It’s funny that after having finally escaped having to travel daily to the confines of the (culinarily) dreary eastside of the Seattle metro area that I should be writing about a little gem nestled firmly in eastside territory. But that’s what I’m doing. It’s all the more surprising given that the number of little urban markets, delis, and sandwich shops (and many times all of the above) that cater to a higher end clientele is growing like sexed up rabbits. These little shops are a dime a dozen. That’s why I didn’t have super high hopes when I was given a tip to check out Porcella Urban Market nestled in downtown Bellevue (across the lake from Seattle). When I saw they had a French bent to their offerings it only made me groan more – great! An even more pretentious little sandwich shop. But much to my pleasant surprise, what I found was something special and delicious.
It’s true that the Porcella Urban Market has a wide selection of fancy specialty items (the single serving beverages alone occupy an entire wall of fridge space). It’s also true that the meat and cheese counter serve all manner of delicious items including pork rillettes and the always hard to find guanciale. But neither of those interested me as much as lunch. And lunch there is. Soups, salads, baguette sandwiches, and various plates grace the menu.
The real problem with Porcella is that amid the very very good sandwiches, is a standout that is not just better, it’s singularly perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the Warm Lamb with Nicoise Olive and Preserved Lemon Relish, Mizithra Cheese, and Shallot Confit. It’s quite delicious. So was the Pork Rillette with Shaved Red Onion, Wine Plumped Currants, and Dijon Mustard Sauce. But one sandwich in particular haunts my dreams. And even though we all ordered it for lunch on this day, we were adventurous enough to try a soup.
We had just finished chewing on the absolutely perfect mini-baguettes and butter whose short-lived existences on our table were due to their absolutely intoxicating and perfect french bread smell. Before we could shove them all down our throats, a bowl of Roasted Tomato with Ham and Cheese Flan soup came for us to try. With the first spoonful I was immediately struck by the tone of the flavor. This wasn’t a tomato soup with some roasted flavor. This was roasted tomato soup. A deep roasted tone permeated the liquid. The flan was relatively mild but made up for it by being dotted with chunks of ham.
Then it was on to the main event. The sandwich that puts all the other (quite good) sandwiches to shame is the Prosciutto di Parma with Warm Frisee, Lardonettes, Truffled Aioli and Fried Egg. This sandwich like some sort of crazy ass overboard super high-end Egg McMuffin. But way way better. (And I like Egg McMuffins so that’s high praise.) The large portion of Truffled Gaufrette Chips served with each sandwich doesn’t hurt either. There is so much going on in this sandwich it’s hard to know where to start. Each bite is filled with crusty, crunchy, crispy, hammy, salty, gooey, eggy excellence. The lardonettes are like little salty smokey landmines exploding wherever your mouth ventures. There are times when I’m eating this sandwich when I really just consider letting myself go entirely – Jabba the Hut style – just so I can eat these more than once every few weeks. I suppose it’s unfair to focus so much on this sandwich as there are many other lovely items on the menu. But I have to admit, the rules of engagement for eating at Porcella is that at least someone at the table must order this sandwich so that everyone can get at least one bite. Sharing does sometimes become a problem so consider yourself forwarned.
I guess the eastside of Seattle does have some food goodness. Just make sure to avoid the traffic!