Our 100 Favorites (part 5)

Shallots Asian Bistro 2525 Fourth, 728-1888 Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday- Saturday 5-11 p.m. $7-$12 As promised by its name, Shallots presents a kind of Asian-fusion face to the world, with Szechuan pork sharing the menu with phad Thai, "Mongolian" ginger beef side by side with Philippine satay rolls and skewers. The restaurant also walks a delicate line between serving as a lunchtime take-out spot for north Belltown, a home-delivery service for surrounding condos, and a sit-down dining spot for foodies seeking novelty. The latter is to be found on Shallots dinner menu: Sat魰epper coconut prawns, the rock candy gingered rabbit, the French Cambodian New York Steak salad (our favorite), or something from the Lu pot (a stovetop slow cooker)? R.D. Shiro's 2401 Second, 443-9844 Daily 5:30-9:45 p.m. Sushi $1.75-$12.50, dinner $18-$21 Shiro Kashiba knows what the hard-working salaryman or -woman wants after a long day: a friendly welcome, a hot towel, and a table full of the best sushi in town. After 40 years in the business, the master can still be found behind the bar on a Friday night, chatting with customers while deftly sculpting the elegant morsels honored by Zagat's in '98 and again in 2000. Don't miss the divine balance of mackerel, ginger, and shiso leaves in the Shiro's roll, the like-buttah yellowtail, or the gently fragrant black kasu cod. Even old standbys such as gyoza and agedashi tofu emerge from the small kitchen full of new life—the gyoza meltingly tender, the fluffy tofu tinged with a hint of smokiness. The restaurant serves dinner entr饳, but it's the daily specials that seduce: steamed clams in a delicate sake broth, fresh oysters brightened by a sprinkling of daikon, scallion, and soy-citrus ponzu sauce. End with rose-colored traditional sweet-bean ice cream, and before you go, raise a glass of Kirin to the simple things in life. D.S. The Sitting Room 108 W Roy, 285-2830 Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday 5 p.m.-midnight $4-$8 The garage door rolls up to let in the summer evening air at the Sitting Room, where small music combos also regularly contribute to a late-night hipster vibe. The place aspires to be a legitimate European-style neighborhood cafe. Certainly it looks the part, with Continental commercial art on the walls and copies of The International Herald Tribune and Le Monde hanging on pegs. Also soothing are the couches, orange walls, subdued lighting, and nonoverpowering sound system (world beat meets smooth jazz). A small menu favors quick, handheld fare. What's bruschetta? Not the Italian scooter. Instead, as a daily appetizer special, it's bread with olive spread and goat cheese—quite delectable. Wafer-thin pears adorn the tasty, large blue cheese-toasted walnut salad; seasonal greens are fresh, simple, and not overdressed. The mozzarella panini? Thick, chewy, substantial. Fennel-mushroom soup hit the spot without being too creamy. Service? Inattentive—in the proud, languorous European tradition. Later, however, as the bar gets livelier and the people-watching improves, you're in no rush to leave after eating. B.R.M. Snappy Dragon 8917 Roosevelt Way NE, 528-5575 Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sunday 4-9 p.m. $5-$10 Maple Leaf may be one of Seattle's quietest neighborhoods, but it's home to one of its livelier restaurants. On any given night Snappy Dragon is usually filled to capacity, not to mention the thriving take-out and delivery business. The menu and the portions are large, but the house specialties are what ensure the repeat visits. Most renowned are chef Judy Fu's homemade noodles and steamed dumplings. The noodles make one of the chow mein dishes almost obligatory and the dumplings—both the vegetable and pork varieties are superb—are even harder to resist. For those not interested in doughy treats, Snappy Dragon also excels with vegetable dishes. Simple fare like the saut饤 string beans with almonds succeeds as well as more original dishes such as glazed eggplant in garlic sauce. Despite the bustle, the service is friendly and efficient. The waitstaff seems to be comprised primarily of students, but they're surely honor students for whom the loyal customers would gladly write glowing college entrance recommendations. P.F. Sostanza 1927 43rd E, 324-9701 Daily 5-9 p.m. $18-$27 Sostanza is very much a neighborhood restaurant. But since the neighborhood is quietly posh Madison Park, "neighborhood" doesn't mean slapdash or informal. The interior, in muted tones of brown and terra cotta, is Milanese chic masquerading as trattoria casual; the service is magisterial, but its authority is to be trusted. Any restaurant located where the kitchen was once occupied by the likes of Dominique Place or Erin Rosella has a lot to live up to, and Lorenzo Cianciusi meets the challenge with highly personal adaptations of North Italian classics. Pasta dishes here are particularly distinguished, never drowned in sauce and always toothsomely cooked: If you're not ravenous, skip the appetizers and split one. Main dishes tend toward hearty items such as roast fowl or pork, and Sostanza has the wine list to complement such choices; let your server direct you to a suitable selection. Desserts are first-rate, but if you have a sweet tooth, plan ahead, or you'll be too well fed to appreciate them. R.D. Stumbling Goat Bistro 6722 Greenwood N, 784-3535 Dinner Tuesday-Sunday 5-10 p.m. $14-$20 When the state liquor control board nixed the Drunken Boat as the name for this Phinney Ridge eatery last year, the owners, as you can see, turned to the next obvious alternative. And while the state wildlife commission has yet to notice this regulatory offense to the hollow-horned, cud-chewing community, diners have definitely picked up on the Goat's fulsome, satisfying comfort food and easygoing aura. Whether you are swathed in the red velvet curtains of the main room, or buzzing within the deep-red walls of the alcove, you will have plenty of privacy and room to dig in to the half dozen starters and entr饳. You want some just-right roast chicken with finely fluffy mashed potatoes? The Goat delivers. Or, you can go for some more original creations, such as a lighter-style barley risotto with strong mushroom flavor and delicate pea shoots. Appetizer highlights include a bright beet salad with greens and Stilton cheese. Offerings are updated every couple weeks. Delicate herbs, judicious meats, and tasty greens make for reliable fare from a kitchen that, despite its name, rarely missteps. M.D.F. Szmania's 3321 W McGraw, 284-7305 Dinner Tuesday-Thursday 5 p.m.-whenever $15-$24 Nothing inside Szmania's feels forced. It's sunny yellow inside, fresh flowers adorn the tables, and more often than not chef Ludger stands at the door to say howdy. The German-born and Four Seasons-trained Szmania opened his doors in 1990 and hasn't looked back (his second Szmania's is set to open in Kirkland this May). His attentive skills are put to excellent use in his menu, which features a few of his Old World specialties (duck sausage with mustard; jagerschnitzel with spaetzle) merged with Northwest ingredients. A recent meal included delectably savory lobster chowder and a velvety butter lettuce salad with a citrus-honey-lavender vinaigrette, a heartbreakingly tender piece of halibut, and roasted veal tenderloin marinated with juniper berries. Whether you're by the jewel-box fireplace, the bar, or one of the two main eating sections, Szmania's is warm, welcoming, and utterly without the pretense one would suppose from its fabulous reputation and upscale neighborhood. Service is excellent, but that's not a real surprise, now, is it? Have a dessert, any dessert! E.B.R. Takohachi 610 S Jackson, 682-1828 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Saturday 5:30-8:30 p.m. Lunch $5-$9 Japanese food isn't all sushi and udon. At Takohachi, the food that would most accurately be called Japanese fast food is served: deep-fried, breaded meat cutlets with accompanying potato croquettes. No wonder this cozy place is packed with Japanese exchange students at most hours; this is diner-style comfort food like they'd get after classes at home. Lunch or dinner features combinations of meat (we like the breaded pork cutlet) and the savory croquette, which comes with a tangy A-1 kind of sauce and steamed rice, as well as a mustard-dressed side salad. Miso soup begins the experience. The black cod kasuzuke (broiled cod basted in a miso-sake sauce) with, yes, a croquette and salad, is one of the many taste treats here, and worthy of any fish preparation anywhere. Here, however, it's pared down to efficient simplicity and fits into this more casual context. There's some sushi, a little tempura, but that's beside the point. We're here for the down-home eats that really deliver. E.B.R. Tandoor 5024 University Way NE, 523-7477 Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Sunday-Thursday 4:30-10 p.m., Friday- Saturday 4:30-10:30 p.m. $9-$14 With its tiny interior and quaint tapestries, Tandoor resembles Seattle's average Indian joint. But it's not the decor that adds the "hot" to this spot. Start with the Indian snacks appetizer, a generous serving of crispy, mildly spicy chutneys, pakoras, tikkas, and samosas that will please vegetarians, flesh-eaters, and potato-heads alike. Move on to the tandoor chicken: Legs and breasts cooked in a charcoal clay oven and marinated in yogurt, garlic, ginger, and vinegar, this savory Indian barbeque specialty arrives sizzling on a skillet, its accompanying bowl of sauce still bubbling away. Tandoor's assorted bread basket comes piled high with warm, flaky nan and aloo paratha. You're going to need a breather after all that food, so unbuckle your belt, take in the sociological if unspectacular view of the Ave, and tune in on the friendly banter swapped by the restaurant's neighborhood regulars. Then, if you dare, slurp down a bowl of Tandoor's homemade mango ice cream. Topped with pistachio nuts, it tops off an already sweet evening. D.M. Tango 1100 Pike, 583-0382 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner daily 5:30-11 p.m. $17-$30 Out of the husk of Capitol Hill's Apple Theater has arisen the stylish Tango, a pan-Latin tapas restaurant and sister to Eastlake's marvelous Bandoleone. The venerable old porn palace may be gone, but fear not: The place is still a temple of carnal gratifications, right down to the beautiful people who work and dine here. Next good hair day consider joining them for a nosh big or small. You may order one of the handful of entr饳—inventive and delectable—or cobble together a meal from several tapas selections. My advice is to order a pitcher of (sweet!) sangria and something or two off the cheese and olives list while perusing the long menu. We adored a savory duck confit salad, bountiful with pumpkin seeds, along with green beans saut饤 with Serrano ham and garlic and a dish of swoony scallops and roasted red peppers swimming in cream. We gobbled up the stone crab salad, the charred squid, and the smoked rabbit tenderloin. Whatever you do, don't miss dessert: They're all outlandishly good, particularly the indescribable El Diablo. K.R. Tempero do Brasil 5628 University Way NE, 523-6229 Dinner Tuesday-Thursday 4:30-10 p.m., Friday 4:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., Saturday 2 p.m.-1:30 a.m., Sunday 2-8 p.m. $8-$16 Northwesterners love their seafood, as do Brazilians. So when the folks from Tempero do Brasil opened their doors and invited us all in, the entire city seemed to smile a collective hungry smile. Antonio and Graca Ribeira, along with Bryant Urban, are responsible for opening our city's first Brazilian restaurant—their flare for art and music add to the culinary excitement. Alongside dishes like feijoada (a national stew served only on the weekends, as is the Brazilian tradition), the staff at Tempero do Brasil effortlessly serve up a festive good time. When the mood is on, the energy of this artfully adorned space pulses. On Tuesday and Thursday nights, wandering guitarists feed the ears of happy diners, and on other evenings, well-chosen Brazilian pop, jazz, and traditional favorites waft through the speakers and create an easy atmosphere of celebration. Most of the menu centers on seafood and all of the offerings are prepared with a loyalty to Bahia, the Brazilian state that's home to the Ribeiras. L.L. Third Floor Fish Cafe 205 Lake Street, third floor, Kirkland, 425-822-3553 Dinner daily 5-9:30 p.m. $21-$37 It feels odd, strolling along Kirkland's informal-chichi waterfront to take an office-building elevator ride to your dinner, but the owners of the Fish Cafe have done what they can to make you forget the oddity. The view of Lake Washington in sun or storm, with Seattle in the background and a derelict warship serving as a marina breakwater in the foreground, completes the transformation. As the name implies, fish is king of the Cafe's menu, but other items vie for contrast. A salad of lightly dressed grilled romaine hearts is a signature dish, and makes for somewhat messy but agreeable eating. Soups, too, can be imaginative and delicious, like a recently sampled puree of Yukon Gold potato zinged up with Cougar Gold cheddar. The fish menu responds to what's in season, from sturgeon and halibut in spring to salmon in summer and fall; clams steamed in bourbon turn up as an appetizer, and a seafood "paella" (more like a cioppino) shows off the best of the Northwest's marine bounty. R.D. Top Gun Seafood Restaurant 668 S King, 623-6606 Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-3 a.m. also: 12450 SE 38th, Bellevue, 425-641-3386 Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-2 a.m. $6-fish market price, dim sum $2-$5 It's not just about dim sum, though this is a formidable option at Top Gun. Daytime customers are treated to the greatest hits (humbow, pork and shrimp dumplings, fried sticky rice in banana leaves, chow fun noodles, spare ribs) and more. In such a narrow front room, the large round tables with their spinning centers are full of families and adventurous friends, eating and ordering whatever gets carted their way. But that's not all; note the "seafood" in the name. The back wall features a huge fish tank, filled with your potential supper. Top Gun also makes a name for itself with seafood that doesn't even have fins (think abalone), which comes cleanly prepared and succulently presented. If you play it safe, try a whole steamed fish topped with scallions and a ginger-soy sauce. Soups, lovely steamed Chinese broccoli, and all the family's favorites are here, but we always return for the seafood. Because when it's this fresh, you gotta. E.B.R. Tulio 1100 Fifth, 624-5500 Breakfast daily until 10 a.m.; lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner 5-10 p.m. Breakfast $7-$11.95, lunch $13-$17; dinner $16-$27 Hotel restaurants have to try harder. Hotel Vintage Park's Tulio wants to be Italian so much that it calls lunch pranzo and dinner cena. More convincing are the aromas of tomato, garlic, and toasting mozzarella that pervade the place. A strict Italian eyebrow might tilt at prosciutto paired with caramel pear and arugula or sweet potato gnocchi tossed in sage with mascarpone, but chef Walter Pisano knows his ingredients and keeps them harmonious even at their oddest. But "cena" can be a far more traditional matter, if you select an appetizer potato cake laced with salt cod and garlic, a first course of mussels and linguini in a spicy broth, or a saffrony risotto with scallops and basil. Main dishes include roast loin of pork with root-vegetable puree in a wine sauce and veal chop stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella. With a hint of wood smoke in the air from the open fire and a crowd of hearty diners chattering around one, it's not hard to feel carried away to bell'Italia for a night. R.D. Tup Tim Thai 118 W Mercer, 281-8833 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Monday-Friday 5-10 p.m., Saturday 5-10 p.m. $7-$9 Neighborhood stalwart of Lower Queen Anne, TTT can shock the uninitiated with its perennial bustling popularity. (And that's after the marathon struggle to park.) "It's normally like this," one guy reassured his girlfriend amid a typical recent foyer throng. Waiting for your party to be called (if you didn't make a reservation), read the oddly diverse celebrity testimonials including the Seattle Symphony, Silkworm, the Flying Karamazov Brothers, Steve Pool (whore!), and KZOK. Then get set to eat! Waiters wear plaid short-sleeve shirts like the Beach Boys, emphasizing harmony of service. Chicken satay and spring rolls are preferred starters. Reliable favorites on the menu include chicken phad Thai, mussaman nena curry, and sweet-and-sour pork. Expect to see families, grannies, kids, and teens gabbing merrily on cell phones. TTT is a democracy: Cap-wearing Sonics fans rub shoulders with more formally attired theater types. Music would be pointless given such hubbub; framed Thai travel posters adorn the walls. TTT's about function, not form, and for quick, cheap, savory Thai food, it functions perfectly. B.R.M. Two Bells Tavern 2313 Fourth, 441-3050 Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. $5-$8 Belltown may be Seattle's most rapidly evolving (or devolving, many would say) neighborhood, but the Two Bells Tavern remains one of its cherished constants. The food and drinks, of course, have a lot to do with that. The juicy burgers served on a sliced baguette are exceptional, the salads are sure to be fresh and crisp, and the soups are always hearty. They also don't overlook the little things—the potato salad has zip (Dijon perhaps?), the pickles aren't shriveled and bruised, and they've even got those charming bendy straws. The allure of the Two Bells, however, extends past the merely gustatory. It's a friendly place and has always been an especially accommodating host for artists and musicians. Displays by local artists frequently adorn the walls, and the bar is the occasional setting for low-key—and sometimes surprise—musical performances. The Two Bells also proved that its goodwill extended beyond the arts recently as they fervently supported the striking newspaper guild employees. As long as the Two Bells remains, Belltown will retain a piece of its soul. P.F. Typhoon 1400 Western, 262-9797 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Saturday noon-3 p.m.; dinner Sunday 4:30-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m. $11-$23 A fiesty wind has blown over from Bangkok, by way of Portland; it's called Typhoon! and it earns its exclamation point. The Seattle outpost is located in a place we already associate with lemon grass and galangal: the former location of Wild Ginger on Western. There, off a vast and unusually compelling list of old standards and nouvelle Thai inventions—including a tea list with 140 varieties—one can assemble a magisterial feast. Off the appetizer list we found the ka-thong tong, crispy pastry cups stuffed with a curry-kissed blend of peas, chicken, and shrimp, particularly admirable. Tom kah gai soup was milky and ethereal—the coconut, chiles, lemon grass, and cilantro taking turns at lighting up the palate—and the crab phad Thai was uncommonly delicate. Curries are exceptional and complex, particularly a massaman curry rack of lamb. Three-flavor fish, an enormous hunk of halibut cut into nodes like a blossoming flower, then deep-fried to sear in the juice, was crunchy and dazzling in its sweet and spicy sauce. K.R. Union Bay Cafe 3515 NE 45th, 527-8364 Tuesday-Saturday 5-10 p.m., Sunday 4:30- 9 p.m. $14-$21 Mark Manley has been keeping standards high and missteps low at this sophisticated and civilized Laurelhurst haunt for 15 years, and with surpassing steadfastness the place continues to set Seattle's benchmark for the upscale neighborhood restaurant. Quietly done in muted naturals and lively art, it's the place you want to bring your in-laws, if they're up from Nob Hill, or your Boston Brahmin grandmother. Manley is devoted to local ingredients and pairs them classically with occasional flights of creative fancy. Here the diner will find interesting renditions of game, wonderful employments of local mushrooms, delectable fish, and lively sauces. We loved a recent plate of fat Mediterranean mussels, perfumed with herbs and finished with cream. Pastas, salads, and desserts are reliably dead-on. Indeed, so much is right about this place it's almost too much to say service is professional and discreet, but there you have it. K.R. Wild Ginger 1401 Third, 623-4450 Lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday 5-11 p.m., Friday 5 p.m.-midnight, Saturday 4:30 p.m.-midnight, Sunday 4:30-11 p.m. $10-$30 No restaurant in town boasts as cultish a following as Wild Ginger, that beloved pan-Asian place where individual dishes practically have their own fan clubs. Those fan clubs, I'm here to report, have had no trouble transitioning from Western Ave. to Wild Ginger's sleek, glossy new digs across from Benaroya Hall. Those legendary dishes are still the stuff of dreams: Siam lettuce cups are still bursting with rich chunks of grilled sea bass and tamarind; satays are still impossibly moist and savory; Wild Ginger fragrant duck is still a comfort-food lover's fantasy, with big hanks of succulent duck to stuff between steamed buns and dredge through sweet plum sauce. Seafood is still a diner's best bet, particularly the marinated Hanoi tuna or any one of the extraordinary Dungeness preparations. On that last you'll be licking the sauce off your hands for a week—but oh, what licks they'll be. K.R. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

 
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