Welcome to tastingmenu.com. My repository for thoughts and
notes on my eating experiences. Hopefully you'll find something enjoyable,
entertaining, or informative.
It's hard to believe this site has
been up for 2 months and I've only just this weekend gone to
Nishino is the best sushi restaurant in Seattle hands down. Others claim the
title. They're wrong. Nishino is simply exquisite. In fact, it's some of the
best sushi I've ever had. A few months ago a bunch of us took a
class with the chef and
restaurant's namesake Tatsu Nishino. In addition to making incredible food,
he was a very nice guy. And to top it off her really taught us how to make
decent sushi at home. Of course, it can't compare to the restaurant. We knew
just how much thought went into the food they create when he told us that
they have 3 different vats of rice to choose from when making the sushi
depending on whether the customer is eating at the bar, at a table, or
taking out. This is incredible attention to detail - and it pays off. The
food is delicate, delicious, and creative. Not just the sushi either.
Whether it's the miso black cod or the rock shrimp tempura you won't be
disappointed. This is probably no surprise as Nishino worked with
Nobu Matsuhisa in
the past. The other night I was in town and was able to stop in to grab some
takeout on my way home. It was a busy night, and I was having a tough time
waiting as I had my kid with me. Eri (sp?) Nishino - Tatsu's wife - was
able to speed my order through as she also found ways to keep my son
My First Book of Sushi (which our friends
Steve and Kira introduced us
to) helped a bunch. And this really underscores why Nishino is so fantastic.
Given the quality of the food, the restaurant has every right to act like
their the best. They don't. The environment is so welcoming and friendly,
you just want to go back again and again. I know I will. (One final note,
the Madison roll and the Arboretum roll aren't on the menu, but both are
delicious. Order them and find out for yourself.)
Today we went for lunch at
Mayuri on the
east side of Seattle. I can't tell whether it was because of the gross food
they serve at work or the fact that it was after 1pm and we were starving,
but lunch was really yummy. I've been to the lunch buffet before and it's
always been decent, but today there were a couple of stars -
Chicken Makhani (Chicken cooked in butter sauce) and an Indian version
of scalloped potatoes. The potatoes were labeled "Semia
Upma/Vermicelli Upma" (also spelled Upama) but as best I can tell that
dish is based on vermicelli - not potatoes. (Could it be some kind of
Whatever it was, it was delicious. Of course, no Indian restaurant outside
of Boston has ever served me onion chutney. And in fact, any time I ask for
it a restaurant here they look at me like I have three heads. A recipe for
it is here
(I include olive oil when I make it - eventually I'll post my own perfected
recipe. The search continues. Maybe I should make some and bring it to the
local Indian restaurants. (BTW, the search also continues for an Indian
restaurant in Seattle that blows me away.)
Today at lunch I realized that I needed a
special section in the restaurant listings on
where to eat a decent lunch
if you work at Microsoft.
The LA Times (free registration
required) has a cool article on
wine vinegar as well as instructions for how to
make it yourself.
Last night Debbie made chocolate chip
cookies. The recipe came from
The Cookie Book
- a charity cookbook put out by the Seattle Mariner's Wives. There is a
chocolate chip cookies that is out of this world!
The LA Times has a really interesting article
state of the wine business. (free registration required)
More on the Chinese food theme. For years I
have tried to make decent Chinese food at home. Finally somebody told
me that the problem was likely my wok. Throw out that fancy wok. Forget that
non-stick crap. Go buy the cheapest steel wok you can find. I had to
wok - a process of basically burning several layers of oil into the
surface of the wok. This created a shitload of smoke - so you may want to do
this with the windows open and nobody else home. Bottom line, I have made 4
or 5 recipes since I did this and each was unbelievably different/good than
my years of crappy Chinese food. My new cheap wok gets hotter than any of my
other ones ever did. To really do things right I went out and bought 3
Chinese cookbooks. Each are beautiful to look at (I like lots of pictures)
and helped me make great wok recipes. They include
The Food of China,
Martin Yan's Asian Favorites: From Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand, and
Ken Hom's Quick Wok.
First thing I ever wrote about on this site was
fried Twinkie party. Debdu
article on the subject.
Leslie thinks that we should have used tempura batter and virgin oil for
Debdu also forwarded this weird/cool
site on airline food. I'm not
saying that I've never had a decent meal on a plane, but there's something
about the pictures on this site that makes me feel yucky. I did find it neat
to see what
meals they serve on Iran Air.
Went to Shanghai Garden in Issaquah tonight
with Chris, Leslie,
Alex, and Lauren. I am a huge
fan of Chinese food. I'm still searching for world class in Seattle and I'm
afraid it may not exist, though Vancouver has it a couple of hours to the
north. So I'll settle for really really good Chinese food. One of the
perennial favorites is
Garden in the international district of Seattle. The Issaquah one
is a branch of the downtown version. The food actually seems a
little less refined to me, but good nonetheless. They also have a nice
aquarium. Just so you know, the best chinese food I've ever had had a
lightness and freshness about it that is the antithesis of gloppy/drowning
in sauce Chinese dishes. Shanghai Garden wasn't drowning, but it didn't fee
light by any means either. The dumplings were pretty
pedestrian, but there was a star of the show - the hand
shaved noodles. They were yummy.
We had the
barleygreen variety. (Though I'm not sure why they're so worried about
the health of my colon. If I'd realized what it was I probably wouldn't have
eaten it on principle.) The hot and sour soup was pretty good too. If you're
on the eastside of Seattle, Shanghai Garden Issaquah is an easy choice to
I've been looking for a very good
Italian restaurant in Seattle for some time. It's been awhile since I've
been to Assaggio, and I
remember it as being very good. Last night we went back. For starters,
the restaurant was too cold. I froze my ass off. I mentioned something to
the waiter as we were seated. Nothing appeared to come of my request as
things never got warmer, and nobody ever bothered to check if we were warmed
up. Bummer. Despite that, dinner was decent. The best dishes (or elements
thereof) were pretty good. These included the: filet (though the red wine
risotto it came with was not good), the veal of the veal picatta (though the
beans it came with were just ok), and the insalata di francesca - apples and
pears marinated with lemon with Italian gorgonzola, honeyed pistachios,
mixed greens, and balsamic vinaigrette. The prosciutto was yummy too, but
it's hard to screw that up. The pastas - especially the
penne arrabbiata (not on the menu), and the penne alla vodka - penne
tossed with pancetta ham, green onions, peppercorns, and vodka in a tomato
cream sauce. However, the green fettucine special with crab was just ok, as
was the spaghetti Bolognese, the insalata caprese, and the spinaci con
senape - spinach, onion, lemon, and pinenuts, drizzled with mustard. Bottom
line, the meal was too inconsistent to be a place that I love. All the more
disappointing since I'd had such good memories of it from the last time I
went. One highlight was the
Craig Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon that
Alex brought. Super good. As
far as a really amazing Italian restaurant - I probably would go back to
Assaggio - but the hunt continues.
It's hard to believe, but I haven't
Lampreia since I started this website. That's a problem, given that it's
my favorite restaurant in Seattle. Last night we went with
Alex and Lauren to enjoy
Lampreia again. I was a little nervous as I've heard that recently on a
couple of occasions it hasn't lived up to expectations. But last night was
fantastic as expected. Alex brought a bottle of the
Bancroft Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon which was super - very tannic like I
like it. Dinner proceeded as follows: Alex, had the "All About Apples"
tasting menu. Debbie and I ordered a la
carte. And Lauren left it up to the chef to prepare her a series of
vegetarian dishes. The tasting menu started with buck eye apple filled with
foie gras and glazed chestnuts. Literally the apple wedge was filled mostly
with foie gras and shaped to resemble the original slice of apple. It was
cool - and tasty. Things proceeded with braised endive with marinated salmon
slices and granny smith apple compote, savoy cabbage veloute with fuji apple
gelee and san daniele ham (nothing like getting to the bottom of your soup
to find some yummy ham), and farm pork tenderloin lightly spiced and roasted
with potatoes and cider sauce in cocotte. Some of the other dishes included
speck served with warm ricotta dumplings and white truffle oil, sauteed foie
gras with italian plums, an amazing poached farm egg with "authentic
culatello", zucchini flowers and preserved summer truffles cut up into a
caviar like consistency - amazing, unbelievable deep ocean prawns cooked "alla
Lampreia preserved tomatoes and what seemed like tiny pepperoni slices -
even without the sides the flavor of the prawn cooked in its own juices was
amazingly flavorful, scottocciere cheese canneloni with a light and
delicious veal glaze - one of my favorites, "fine hen" duck breast (that was
almost like a steak) lacquered in five spice with fruit mustards, and the
best entree of the evening - oven roasted veal chop with zest of lemon and
rosemary - incredibly juicy, tender, savory, and delicious. We were stuffed
but a couple of dessert moments must be mentioned. The
epoisses cheese - a double
cream cheese from Burgundy, France, that's flavored with burgundy - was
pretty damn delicious. We ate every last bit. The hot
(somewhere between a custard and a cake) filled with blueberries and
raspberries instead of the typical wild cherries. While the food was
fantastic there was an incident where we were debating whether to order an additional dish, and I said "no
big deal, if we're still hungry we'll order more." The waiter immediately
cautioned me that the this wouldn't fly, and essentially I wouldn't be
allowed to add anything (other than dessert) after my order. I appreciate
the absolute focus on controlling as many factors as possible so that
my dining experience ends up being perfect, but I have to say that the
waiter's comment kind of put me off for the evening, and in subsequent
I've had a tiny lingering worry that I might be chastized for making some
"inappropriate" request. No matter how great the food, I
should feel comfortable. I read a restaurant book once that talked about
how the service folks were trained to never say "no". This is a hard
thing as sometimes the real answer is no, but an interesting perspective
nonetheless. Bottom line, even with this wrinkle
(which I hope will eventually smooth out over time), the experience is so
wonderful that I go back time and time again. It's very worth it, and the
menu changes often enough that I will go back again and again.
By the way, I went to
Guadalajara for lunch again yesterday. It was even better than the first
time. Make sure to order your tacos with sour cream.
The BBC has a cool guide to
European cooking schools. I want to go.
Leslie forwarded me this list from
NASFT of the winners of their
latest food competition. I want to go to one of their
Fancy Food shows.
Here's something weird -
sour Pez. I tried it. Weird flavors like pineapple, but actually it was
pretty good. Of course, still not as sour as I would like.
Time to upgrade a bunch of stuff
around the house. Any wine that I keep over here (most of it is over at
Alex' wine cellar) is in danger of cooking, and the pots and pans are what
my parent's gave me when I went to college. I think they're from the 70's.
On the wine cooler/cellar/fridge front I decided that it won't be until we
move into the next house that we have the wine storage capacity for all our
wine... so I went cheap. There were tons of options: K&L has a
guide, as does
wine.com, as well
as the October issue of
Bon Appetit (not on the web yet). Ultimately I decided to go as cheap as
possible just for the wine I need on hand. I ended up with the
$250 Kenmore 24 Bottle Wine Cooler. I also finally decided on new pots
and pans from All-Clad. Getting some
stainless as well as
some of the LTD series.
Amazon has deals now where you can get a free All-Clad tool set when you buy
Last night we went to
in Seattle's University District with
Lauren and Alex. It was
actually my second time there but I don't remember much about our first
visit as it was awhile ago. Ruby's is an eclectic southeast
Asian/Indian/middle eastern mix of cuisines. We started with crusty bread
with oil infused with sea salt, basil, cayenne, ginger, and black pepper.
The basil really came through in a good way. However, almost nothing could
compare to the tiger prawns in
sauce on a bed of spinach. They were bursting with flavor and frankly
superb. We were mopping up the sauce with extra bread until the plate was
clean. The entree's were yummy as well with the best being the south Indian
chicken bowl with red bell pepper, spinach, cilantro, sweet mango, and
pickle on a bed of jasmine rice. Everyone else got bowl's as well -
peanut sambal - good flavor, but a little gloopy, seven spice beef with
baby bok choy, scallions, ginger, in black bean sauce, and
with tofu, red pepper, and potatoes, on a bed of couscous. Overall
definitely interesting. The highlights were definitely the prawns and the
Indonesian chicken. I would definitely go back but probably not soon
considering how many other interesting restaurants there are to explore in
the University district.
My friend Roee recently ate at
comments made me reread my
review from our recent trip to Philadelphia. The question before us was
- which is better - Morimoto or
Nobu in NYC. Even though I haven't been to Nobu since this website
started, it's definitely one of the restaurants I love. Morimoto was
recently the head chef at Nobu in NYC before he started his own place. I
still love Morimoto but I agree with Roee's observations that while the best
moments of Morimoto were even better than Nobu (miso black cod, rock shrimp
tempura, Morimoto sashimi, etc.) overall Morimoto was not as consistent and
Nobu's average quality was higher. I still recommend going there as we're
talking a pretty high bar for comparison, but it would be good for Morimoto
to get more consistent. The fact that the restaurant's namesake was not on
premises with the restaurant only open for a couple of months when we went
might suggest some degree of over-confidence. I still say when in
Philadelphia, definitely go to Morimoto.
I mostly finished redoing the layout and flow
of the restaurants part of the
website. Much easier to navigate I think.
I have never been a huge fan of Mexican food.
Before I lived in Seattle, I lived in Northern California. For awhile I
worked in Watsonville, California just south of Santa Cruz. Watsonville is
an agricultural community with a large Mexican population. It was there that
I first had unbelievable (and what I later came to understand was authentic)
Mexican food. It was light, it was fresh, it was not smeared with refried
beans. Turns out I'm not a huge fan of Americanized Mexican food. (Can I say
that since Mexico is in continental America? Oh well.) Up in Seattle there
used to be a video store/tacqueria that had incredible (what I assumed were
authentic) tacos and other Mexican goodies. They closed, but just yesterday
I discovered Tacquera (that's how they spelled it on their sign)
Guadalajara housed in a small trailer, parked in the parking lot of the 76
gas station at the corner of 148th Avenue NE and NE 24th Street in
Bellevue. They don't have an address, but they make incredible food. There's
only 5 or 6 items on the menu including the pork (Al Pastor) and steak (Azada)
tacos both in double soft corn tortillas, with grilled onions and cilantro.
Ask for sour cream and add some of the green or red hot sauce and you'll be
in heaven. The Tortas - mexican sandwich - steak on a baguette with sour
cream, lettuce, and jalapeno peppers, was delicious. They serve
sodas - mandarin orange, tamarind, and grapefruit flavor. By the way,
the food is also super cheap. Since I've still never been to Mexico I really
don't know what I'm talking about, but if the food there is anything like
this, then I'm all over it.
Seattle Citysearch has a list of what
they claim to be the most
authentic Mexican restaurants in the city. I haven't tried them yet, but
Alex cooked two great recipes
for us that he found on
Wine Spectator. First up was
Carmelized Salmon with Orange Shoyu Glaze. I recently started acquiring
the tasted for Cilantro (which I didn't used to be a fan of ) and the more
cilantro/ginger/pepper mix that was on the salmon the better. Super good.
For dessert there was
Asian Pair and Macadamia Wontons. I couldn't find Asian pears at
Larry's, but the bosc
pears were an able substitute. We ate these yummy fried dumplings with
Vanilla ice cream and the last of my homemade
Berger chocolate fudge sauce. Delicious.
Here's a guilty pleasure -
Kellogg's Special K Red Berries Cereal. I don't even know what Special K
tastes like, and frankly I'm not sure how a the Red Berries variety ended up
in my house, but I love it. The flakes are not quite frosted, but definitely
sweet. And while
desiccated strawberry slices don't sound delicious, they are in fact
quite tasty - nice and tart. This is likely a phase.
I'm not a big coconut fan, but in Asian food
I'm all of a sudden happy it's there. The New York Times (free
registration required) talks about an
coconut dish called Urupan.
San Francisco Chronicle has a recipe for "black
bottom cupcakes". They look super delicious. I just got immediately
sucked in by the picture with the cream cheese middle. (I also have gotten
complaints from friends that there aren't any pictures on this site... so
here you go.) There's a bunch of other recipes here for homemade desserts as
It's apparently pretty easy to turn
balsamic vinegar into a glaze.
Lauren loves balsamic vinegar. She'll want to try this.
The Sopranos is back on TV this
Sunday night. I am so psyched!!! Want to make Italian dinner that goes with
the show? Check out these
recipes from the new
Sopranos cookbook. (Sopranos cookbook? Yes. Sopranos cookbook.
Shameless? Yes. But I still love the show.)
The food service company that runs the
cafeterias at my workplace is called
There's a reason their name sounds like "urine". These days I can't last
more than 15 seconds in one of the cafeterias before I need to run off
campus for lunch.
Yesterday, lunch was at
in Redmond. Most teriyaki places put too much gloop on their teriyaki.
Sapporo really does a great job grilling their meat (sans gloop), and also
doles it out in huge quantities. Cheap, quick, yummy, and plentiful. Great!
Today, lunch was at
Satay Hut in Redmond. It's been awhile but I've been to their
Seattle branch a bunch of times
and it was fantastic. That restaurant was destroyed by fire and is being
rebuilt. This was my third trip to the brand new Redmond version, and while
it hasn't struck me in nearly the way the original did, it's been getting
steadily better. The Indonesian chicken was pretty yummy for lunch and the
Canai appetizer (yummy bread and some type of curry-ish sauce with
potatoes) is a must! I need to make this. I'll hope their improvement
trend continues in the same direction and maybe someday they can approach
the greatness of the Seattle location. The Seattle Times seems to
Japanese food meets the cuisine of the old west
Gateway Cafe in Colorado. Interesting.
In England, Rick Stein has a
TV show where he goes
around the country trying various local food specialties. Among the food he
tries on this week's show are
and the once extinct
Sometimes I wonder if the only way to get
certain east coast foods out here in Seattle is to make them myself. Here's
a guide to making
your own pizza. No clue if it makes east coast pizza.
We're going on a pilgrimage to the French
Laundry soon. KipLog pointed me to
Confabulist.com which has
accountings of many folks' trips to Napa to eat at the French Laundry.
I'm embarassed to admit that sometimes I'll go
into our local high end supermarket -
Larry's - get some
at the deli counter, and by the time I get to the checkout, it's all been
eaten. Where does this
yummy ham come from? Here's the
Here's a whole bunch of food events. The James
Beard Foundation has a cool
calendar of food
events. Especially good if you're a member and live in NYC. More on some
of the latest events
here. The Kohler (people who make the faucets)
Food and Wine
Experience is October 25-27. Hawaii hosts the
Big Island Festival at the
end of October. Thomas John from
Mantra will be one of the visiting chefs. Food and Wine's
is in Chicago on November 13 featuring Charlie Trotter and others.
trends in chocolate from the Seattle Times. Related chocolate recipes
are listed here.
Something about this recipe for
Cheese Twists makes my mouth water.
Going to Vegas... thinking about eating at
at the Bellagio. Sounds
Last night we went out to dinner at
El Gaucho. El
Gaucho is one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle. It's not necessarily
for its creativity as it's a pretty straightforward pseudo-Argentinean (the
beef may be from
Argentina - which is a good thing, but that's about it as far as I can
tell) steak house. But the quality of the food is superb and the atmosphere
is very cool. I always forget which
cut to go for... but I was reminded last night as the Filet Mignon is
more tender, but the New York while being more fatty is more flavorful. I
went for the New York and was not disappointed. The tuna tartare they serve
is also delicious with excellent spices, onions, capers, and pine nuts.
Their garlic bread is to die for. And the wicked shrimp are awesome - shrimp
in a spicy buttery sauce. Don't forget the wine - we had their second to
last bottle of the Kalin Cellars 1992 Sonoma Cab that I mentioned
below. We ate downstairs
at the Pampas room
where the jazz starts at 8:30PM. Definitely fun, but make sure to get the
true super-hip El Gaucho atmosphere by eating upstairs. The tableside caesar
salad and bananas foster are worth it. If you can get a private room and
have about 6 or 7 people, try and get the
410 room. You
sit throughout the meal surrounded in close quarters by tons of great wine.
You can almost reach from your chair onto a shelf and grab bottles to drink.
Final note, the service wasn't fantastic last night from our server...
though the assistant sommelier who helped us was just great. I think this
was an anomaly as the service there is typically flawless.
We may be going to Vegas in a few weeks. Gotta
figure out what new restaurant to try.
Alex sent this link to a huge
wine event happening in Vegas - the
I mentioned having a honey tasting the other
day. There are "over
300 types of honey in the United States alone."
This is pretty cool. Making chicken soup into
grilled chicken soup.
More Rosh Hashana stories and recipes from
SFGate, and the
Sweet, salty, sour, and bitter - is there a
fifth taste? One of my favorite wines is the 1992 Sonoma Cabernet
Sauvignon from Kalin Cellars.
Kalin says their wines - which are only released after 3-10 years after
bottling - are some of the few who have
I just got this
Daniel Boulod's quest to regain its New York Times' fourth star. I'll
let you know how it is once I read it.
Might as well tell you now, that a bunch of us
are scheduled to go to the French Laundry in October. It's purportedly the
best restaurant in the country. The New York Times (free registration
required) talks about
a visit to
the French Laundy. I'll post more French Laundry related items over the
next few weeks. I'm very excited to go.
The New York Times (free registration
required) also has an article about
They try to fancy it up by calling it "frico del fattore" but it's still
fried cheese. Yummy.
Visiting San Francisco? Gourmet talks about
favorite SF restaurants. (Weird bug though that the pictures for each
restaurant are identical.)
A recent lunch time adventure in the eastside
area of Seattle - everyone's favorite Vietnamese chain -
Pho Hoa (from my understanding named
after a famous restaurant of the same name in Saigon). This is a funny
chain. I've been to franchises in Seattle as well as in the bay area. The
food is fine. Not amazing, but definitely decent - especially in a pinch for
lunch. My search for the best Vietnamese food in Seattle continues. The best
on the eastside (culled from not a huge amount of choices) is clearly
Cuisine located in the incredible odd
Crossroads Mall in
Bellevue, WA. (Essentially the worst mall ever with the best food court ever
- a collection of small, independently owned, ethnic eateries.) Of course, I
expect to find gold just south of Seattle's international district where
I've salivated while driving past many tiny Vietnamese noodle shops. Someday
soon I'll start working my way through them.
Rosh Hashana food - including a recipe for
Apple Fruit Leather. How can you not be interested in trying a dish that
includes the word "leather" in it's name (and even edible by vegetarians).
Added a new section to the website listing any
food-related events I come across.
Hopefully I'll even get to go to a few. Here's a new one - the
Culinary Arts Festival in Bermuda. Guillermo Pernot from
Pasion in Philadelphia (where
we recently ate) will be there among others.
I love street food. There's good stuff almost
everywhere on the planet. Not sure what it is about fast food dished out of
small (questionably clean) carts on the street, but it's almost always super
yummy. Here's a
"review" (not super critical one way or another) of a new book -
Mediterranean Street Food.
I don't know why this makes me laugh - the
Dallas Morning News has
free food wallpaper. Bacon desktop.
It's probably about a year-and-a-half before
the next PillsburyBake-Off. You can be
notified the moment
they have details on when to submit your recipe.
Chris and Leslie had their
annual Labor Day Luau. Along with all the fancy food for grownups there was macaroni and cheese from the box. It was
comforting to eat. That said, I agree that
Annie's boxed mac and cheese is the best. Here's a
recipe for macaroni and cheese as served at
and Grill in Denver.
Hashana food discussion - tex-mex style. And
betterbaking.com has a ton of
Rosh Hashana recipes including the