restaurant review

I’m not very good about writing things about restaurant experiences. I don’t know how people do it, really. Do they steal the menu? Secretly jot down little notes throughout the meal? By the time we finish the bottle of wine, all I have is a vague recollection of the whole thing. So, instead, I present mini-reviews. I don’t claim that these will provide much information, but if you’re looking for just a vague, random sense of a place, look no further!

La Costa – Issaquah, WA
We wanted to try a new Mexican place. We normally go to Torero’s in Bellevue, and we really like it, but we thought we’d try something different. It was OK. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t Azteca bad or anything. The margaritas were marginal, unfortunately. They had this “we came from a mix” vibe to them, so that was disappointing. I had fajitas and P. and enchiladas. They give you salsa and bean dip with the chips. The bean dip is surprisingly good.

Casa Vallarta – Bellevue, WA
We don’t like it quite as much as Torero’s, but it’s pretty good. They margaritas are really good. They have many choices, and I recall that mine was better than P.’s. Of course, I don’t recall what mine was called, but it had several tequilas in it, and maybe grand manier. We didn’t try the flavored ones, but they have a bunch of those too.

Cascade Garden – Issaquah, WA
We got Chinese takeout from this place the other night. We normally get takeout from Hunan Garden in Bellevue, and this definitely wasn’t as good. We got Mongolian beef, General Tso’s chicken, and vegetable spring rolls. The spring rolls were crunchy, which was good. The Mongolian beef was OK, but just nowhere near as good a Hunan Garden.

Grazie Ristorante – Bellevue, WA
This Italian restaurant is behind Factoria mall. We really like it. They send the waiters to Italy to learn about the food and wine there. They have a nice selection of wines. I really liked the one we tried last time, but of course I can’t recall what it was (other than it was an Italian white). They group the wines by region in the wine list. I did take the cork home, thinking that would help me remember, but when I looked at it later, I saw that it had no name on it. Damn cork. They give you a dipping sauce for the bread with just olive oil and garlic. That’s an evil little dipping sauce because you end up wanting to guzzle olive oil all night. I think the spaghettini pomodoro is my favorite.

Marina Park Grill – Kirkland, WA
I’ve only been here for lunch, but everything I’ve had has been really good. None of it seems to be very low fat though…

So, there you have it. Mini-reviews from the East side. More as the situation warrants…

Torbeck Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2003

We had this Australian Shiraz last night with spaghetti that I threw together with some random vegetables and ground turkey. P. even liked it and as I’ve mentioned here many times, he very rarely likes reds. It had very low tannins, and was fairly light and fruity. It also had a pretty high alcohol content (14.5%). We still drank the entire bottle between the two of us.

It’s not at all an overpowering wine, so it matched very well with food. I picked this up a while back, because I wanted to check out Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. I don’t remember how much I paid, and I admit, when I opened it last night and saw that it was a screw top, I hesitated. Was this something I got for $4 at Trader Joe’s? But then I tasted it and remembered that a cork is not the only indicator of quality. (Looking online now, it seems to go for about $18 – $23.)

Here are some reviews:

Ripe, smooth sweetness to the nose, which is quite aromatic. Lovely purity of fruit on the palate with good intensity. Good acidity and quite elegant. Very good/excellent 90/100


asting this wine. Blind perhaps you would think it was a top Crozes Hermitage, but why take away from the brilliance of Australian Shiraz. This wine is fantastic with cool, dark berry fruit and peppery spice. An elegant wine.

And Robert Parker has weighed in as well.

Light, fruity, nicely balanced. And screw top convenience. Good stuff.

XXX Rootbeer, Issaquah

Memorial Day weekend, P. and I were completely exhausted from moving heavy furniture all day and P. suggested we grab some burgers. Actually, he said, “well, since we’re eating badly today anyway, we may as well have burgers.” And I said, “when did we eat badly today?” “Tonight, when we have burgers!” Gotcha.

And then I remembered reading about XXX Rootbeer in Issaquah. So, off we went. We actually were planning to have root beer floats anyway, so I ordered some root beer, which they gave me in a frosty mug to enjoy while our food was being cooked. They transferred it to a to go cup once everything was ready.

I had no idea what to order, but I ended up getting a cheeseburger that came with the best chili cheese fries. P. got some pig-inspired creation, with ham and bacon and some other kind of pork. And onion rings. The root beer really was some of the best I’ve had. As were the extremely messy, oversized burgers. If you plan to eat there (which we didn’t), just be prepared for an overabundance of 50′s fun.

(Speaking of burgers, we were in LA this weekend, so I was able to clog my arteries with both In-n-Out and a Carl’s Jr. western bacon cheeseburger, so I think I’ve met my burger quota for a while.)