. The most interesting thing about their wine list is the four choices of Washington State wines on tap.

The Service:

Our server was very friendly and full of suggestions about the best wines and food. When J’s choice of wine came from a nearly tapped out keg, she brought a glass with the last bit, gratis, before bringing a glass of wine from the new keg.

The Drink:

J chose the Proletariat Bordeaux Blend. He found the flavor difference between the end of one keg and the new keg very interesting. The end of the keg wine was stronger with more tannin while the first glass of the new keg tasted far milder.

I had the Hard Row to Hoe Pinot Noir, a fresh and bright red with a bitey finish.

The Food:

We ended up ordering nearly their entire menu. First was the Crostini Trio, a small plate of three homemade pestos (basil, tomato and chimichurri) and bread. The plating was very clever, offering three pestos and six thin slices of baguette. We both felt that the baguette slices needed to be toasted just a bit more. It was a little soft for crostini. The basil pesto was bright with a strong basil/olive oil flavor. The chimichurri was a little too grassy tasting for us. It needed a hit of citrus and/or salt to counteract the green flavor. The best of the three pestos was the tomato, with its rich, caramelized taste.

Next we decided to try the Den Fries, lightly seasoned potato pieces served with chipotle catsup and an avocado aioli. The potatoes could have been a bit crispier and done with some more seasoning … perhaps salt or lemon. The nearly flavorless avocado aioli could have done with the same extra hit of seasoning as the potatoes. The winner of this small plate was the perfectly spiced chipotle catsup. J remarked that they should bottle and sell it since it was so good.

The Albondigas, beef and lamb meatballs in a homemade honey-harissa glaze, were awesome. The little, slightly charred meatballs tasted unlike any meatball either of us had ever eaten. Perfectly cooked with a sweet-spicy sauce. Delicious. We would go back to The Amber Den again just for these meatballs alone.

Then came the Blue Cheese ‘n Bacon Mushrooms, mushroom caps stuffed with a blue cheese, bacon, and date filling. So tasty. The addition of the date to the filling helped to cut the sharpness of the high quality blue cheese. We could have eaten two or three more plates.

Our final small plate was the perfectly Garlic Shrimp tossed with garlic and chorizo. The addition of the hard, salty chorizo gave this dish a spiciness that uplifted what could have been a bland dish. The only issue I had was the odd, floral aftertaste of the garlic and J thought the portion was a little small. Otherwise it was quite good.

The Price:

Proletariat Bordeaux Blend: 8.00 (7.00 Happy Hour)

Hard Row to Hoe Pinot Noir: 6.00 (5.00 Happy Hour)

Crostini Trio: 5.00 (4.00 Happy Hour)

Den Fries: 4.00 (3.00 Happy Hour)

Albondigas: 7.00 (6.00 Happy Hour)

Blue Cheese ‘n Bacon Mushrooms: 7.00 (6.00 Happy Hour)

Garlic Shrimp: 7.00 (6.00 Happy Hour)

The Verdict:

The Amber Den was a neat, little place with a creative menu, good wine, and nice Happy Hour deals. The friendly staff and inviting atmosphere encourage lingering over a glass of wine and the tasty small plates. I can imagine J and I going back before seeing a movie or a show in Ballard and if they were open later, it would be the perfect place for a nightcap. We’ll be returning for the stuffed mushrooms and meatballs at the very least.

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Volterra – 12/31/11

Website

Location: 5411 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Bar:

Mon-Thurs: 4:30pm-12am

Fri: 4:30pm-1am

Saturday: 9am-11pm

Sunday: 9am-9pm

Brunch:

Sat-Sun: 9am-2pm

Dinner:

Mon-Thurs: 5pm-10pm

Fri-Sat: 5pm-11pm

Sunday: 5pm-9pm

From the inception of this project, partaking of New Year’s Eve dinner at Volterra was planned. It seemed like a fitting end to dine at one of Ballard’s more famous fine dining establishments.

Volterra is a smallish place with a bar, a square dining room, a patio of outdoor dining in nice weather, and a separate drawing room for special, private parties. SIFF often uses Volterra for Dinner and a Movie nights and, just last month, they had a special dinner with Gary Oldman there.

Volterra’s specialty is Tuscan-inspired cuisine made with local ingredients. Their menu leans heavily toward pasta and hearty Italian fare made with a variety of meats and seafood. Veal. Wild boar. Duck. Dungeness crab. With their highly praised wine list, it’s the type of place you save for a special occasion … unless you know about their weekend brunch. J and I have had dinner at Volterra once before but go for their surprisingly affordable brunch at least once every couple of months.

The Service:

Our server was personable and quite helpful when asked for wine pairings. The restaurant also comped our wine selections and gave us two jars of their fennel salt so they get extra points for that.

The Drinks:

Before our meal began, we each ordered a specialty cocktail. I had the Tuscan Limoncello Rosemary Drop, housemade limoncello, vodka, rosemary, and lemon sour in a rosemary sugar rimmed glass. A very lemony, summery drink with a nice contrast between sweet and herbaceous.

J ordered the Pomegranate Sidecar, brandy, pomegranate, and lemon juice. A sweet, girly cocktail that had no liquor taste at all.

With my meal, I chose a Supertuscan red wine that our server suggested would pair well with my entrée. A delicious, bold red.

J had a glass of Altesino Alte D’ Altesi Toscana, another Supertuscan. His wine was slightly lighter than mine but so flavorful that he plans on seeking out Supertuscans from now on.

The Food:

For New Year’s Eve, Volterra offered a five course, prix fixe menu.

Dinner began with an Antipasti Platter which included two types of salumi, unpasteurized buffalo mozzarella, sautéed portabella mushrooms, lentil salad, pickled onions, asparagus with pancetta, cannellini bean salad, and white anchovies. Almost everything was delicious. The mozzarella was divine, creamy, cheesy, and like no other mozzarella we’ve ever had. Even though I’m not usually a fan of lentils or beans, both salads were delicious. The only off note were the surprisingly nasty tasting pickled onions.

For my primi course selection, I chose the Lamb Sausage and Pepper served on a bed of carnaroli rice. The rice was creamy without being mushy and contrasted nicely with the acidic tomato and pepper sauce. Personally, I would have preferred the lamb sausage to be stronger in flavor but it was tasty none the less. On a whole, the whole dish seemed a bit heavy for a primi course. I ended up not finishing it because I didn’t want to get full when there were still three courses to go.

J ordered the Three Cheese Tortellini in Brodo, ricotta, reggiano, and pecorino filled tortellini in mushroom consume with Italian vegetables. He’s never had tortellini served like this before. He called it an Italian wonton soup. Huge tortellini in a light, flavorful broth. The cheese mixture in the tortellini was exceptionally good.

The insalata course came next. My selection was the Apple and Goat Cheese Salad, balsamic apples and cherries, mixed greens, pine nuts, and goat cheese with a fig-honey vinaigrette. A good salad but rather forgettable. The vinaigrette had very little flavor and the apples were a little overcooked. Since I really like goat cheese, I felt like there wasn’t enough even if it was very creamy. I did like the addition of the tart, dried cherries though.

J’s salad course was the Wild Mushroom Salad, foraged wild mushrooms, sautéed with balsamic vinaigrette served over arugula. Great but a bit heavy. A mushroom and arugula punch in the face, as he put it. He especially enjoyed how the mushrooms had been caramelized to the point of crispiness.

My main course was the Wild Boar Tenderloin in gorgonzola-mustard sauce with crispy Yukon Gold, rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables that turned out to be kale and parsnips. Perfectly cooked, medium rare wild boar. Melt in your mouth tender. The strong, gamey flavor stood up well to the rich, creamy mustard sauce. The sauce was so, so good, sharp and creamy. The sides were merely okay. The bland kale and parsnip side could have used a bit more seasoning. Some garlic or salt or lemon. Something. The equally bland potatoes tasted like they had been left on the stove too long. Dry. Tough. Even the amazing mustard sauce couldn’t make them palatable.

As his entrée, J chose the Beef Medallions with truffle-scented wild mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and asparagus with a fontina fonduta, scallions, and fried prosciutto sauce. He asked for the beef to be cooked medium-rare but it came out noticeably closer to medium. The truffle sauce did help to counter the overcooked beef. The asparagus was cooked perfectly. Much like my entrée, his sides felt like an afterthought. The mashed potatoes were okay but he’s had far better ones at cheaper restaurants. In all, slightly disappointing.

Our dessert was a Chocolate Sour Cream Cake, covered in chocolate ganache with a dollop of chocolate mousse, a chocolate wafer, espresso crème fraiche, and chocolate covered espresso beans. Very chocolaty yet rather dry. The ganache was rich and delicious and the chocolate wafer was amazing but J and I both felt like something was missing. The cake needed something tart, like a raspberry sauce, to counteract the overwhelming flavor of chocolate.

The Price:

Limoncello Rosemary Lemon Drop: 8.00

Pomegrante Sidecar: 9.00

Prix Fixe New Year’s Eve Dinner: 2 @ 75.00

The Verdict:

We did feel like we got our money’s worth at Volterra. Many elements were quite good. J’s tortellini. My wild boar. The wines and cocktails. But it wasn’t entirely the outstanding meal we were looking forward to. Maybe it was the prix fixe nature of the meal. Rather than fixing items for each patron, it may have been more like an assembly line. Considering some not so good aspects to our meal, it seems like more care could have been taken with parts of dinner.

Perhaps it didn’t help that on Christmas day, J and I had a prix fixe dinner that was outstanding. At the Heathman Hotel in Portland, there were far more people seated yet every single aspect of that meal was amazing and memorable. For instance, I am not a fan of Brussel sprouts, yet I had a side dish of them with my entrée at the Heathman that made me rethink my dislike. Volterra’s dinner paled in comparison.

Will we go back to Volterra? Sure. We’ve had very good meals there, especially their weekend brunch. And they did give us a memorable meal, even if some aspects weren’t the type of “memorable” they would have preferred. I guess it’s just that Volterra turned out to be a rather anti-climatic end to the project.

Next week we’ll compile our best and worst of Ballard lists along with the best of various types of food … like best burger or best Long Island Iced Tea. And I’ll let you all know where we go from here now that the official project is finished. Thank you for reading.

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.

Pasta Bella Ristorante – 10/14/11

Website

Location: 5909 15th NW

Hours:

Mon-Sat: 4:30pm-10pm

Sunday: 4pm-9pm

Another 14th comes along and it’s time for another trip to one of Ballard’s nicer restaurants. We chose Pasta Bella Ristorante, a smallish Italian restaurant in an old brick building on 15th Ave. With its rich wood paneling and dark green walls, Pasta Bella feels like an old school, almost East coast Italian restaurant. The type of place straight out of The Godfather or Goodfellas.

The menu at Pasta Bella is refreshingly large compared to most of the nicer restaurants we’ve been to lately. They offer virtually any Italian dish you can think of with just about any type of meat. Spaghetti. Ravioli. Gnocchi. Lasagna, as well as a fine selection of Italian wines and desserts.

The Service:

Our server was so Italian, he could have been a bit player in one of the Godfather movies. Very friendly. Very helpful giving recommendations about what was especially good.

The Drink:

I chose a half carafe of Stella Montepulciano, a fruity, red wine that went extremely well with everything we ordered. J liked that it was served at room temperature.

The Food:

For antipasti, we ordered Italian Bruschetta, slices of garlic ciabatta with fresh basil. Tomatoes, onions, capers, and balsamic vinegar. The char-grilled bread was neither soggy nor brick hard as some bruschetta we’ve had over the course of the project. The topping was rich and fresh with strong tomato and slightly sweet balsamic flavors.

J chose a Spinach Starter Salad of spinach, gorgonzola, caramelized roasted walnuts, onions, and red peppers. The spinach was crisp and fresh and the gorgonzola didn’t overwhelm all the other flavors. The dressing added just a hint of sweetness.

For my salad course, I had the Mozarella Caprese, fresh mozzarella served with Roma tomatoes, fresh basil on a bed of spinach with balsamic and extra virgin olive oil dressing. The mozzarella was so incredibly fresh and moist that it nearly melted in my mouth. The tomatoes were a bit pale and unripe but the spinach was very fresh and crisp.

J had the Pesto Gnocchi con Pollo, house-made gnocchi in a pesto-marinara sauce. The gnocchi were incredibly light. The marinara wasn’t sweet, rather very acidic and tart. J really liked the sauce although it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The pesto also had a nice bite to it. The entire dish reminded him of something an Italian grandmother would make for her family.

For my entrée I ordered the Linguine con Gamberi al Diablo, linguine with black tiger prawns, Roma tomatoes, capers, fresh basil, garlic, and hot chili peppers in a light, tomato-lemon-wine sauce. Very good. The prawns tasted briney and like actual prawns rather than bland rubber. The lemon-tomato sauce complimented the briney prawns quite well with a faint tartness and an undercurrent of spice. The tomatoes were well cooked adding a bit of texture to the sauce. It was so good that, although I had eaten all the prawns, I still took the leftover linguine home for lunch the next day.

The Price:

Stella Montepulciano: 14.00

Italian Bruchetta: 6.95

Spinach Starter Salad: 5.50

Mozarella Caprese: 9.00

Pesto Gnocchi con Pollo: 14.50

Linguine con Gamberi al Diablo: 17.95

The Verdict:

We had a very fresh and traditional Italian meal at Pasta Bella. “Fresh” was the adjective both of us kept using through out the meal. The salads were fresh. The sauces were fresh. Even the wine was bright and fruity. A really good meal for a reasonable price in an atmospheric restaurant. Pasta Bella is a neat little joint that would be great for anyone who wants to feel like they’re stepping into a gangster film.

We were so full that we didn’t have a chance to try their desserts but both of us want to go back for dessert and coffee at some point. We’ll more likely than not return to Pasta Bella when we get a craving for traditional Italian food especially since it’s only a few blocks from our apartment.

Portalis – 7/10/11

Website

Location: 5295 Ballard Ave NW

Hours:

Tues-Thurs: 4pm – 11pm

Friday: 4pm-12am

Saturday: 12pm-12am

Sunday: 12am – 10pm

Monday: Closed

J and I wanted to go somewhere quiet for dinner on Sunday while Ballard Seafood Fest was happening. When we walked by Portalis earlier in the day, J asked if it was on the list, suggesting dinner there after I had answered, “Yes”.

Portalis is a small, intimate wine bar located within a wine shop about halfway down Ballard Ave. One side of the rather rustic interior is given over to racks of wine bottles. The wine shop gives regular wine tastings throughout the week. In fact, I’ve visited their Sunday market tastings after shopping the Ballard Farmer’s Market. The people who run the tastings are always knowledgeable and friendly.

Along the other side of the shop runs a long bar as well as a handful of tables nearer to the front which can be open up during nice weather. The weather on Sunday was quite nice so J and I sat near the front and people watched.

Portalis’ small menu consists of a few appetizers, entrees, and desserts, all made from local ingredients. Many items on the menu change according to what’s in season so check out the menu online before going. Also, on Saturdays, they offer a price fixe menu of three courses.

The Service:

Our server was prompt, polite, and friendly.

I suppose this might be the best place to mention that Portalis has suggested wine pairings to go with each entrée on the menu. Their suggestions for what we eventually ordered were absolutely spot on and, at least with J’s entrée, unexpected.

The Drinks:

The suggested wine for J’s entrée was an Italian Sangiovese, Poggio Salvi 2008 Morellino Di Scansano. He found it to be a surprisingly light and mellow wine. Great for a summer day.

My wine was a French Grenache, Chateau des Roques 2007 Vacqueyras. This was was much stronger, as befit my choice of entrée. To me it had a bitey, peppery flavor. Although J described it as “Tawny” when he took a sip. Quite good.

The Food:

J chose the Fettuccine, homemade noodles with peas, prosciutto, crimini mushrooms and shaved grana. He was pleasantly surprised by its lightness. He had expected something far creamier. Like his wine, it was perfect for a warm summer day.

My entrée was the Chuck Eye Steak with peperonata and potato gratin. The steak came to the table nicely charred, covered in onions, red and yellow peppers. The meat was tender with a fresh, beefy flavor, which the sweetness of the peperonata enhanced quite well. Very nice.

The potato gratin turned out to be the winner of my entrée. Basically it was a more sophisticated scalloped potatoes made with goat cheese. The potatoes were not overcooked so they still retained a bit of a crunch. The tangy goat cheese complimented the potatoes and the steak. I am tempted to find a similar recipe to try at home.

The Price:

Poggio Salvi 2008 Morellino Di Scansano: 8.50

Chateau des Roques 2007 Vacqueyras: 9.50

Fettucine: 15.00

Chuck Eye Steak: 17.00

The Verdict:

We both really enjoyed Portalis. The intimacy of the restaurant part was comfortable and nice. Great, creative food made with fresh ingredients. Perfect wine pairings. The price is not at all bad for the quality. In fact, considering how tasty everything was, it might be considered a bit low compared to comparable places in Ballard.

Once the project is over, I’m sure we will go back to Portalis. I’m curious to see what new entrees they come up with over the seasons.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , ,

India Bistro – 6/24/11

Website

Location: 2301 NW Market St

Hours:

Mon-Thurs: 11:30-3, 5-9

Fri-Sat: 11:30-3, 5-9:30

Sun: 5-9

My family is not what you would call adventurous eaters. Strictly meat and potatoes. My experience with “ethnic” food before I started hanging out in Seattle was limited to Mexican restaurants and the occasional trip to a Chinese buffet. I was in my early thirties before I had tried Thai, sushi, Ethiopian, Greek or Indian food. India Bistro in Ballard was where I had Indian food for the first time with a group of people I had just met through my friend Chris.

India Bistro is Ballard’s only Indian Restaurant. Located on the corner of Market Street and Ballard Avenue, it’s a small place with a dozen or so tables and limited outdoor seating. With white tablecloths and low lighting, India Bistro exudes a romantic atmosphere missing in the majority of restaurants in Ballard, making it a popular place for couples on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Service:

When J and I arrived around 7 on Friday night, the restaurant was already crowded with couples and families. Even though there seemed to be a two-person table available, we had to wait longer than I prefer to be seated. In fact we considered going somewhere else when a different table came free. Because it was busy, I supposed, once seated, it took a while to get our order in. After these two delays, our food did come out relatively quickly.

Full disclosure, I was in kind of a bad mood that day but if the free table was on reserve for someone, there should have been a sign on it. There was a larger table with a reserved sign in the middle so it’s not as if reserving a table isn’t common. Most likely if we’d walked in to find all the tables occupied, we would have moved on elsewhere.

One extra note about India Bistro: even on the coldest days, the restaurant is very warm. By the time our meal was finished, both J and I were glad to get some fresh, cool air.

The Drinks:

J chose a Riesling, which he said, was very good.

I ordered the Mists of Sahyadri Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine from India, because I had never encountered an indigenous Indian wine. I was completely floored by its dark, spicy aroma and peppery flavor. It went quite well with my entrée.

The Food:

As an appetizer we ordered the Paneer Pakoras, paneer cheese deep-fried in pakora batter. The fried paneer reminded me of fried tofu more than cheese. A little spongy but creamy as well. Not bad.

Whenever J and I go out for Indian food we always order Naan. This time we chose Garlic and Keema (lamb) Naan. At India Bistro the naan is huge and moist with the lovely slightly charred flavor that I’ve come to expect from naan prepared in a traditional tandoor oven. “Killer” is how J described it.

J decided to order the Murgh Tandoori, half a spring chicken marinated in Indian spices then grilled in the tandoor. He figured the best dish by which to judge an Indian restaurant would be the tandoori chicken. Most of the chicken was dark meat, two drumsticks and thighs. He said the meat was moist and had the great smoky flavor he associates with really good tandoori chicken. He especially liked the honey sweet tomato sauce they served with the Murgh Tandoori. Really great.

I chose the Roughan Josh, lamb chunks cooked with tomato, ground onions, ginger, yogurt, and Indian spices. The sauce tasted creamy and spicy with just a hint of sweetness. The chunks of lamb were fork tender. Pretty good though next time, when asked, I’ll request a spice level of medium-hot. It was just a little bland.

The Price:

The prices are estimated because I forgot to write down the exact costs and they do not list prices on their website.

Riesling: 7.00

Cabernet Sauvignon: 6.00

Paneer Pekora: 6.95

Garlic Naan: 5.95

Keema Naan: 6.95

Murgh Tandoori: 11.95

Roughan Josh: 11.95

The Verdict:

India Bistro serves really good food. The food was excellent and the quality of the wine, especially the indigenous Cabernet Sauvignon, was a surprise. I would love to find a bottle of Mists of Sahyadri.

Granted, India Bistro is the only choice for Indian food in Ballard but we’re lucky our only choice is of such high quality. They do the familiar, like naan and tandoori chicken, exceptionally well and have an extensive menu of less familiar options.

J and I have never had a bad meal at India Bistro. Yes, it can get crowded, the service can be a bit slow, and 9 times out of 10 you will wait for a table but it’s worth it considering how consistently good the food is. We’ll definitely go back.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , , ,

Palermo – 3/26/2011

Website

Location: 2005 NW Market St

Hours:

Sun: 9:30am-10 pm

Mon-Thurs: 11am-10pm

Fri: 11am-11pm

Sat: 9:30am-11pm

After having seen Sucker Punch at the Cinerama, J was in the mood for Italian for some reason, so we decided to visit the cheaper of the many Italian options in Ballard. Odd that. There are as many Italian restaurants in Ballard as there are Thai.

Palermo is in a storefront right on Market Street tucked in between a dry cleaners and the now empty storefront that once housed Epilogue Books. It’s a very unassuming little place. Light. Airy. Not at all pretentious. It feels like the family run restaurant it seems to be. The menu is long ranging from calzones to pizza to hot sandwiches to pasta and all with an Italian flair with hints of Greece here and there.

The Service:

Our waitress was very friendly, pausing to describe the special in great detail. She willingly answered our questions about the content of our dishes. Once we ordered, the food, a salad course followed by pasta, came out with amazing speed. Especially the pasta course, which came out virtually the minute we had finished our salads and was piping hot.

The Drinks:

J and I decided to share a carafe of the house red wine. It wasn’t the best red wine I’ve ever had but it was fine. Obviously a red blend, the wine had a bitey grape flavor with a surprisingly smooth finish. J commented that the wine tasted like it was made in the back of the restaurant … in a good way.

The Food:

The meal came with a huge house baked roll and a dipping oil of olive oil and paprika. The roll was hot, tender and delicious. J loved the dipping oil with its spicy, almost curry tasting bite.

I ordered the Penne alla Vodka with Seafood, vodka sauce with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, octopus, garlic, basil and parmesan with a side Caesar salad. The Caesar salad was heaped high with romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese and a creamy Caesar dressing. While the dressing lacked the anchovy flavor I’m so fond of, I enjoyed its  slightly salty richness.

The seafood pasta, naturally, had a strong, almost overwhelming, fresh “seafood” taste. I could pull out the distinctive flavors of the clams, mussels and calamari with each bite. The seafood portion was quite tasty with its freshness with each creature well cooked.

My issue with the dish was that the seafood flavor almost completely masked the vodka sauce. With ach bite, I was nearly unable to taste the sauce and what of it I did manage to taste was bland. I ended up squeezing lemon juice, from the lemon wedge that came with my Caesar salad, onto the pasta just to cut the seafood taste. This did bring forth a little of the sauce giving it a brightness it lacked. I would have enjoyed the pasta dish more if the sauce had been bolder. Perhaps a stronger kick of tomato or basil.

J ordered the Baked Fettuccini with Meatballs, in a classic Alfredo sauce backed with feta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese with a side salad. He was pleasantly surprised. It reminded him of Italian restaurants in Pennsylvania, where most of them were run by Greeks. He loved this dish finding the smallish meatballs perfect, delightfully moist with a hint of sweetness. His comment was “I don’t need a meatball the size of a softball.” He felt the addition of feta to the baked cheese topping added a interesting dimension to what could’ve been a common baked pasta.

The Price:

Carafe of House Red Wine: $17.95

Penne alla Vodka with Seafood: $14.25

Baked Fettucini with Meatballs: $13.50

The Verdict:

Even though I felt there was a certain blandness to my pasta, I would be willing to give Palermo another shot. I tried a bite of J’s fettuccini, which was far more flavorful than my penne. I wouldn’t mind trying one of their baked pastas or their calzones, for that matter. The prices are good for the amount and quality of food you receive. It’s a really nice family style restaurant with homemade, inexpensive Italian-Greek food with just enough unexpected touches to make it interesting.

Once this project is done, we’ll go back to Palermo whenever we feel like a good, homey Italian meal that won’t break the bank.