Porcella Urban Market, Bellevue, Washington

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!

9 Responses to “Porcella Urban Market, Bellevue, Washington”

  1. Ryan says:

    I will have to check this place out, it sounds great. However, I lost a little respect for your culinary aptitude when you admitted that you like Egg McMuffins… but you gained it back in the end with a good Star Wars reference. :)

  2. hillel says:

    I figure honesty is key, even if I have to admit I like Egg McMuffins. I’ve also never tasted better french fries than at McDonald’s. :)

    That said, the worst part is the horrible sick feeling I get after I eat there. That and the fact that I can feel the food killing me as I eat it as why I only eat at McDonald’s once a year at this point. You’ll have to pardon me… I get weak sometimes. :)

  3. John says:

    Great review of an Eastside place. Porcella’s been one of my favorites ever since I found it a few months back… and my favorite dish there is definitely the Prosciutto di Parma. I never could quite explain *why* I liked it so much, but the “super overboard Egg McMuffin” comment really clarified things for me. :)

  4. Yvonne says:

    Just saw that you left Microsoft (Seattle Mag Rest Issue). Good for you! How does it feel?
    :-)

    I am having a blast at school though you wouldn’t know it from the burns up and down my forearms.

    You should come visit the school some time, I think you would get a kick out of it.

  5. chase says:

    My gosh the place you have been is fab. The food looks terrific and your description makes my mouth water!

  6. Kelly says:

    Thanks for the glowing review! Will you send me the pics, or i can trade you a prosciutto sammy for a disk.

    -K

  7. Matt Wright says:

    This place strikes me as rather average… Exceptional for Bellevue, which lets face it is rather short of decent lunch spots, that are mega-chains. I frankly have a problem paying $9-$11 for an sandwich which I could honestly get at a few different places in Seattle..

    The exception however is the amazing Proscuitto sandwich. It is such a league above the other sandwiches here that you honestly think it must be from a different place.

    Their cheese selection does seem great (overpriced mind..), as too do their Pates. Their salad deli stuff could honestly be made at home easily (but good ingredients) – $16/lb for marinated mozzarella is crazy.

  8. Mikki says:

    I sure would love to know where to find sandwiches like that in Seattle. I have lived here my whole life and haven’t ever seen the “Same Sandwiches in Seattle”. I have seen a more classic Croque Monsieur. The sandwiches, for $9-$12, do come with some extraordinary pickled vegetables and gaurfrette chips seasoned with Truffle Salt, not chemically truffle oil like the rest of Seattle uses. Lastly, considering good mozz is around $8 for one lousy ball, i think $16 a pound strikes me as quite fair for some mozz packed in olive oil with basil and sundrieds.

  9. Linda says:

    I realize I’m late to the post, but just have to mention the best part of Porcella to my mind at least- the in-house made Bresaola. It’s rare to find Bresaola in the Seattle metro area anyway, in fact I think the only other rendetions exist at Salumi or DeLaurenti, and I have to say that Porcella’s version blows the competition out of the water. It very nearly transports me back to Piedmont on an autumn Sunday where I spent many an afternoon lazing the day away at an agriturismo eating plate after plate of freshness but never forgetting the amazing antipasto of bresaola, rucola and parmegianno. . .

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