Monday, February 18, 2013

Oysters & Marination Station Happy Hour

For weeks Gun had been going on and on about how he wanted fresh oysters.  He had done his research and spotted out Taylor's Shellfish as the place to go. So, when we both had a day off from work we drove over to Capitol Hill for oysters on the half shell.  However, I'm not a fan of shellfish, so I selected Marination Station to go to after Taylor's.  (Gun will post a review of Taylor's later.)

Honestly, I'm not too familiar with the history of Marination Station.  I only heard about it last spring because some of Gun's buddies from Eugene who had never visited Seattle wanted to go there since its food truck counterpart was awarded "Best Food Truck in America" by Good Morning America.  In addition to the truck, they also have brick and mortar locations in Cap Hill and West Seattle. 

What We Ordered

  • Miso Ginger Chicken Taco
  • Tofu Taco
  • Kalbi Taco
  • Kimchi Fried Rice
By the Numbers

  • Taste: 4 | The protein in the tacos are well seasoned and the housemade "nunya sauce" adds a great sweet and tangy flavor.  Cabbage is good for contrasting texture and to help soak up nunya sauce.  The ginger chicken was my favorite out of all three. Next time, I will try the spicy pork taco and substitute it for the tofu. 
  • Ambiance: 3.5 | This is more of a to-go place than a sit-down-and-chat place.  There's counter space along the walls for about ten people. 
  • Service: 3 | Order at the counter. 
  • Value: 4 | During happy hour you can get three tacos for $6.50 which is a $1 savings if you were to order outside of happy hour ($2.50 a piece).  I wasn't too hungry, so three tacos was enough for me. If I was hungry though, I would need five tacos to feel like I had a substantial meal. 
  • Overall: 4 | Good Korean/ Hawaiian inspired food for a reasonable price. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Korean Tofu House Underwhelms

I was feeling sick this past week and was in the mood for some korean soup.  I didn't feel like driving out all the way to Edmonds so Gun and I hit up yelp and settled on Korean Tofu House, a small hole-in-the-wall in the U-District that had a four star review.  I ordered the dumpling and rice cake soup and Gun got the spicy pork tofu soup.

By the Numbers

  • Taste: 2.5 | I've come to the conclusion that I should stop ordering dumpling soup.  Whenever I've had Korean dumpling soup I've wished that the dumplings were pan-fried-crispy which is obviously not how they would be prepared in a soup.  When in broth the dumplings turn into a soft mush, which isn't my style. 
With that being said, I didn't like my soup for other reasons.  The dumplings honesty just seemed like potstickers that I could get in my grocery store's freezer section.  On the flip side  the rice cakes were nice and soft and chewy.  
  • Ambiance: 2.5 | Like I said previously, it's a hole-in-the-wall.  It appeared to be a popular place for UW students to go in between studying. 
  • Service: 3 | Friendly and attentive staff.
  • Value: 3 | Total: $21 | Pricing was in line with other restaurants with similar food/ ambiance.
  • Overall: 2.5 | All in all everything was OK.  I did like the side dishes, but that's not a good enough reason to return.  Gun also thought his dish was average, so we'll try another Korean place the next time one of us is craving soup.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bringing in the New Year at Din Tai Fung

For Lunar New Year my relatives and I went to Din Tai Fung for a dumpling feast.  We arrived ten minutes before doors opened and fortunately, all 18 of us were able to be seated without having to wait.

What We Ordered 

  • 10 orders of juicy pork dumplings
  • 6 orders of shrimp and pork dumplings
  • 3 orders of noodles
  • 4 orders of spinach
  • 6 orders of broccoli
  • 6 orders of green beans

By the Numbers

  • Taste: 5 | I can't find a flaw in the dumplings or veggies.  The  juicy pork dumplings dipped in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce and sliced ginger is a perfect bite.  Let the dumplings sit in your soup spoon before biting in or the broth in the dumplings may burn your tongue. The veggies are always well seasoned and cooked perfectly.
  • Ambiance: 4 | Be sure to come early!  Generally whenever I come here regardless of the time, it's a 45 minute wait.   This is a great space to have a meal and a lot nicer than any place you'd find in Chinatown. 
  • Service: 3.5 | With it being Lunar New Year, it was very hectic within the restaurant.  Our main server kept his cool and was friendly... However, throughout the meal several servers kept placing more food than we had ordered at our table.  No one seemed to be keeping tabs of how many dishes were served to us.  We definitely got several more veggie dishes and maybe even one or two more extra orders of dumplings.  While we brought this to our servers' attention, it was so busy that it wasn't much of a concern for the waitstaff, and honestly, it wasn't a bad situation for us either (we weren't charged for the extras).  
  • Value: 2.5 | This isn't a cheap place to eat.  Expect to pay twice or three times as much as you would normally for dim sum.  However, the food's great and so is the atmosphere.  We ordered way too much (extra freebie dishes aside).  We could have made do with just 75% of what we ordered.  
  • Overall: 4 | I suppose it's a good thing that the dumplings are priced as high as they are and the wait is as long as it is otherwise I would stop by this place each time I was in Bellevue.  Friends of mine who are more "cultured" when it comes to dumplings don't find Din Tai Fung's to be as tasty as I do, but I don't think many people will regret the trip. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A McDonald's Mistake

This past fall I rekindled my love for McDonald's breakfast when the chain had its annual Monopoly promotion.  Despite not having Mickey D's in years, I tried a couple of its breakfast items in hopes of getting a winning game piece which would ultimately change my life.  Well, that didn't happen, but I did end up falling in love with the breakfast menu.

At first, it was just the sausage McMuffin, but soon enough, I was going all out and getting the McGriddle with two orders of hash browns.  Even after the Monopoly promotion was over, I still longed for McDonald's.  However, I never made a great effort to wake up early enough to either a) grab the grub before work or b) have a leisurely Sunday morning brunch at McD's.

McGriddle sans egg and cheese
Fortunately, Gun had to wake up early a couple of weekends ago so he grabbed us some McGriddles on his way home from running errands.  When I saw the greasy paper bag in his hand I was as excited as a kid on Christmas.  We then went to the kitchen table to enjoy our meal.  Upon unwrapping our breakfast sandwich I instantly realized we had a BIG mistake on our hands.

The McGriddle was MISSING the egg and cheese that I was accustomed to seeing.  Of course, I thought that the McD's employees on Aurora had screwed up our order.  I started yelling to Gun and the cats that we had been unjustly wrong. How hard could it be to make a sandwich consisting of four ingredients?

Like any upset customer, I instantly went to Facebook to vent my frustrations.  I posted a picture of our wimpy sandwich with the caption, "Got home from McDs and discovered our McGriddle was missing egg and cheese. Just meat and bun. NOT OK!!!" 

No later than a minute after posting, my college buddy retorted with, "ahaha beez you have to specify sausage/egg/cheese mcgriddle. you must have just said sausage, because this is...just sausage." This comment was then followed by several likes.

All of a sudden I felt like a dumb dumb.  Here I was bitching about how McDonald's screwed up a basic breakfast sandwich when in actuality, Gun had just ordered incorrectly. To remedy the situation Gun promptly fried up some egg and cheese and the McGriddle tasted just as good, if not better than it would if ordered correctly.

So the point of this rant is pretty simple; you must specify that you want egg and cheese, otherwise the McGriddle is going to come naked.  For all you frequent fast foodies, you're probably rolling your eyes right now thinking, "Uh yeah, duh.  Thanks for that post."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Portage Bay Cafe Pictures

Last month I visited Portage Bay Cafe for brunch on a Sunday.  The place was packed.  While the food was good, what I liked the most about Portage Bay was its interior design.  


Seastar Shines

The last time I went to Seastar I was in middle school.  During that time period my favorite meals were buttered noodles, steak and potatoes and grilled cheese.  In other words, my tastes were not very refined.  So, when a couple of friends suggested we try out Seastar's happy hour I was all in.  I was especially excited to try out Seastar because it is a John Howie restaurant.

When I looked at the menu I wanted to order everything.  So I was relieved when we agreed to order several dishes and share.

What We Ordered

  • Ahi Poke ($6): Hawaiian ahi, ogo, onion, soy and sesame seeds
  • Spicy Tuna Roll ($4): Ahi, cucumber, sesame seeds, sriacha and togarashi
  • Jalapeno Salmon Roll ($4): Salmon, avocado, red jalapeno, sesame oil, cilantro
  • Chophouse American Wagyu Beef Burger ($8) 1/2 pound ground Wagyu beef, topped with sauteed creminis, fontina cheese and baby arugula, served on a brioche roll with porcini mushroom spread and crsipy fries
  • Putaportiwon's Calamari Poppers ($7.5): Tender calamari is stuffed with spicy ahi tuna, fried semi-crisp, served with zesty slaw, grapes and lime
  • Grilled Garlic Shrimp ($6): Seasoned with garlic butter and grilled over hardwood, served with mashed potatoes

By the Numbers

  • Taste: 3.5 | Highlights: I expected to select a seafood dish as my favorite, but the burger and fries won me over.  The fries were thinly sliced and crispy.  The burger was juicy and a lot less messy and easier to eat than the burger at John Howie. 
Disappointments: The calamari poppers was another dish that sounded good on paper but fell short of expectations in real life.  Initially, I had imagined little calamari ringlets delicately stuffed with ahi.  However, what I should have envisioned was a calamari casing resembling a jalapeno popper (duh).  So, when the dish came out, I was already bummed.  Since I like my calamari more thinly sliced and crispy, I wasn't a fan of the dish because of its very chewy texture.  (My opinion on the dish could have also been influenced by a recent episode of This American Life regarding "artificial calamari.")

Another dish that didn't quite cut it was the poke-- one of my favorite dishes to order at restaurants.  The poke could have been improved with a splash of sesame oil and/ or citrus.
  • Ambiance: 3.5 | All the tables had filled up by the time we got to the restaurant around 5:00 so we sat at the counter.  The counter felt a bit cramped.  By the time we left the restaurant was even more crowded with people coming off from work. 
  • Service: 3.5 | Waitress was attentive and nice.  She offered to cut up our burger four ways and happily split the check between us.
  • Value: 4 | Total: $15.33 | Great deal for the amount of food we got. 
  • Overall: 3.5 | If only this place had a late night happy hour!  Since I rarely get off of work early, I don't anticipate coming here often.  However, I do recommend checking out this place if it fits within your schedule.  Next time I would cut out the calamari and try the kal-bi pork medallions instead.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Ram (U-Village)

I typically don't go out to watch sporting events because I'm not much of a drinker.  But, when a friend suggested we go to The Ram to watch the Seahawks' last regular season game against the Rams (how appropriate) I was all in.

At first I was concerned that we would have trouble finding a table to watch the game, but we only had to wait a couple of minutes before being seated.  There are plenty of flat screen TVs in the dining room, so just about anywhere you sit, you'll be able to catch the game.

The food prices were pretty typical of most burger joints, but the drinks were incredibly reasonable. During the game the house brewed beer was only $3.25 a pint!  Now, for all of you UW folks who are reading this, you're probably thinking, "Well duh, The Ram has good drink deals."  But hey, it's been awhile since I've been to a "college" spot for food and drank so the price was a welcome shocker.

The staff was very understanding that most people on a Sunday are there to watch football, so they didn't rush us to leave after we were done with our food.  While I'll have to wait another year for football season, when the hawks return, I'll know where to go if I want to watch the game with a group.