We actually did do some cooking on the 4th, but mostly, we’ve been eating out. When you’re packing and moving and unpacking, there’s no time to cook, no room to prepare, and no food in the refrigerator. So, here are a few mini-reviews of a few places we’ve been.
Cafe Juanita, Kirkland, WA
We’ve been here before, and as much as we enjoyed it last time, I think this time may have been even better. Last time we went, it was New Year’s Eve, so it was a little more of a formal atmosphere. This time, it was a lot more relaxing. In fact, the waiter said that one reason he loves working there is that it’s not at all stuffy. We took P.’s parents as a thank you for helping us move.
After we ordered, we took a walk through the herb garden as the hostess suggested, although it was getting pretty dark. (It was probably about 9:30.) But it was beautiful out there. P.’s dad had the Limoncello Martini with Caprino Crostino, which I had a sip of, and which was excellent. We also ordered a couple of bottles of wine, but I’ll give them their own entry, since they were so good and anyway, I left the paper with the names on them that the waiter wrote down for us at home.
I had the Prosciutto di Parma with Ninety Farms Fava Beans and Pecorino Staginato and P.’s dad had the Seared Foie Gras with Bing Cherries, Candied Ginger, Cocoa Nibs and Vin Santo. I admit, his was a little better than mine. The foie gras was seared on the outside, which gave it a wonderful crispness. P. and his mom both had Hearts of Romaine with Parmigiano Reggiano, Garlicky Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Breadcrumb, also excellent. My appetizer was mostly prosciutto, and while it was really good, I’m not much of a “meat-only” kind of person. I was hoping for more fava beans, but they were tiny. I think it’s pretty early in the season for them.
I also had the soup of the day, which was a chicken broth with handmade noodles and I am so not doing it justice with that description. The waiter brought four spoons, even though only two of us had ordered it, because he said that without fail, people request more spoons once they’ve tasted it. It was a good call.
Then, I had the Barbaresco Risotto with Braised Oxtail. I asked the waiter if I should get the smaller or larger dish, since I was getting so much other food. He said I’d probably only have room for the small, but I should get the large because everyone else would be sneaking bites. My only other experience with oxtail was a sandwich at Salumi. I didn’t think I’d ever experience a better oxtail dish. I was wrong. This was the best risotto I’d ever had. P.’s mom had the Sheep’s Cheese Gnocchi with Cherry Tomato Salsa Fresca or with Ninety Farms Veal Sugo and Sweet Loraine Fava Beans. And both P. and his dad had Grilled Dry Aged RibEye Chop with Walla Walla Salad Onions and Balsamic. P.’s dad said it was the best steak he ever had.
I didn’t have much room left for dessert, so I got some Gianduja and Sea Salt Chocolates. Sea salt and chocolate. Brilliant combination.
The food was great, but the service was just as good. Our waiter was attentive, but not oppressive. He was very knowledgeable about the wines and just in general kept things casual and non-stuffy. I would go there all the time, but then, of course, I would be very broke.
Sage’s, Redmond, WA
I don’t know why I’m even linking to their site, actually, since it doesn’t seem to actually work. Well, maybe you’ll have better luck. (Oh yes, it’s just Firefox it doesn’t like. IE seems to work just fine.) The site says “Don’t come here if you are in a rush though, Chef Bart makes all his dishes from scratch and he prepares everything himself. Plan on spending some time, and enjoying yourself. You know that what you order is prepared by him and not a side chef. He takes great pride in his dishes and strives to please his customers.” We though it was eh. The people we were with really liked it, but anytime the menu includes phrases like “our popular pink sauce”, you have to wonder. I mean, don’t you? The chicken gorgonzola was excellent (how can you go wrong with blue cheese and cream), as was the tomato soup (again, with the cream) but everything else our table had (caprese, chicken ravioli, clam linguini, gnocchi, and a salmon pasta) were just OK.
The waiter seemed a little irritated at us the entire time, like we were putting him out, but there were only maybe two other parties in the restaurant, so I can’t imagine we made things that difficult. We ordered a bottle of pinot grigio (the only Italian pinot grigio on their wine list, sadly) and it was again, just OK. We went to order a second bottle of wine and the waiter automatically went to get the same one. I asked if we could see the wine list again so we could try something else and he seemed very annoyed and said that if we were going to get a red, we may as well get the special as it was only $28. I would have rather looked over the wine list, but P.’s dad said we should give it a try. It was OK. But not as good as I would have expected from the wine specifically recommended by the waiter.
The entire wine list was a little sad anyway. One Italian pinot grigio in an Italian restaurant? I notice they had the Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay listed for $70. And yes, I realize that the markup on wines in restaurants is huge, but that seems a little excessive for a wine you can get for $35 at the grocery store. Part of what I figure I am paying for in the restaurant markup is the restaurant’s research. They are doing the work to find me unique and different wines to try. That’s worth paying for. A wine list that looks like someone ran down to Safeway that afternoon and picked up whatever was on special isn’t quite the same.
Mayuri, Bellevue, WA
I got takeout the other night, so I can’t speak for the ambiance. The saag paneer was great. The chicken korma was just OK, but I’ve started to realize that when I don’t like the chicken korma, it’s not that I don’t like the sauce generally. It’s that the dish has dark meat in it, rather than chicken breasts, and I just don’t like dark meat at all. So, I think that was the problem. The naan was pretty good also, although not the best ever or anything. But definitely worth a return trip to check out some other dishes. I think I should try their lunch buffet next.
Raga, Kirkland, WA
A friend and I tried the lunch buffet last week. We were the only people in their, which seemed odd at noon during the week. A guy was in front, yelling at someone on a cell phone. The waitress seated us and tried to discreetly motion the man to the back. He went into a back room, and we could hear his muffled yelling continue. I tried a little of everything in the buffet, but nothing really stood out. It was just OK. Not memorable or really worth going back.
P.’s parents are going to Lola in Seattle tonight and unfortunately, we have to miss it. Well, maybe next time