Kooky Cajun:

SAZERAC

Some claim, not definitively, that the first cocktail ever invented was the Sazerac in New Orleans. All we can be sure of

"/>

Restaurants S-Z

From Sazerac to the Zig Zag Café.

Kooky Cajun:

SAZERAC

Some claim, not definitively, that the first cocktail ever invented was the Sazerac in New Orleans. All we can be sure of is that a heady Mardi Gras flavor lingers in the Seattle restaurant by that name. The decor parties hearty in an aggressively trendy way that may look silly years hence, but lives for today: luxe curtains, glossy dark wood, distressed copper, pointy, arty glass chandeliers, a color scheme out of a pomo child's toy box (and the look gets still more out of hand in the hep Hotel Monaco next door, for which Sazerac offers seriously great room service). It draws a fun crowd, a veritable human jambalaya. Lots of dishes taste wood-fired and spicy. If you haven't had Sazerac's flash-fried catfish, then your catfish has never been fried quite right. And if the cats you're out with want the buzzy atmosphere with a bit less hubbub, there's a side room you can reserve. T.A. 1101 Fourth Ave., 206-624-7755. DOWNTOWN $$$ How It's Done:

SEASTAR RESTAURANT AND RAW BAR

You could dine half a dozen times at John Howie's six-month-old restaurant in downtown Bellevue and never come out thinking anything beyond "Boy, that was good, wasn't it?" Unless you're in the food-and-beverage business, that is: in which case you'll be murmuring, "Boy, he nails it, doesn't he?" Seastar is a pro's restaurant, and only other pros can fully appreciate the inspiration, planning, and control it takes to turn out food this good night after night after night, food that avoids all culinary clich鳠while pleasing the eye, delighting the palate, and filling the belly. If you had to categorize Howie's cooking, you'd have to call it "fusion," but that doesn't begin to capture the combined ingenuity and craft that goes into each delicately balanced plate of seafood. And if you think service this smooth is easy to attain, ask yourself: When's the last time you felt in such good hands? Throw in the canny Erik Liedholm as wine adviser, and you've got a wonder: an Eastside restaurant with no downside at all. R.D. 205 108th Ave. N.E., 425-456-0010. BELLEVUE $$$ Italianissima:

SERAFINA

If Lake Union were the Grand Canal (dear reader, use your imagination), then Serafina would surely be the Doge's Palace. Owner Susan Kaufman bought what until 1991 was an old Eastlake deli, with a view to turning it into a great spot for a romantic date. She exposed the brick, painted her restaurant in dramatic shades of red and yellow, and served simple Italian meals made from fresh ingredients. The rest is history, and 12 years on, when it comes to simple, freshly cooked pastas and lip-smacking antipasti, all roads still lead to Kaufman's taverna. The initial accent was on what the Italians call a cucina rustica (literally, country kitchen), but Kaufman's bent for innovative Italian-style cooking has taken the place in unimagined directions, while remaining the destination for a first date. A full bar, live music nightly (usually jazz and blues), and summer courtyard dining make it a unique experience. H.J. 2043 Eastlake Ave. E., 206-323-0807. EASTLAKE $$ High Score:

SHORTY'S CONEY ISLAND

Pinball, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and wieners: Shorty's version has the holy trinity for true believers and comes with green relish, jalape� onions, cheese dribble, and Momma Lil Peppers (goat horn peppers soaked in garlic olive oil and rendered so damn hot they can probably burn through the lining of your stomach, but, hey, you only live once). Available, as all of Shorty's specialty dogs are, as a regular ole hot dog, a German sausage, or a veggie wienie, the Spicy Pepper Cheese Dog is the crown jewel of Shorty's collection. Not that I would turn down a plain one with some ketchup on it, but I'm just saying. With all the club and bar closures around town, it's a minor miracle that Shorty's is still slinging cheap beer and cheap eats. Next time you bite into a hot dog, say a word of thanks. L.C. 2222 Second Ave., 206-441-5449. BELLTOWN $ Lush Life:

THE SITTING ROOM

Surrounded by the Lower Queen Anne assortment of captive-audience eateries (where you're so intent on making the game or opera that you don't have time to complain about the mediocre service and food), the Sitting Room is a relief precisely because it's a little too standoffish and Euro to be in a rush about anything. The low light, orange walls, and au courant Parisian techno music are just too mellow to encourage anything but another glass of beer or wine (sorry, no hard liquor) and perhaps a shift from one of the tables to the couches up frontthe better to scope out the hotties who tend to wander in later in the evening. The Sitting Room is, for want of a better way of putting it, very chick-friendly, the antithesis to Peso's pick-up pandemonium around the corner. You want to, well, sit and linger to appreciate the excellent bruschettas and fine salads, while outside the losers scurry to watch the Sonics lose again. B.R.M. 108 W. Roy St., 206-285-2830. LOWER QUEEN ANNE $ Gone Fishin':

SPUD FISH AND CHIPS

Last spring, some friends of mine from Texas were passing through town. Now, I don't even think they have fish in Texas, let alone fish and chips, so when they said they were hungry and expressed an interest in experiencing the local cuisineand they added that they only had about $8.24 between the four of themwe headed to Spud. Although it looks and feels a lot like a recommissioned laundromat, the Green Lake Spud is one of the best places in town to taste the Northwest. They have ling cod, halibut, salmon, oysters, prawns, clams, scallops, and baby shrimp, and, provided the fry guy isn't feeling overly heavy-handed that day, they're all done simply and crisply, to quite near perfection. Even the Southpaws agreed, although they were a little put off by the extra quarter or so that Spud asks in exchange for tartar sauce, but, hey, like I told them, when in Rome. . . . L.C. 6860 E. Green Lake Way N., 206-524-0565. GREEN LAKE $ Design Within Reach:

SUPREME

Clean, uncluttered, and well thought-out, Supreme's design and decor accurately reflect its menu. This is not a place where you want to see, or digest, a mishmash of unrelated elements. Things are put together in their proper proportion, shape, and size. Your meal feels designed in the best sense of the word. Maybe it has to do with being on Madrona's ever-more-chichi 34th Avenue strip, or more likely, it stems from the design background of Supreme's co-owner, Tova Cubert, but the place emanates a certain harmonyeverything has to be just so. You don't want to wear the wrong thing when you gomaybe consider some new eyeglasses and a haircut. It's not that Tova would be disappointed or turn you away or treat you with anything less than her usual sit-down-and-chat friendliness; it's just that you want to fit in, to sit longer, and become a regular. Eat here and you'll actually become better looking for it. B.R.M. 1404 34th Ave., 206-322-1974. MADRONA $$$ Club Med:

THE SWINGSIDE CAFɼ/B>

At the Swingside, you do things the Swingside way. No reservations, except for gangs of six or more; on the other hand, call ahead anyway, because owner-chef Brad Inserra may have decided yesterday that he and Helen and baby Lydia needed a few days in the sun. You better like pets; hippies, too. And live acoustic music, because you may find an Irish fiddler or a 12-string balladeer perched next to your table. Along with all these variable elements, you also get Inserra's completely individual take on southern Italian cooking, from local classics like the hazelnut-dusted oil-and- garlic pasta and overflowing plates of pristine-fresh Northwest ingredients glamorized with whiffs of African and Middle Eastern influence. The wine list is small but first-rate; trust your server (or the padrone, when he comes out of the kitchen) to match wine to dish and you might just score an extra splash of vino. R.D. 4212 Fremont Ave. N., 206-633-4057. FREMONT $$ Flying Food:

TEATRO ZINZANNI Culinary clowns and flying food. They say that in the old days little boys used to dream about running away from home to join the circus. Tom Douglas waited till he was all grown up to make his move, and he didn't even have to leave home to do it. Technically, all One Reel's Norman Langill asked Douglas for was a five-course menu suitable for service by choreographed clown-waiters to 280 patrons simultaneously: a tricky enough assignment in itself, one would think. But Douglas has always entered fully into any challenge presented him in his long and successful restaurant career, and the Teatro ZinZanni challenge was no exception. Restauranting, even at its most primitive, is seasoned with a dash of show business: Teatro ZinZanni just makes that aspect of eating out explicit and takes it, if not to the max, at least somewhere close to it. Even in its heyday, the original Moulin Rouge (basically a dance floor encircled by booths for the dancers to take a breather and drink) didn't dream of serving its customers gourmet food; even the lavish supper clubs of the 1930s didn't aspire to integrate the waitstaff into the evening's entertainment. But ZinZanni takes integration further, much further. One of the ways kings and courtiers demonstrated their courtliness was by dining to music, and soon after public restaurants were born in the wake of the French Revolution, the bourgeoisie in turn learned to savor background music with their vittles. But Norman Durkee's ZinZanni band doesn't just underscore the meal and accompany the acts interspersed between courses: It shapes the entire experience, controlling the pace and defining the mood with the minute precision of a film soundtrack. More than any other element of a ZinZanni evening, it is the music that turns the audience into active members of the ensemble. Douglas' menu changes with the seasons, but it also changes with the show itself, as new acts are broken in, old ones move on or take a break, past favorites return. Presently the bill of fare is Spanish in style, with morsels of chorizo-stuffed dates, manchego cheese, and eggs diablo teasing the palate as Kevin Kent's Mistress-of-Ceremonies Mable sets the evening's tone, leading to a climactic duel for bass viol and ukulele by the clowns of Les Voila!. A saffroned lamb and bean appetizer accompanies song and juggling; fennel- almond salad is served to the tune of an opera aria and rope gymnastics, seared smoked tuna to aerial acrobatics. And each time the menu changes, it's likely that Douglas will be hunkered in the observation booth to see how his food works with the show and clicks with the customers. Do the customers realize just what an extraordinary phenomenon they're taking part in? Probably not: If they did, it might make them self-conscious and spoil their fun. But an extraordinary phenomenon it is nevertheless. Baudelaire thought you needed drugs to achieve the "systematic disordering of all the senses" that leads to poetry; Teatro ZinZanni does it with music, jokes, spectacle, and white-chocolate-wrapped vanilla sponge cake. And it's legal. R.D. 2301 Sixth Ave. (Sixth and Battery Streets), 206-802-0015. DOWNTOWN $$$ Light & Airy:

10 MERCER

Once a parking garage in this chronically hard-to-park-in hood, 10 Mercer has kept the high-timbered ceiling of its refurbished space. Today it's a kind of adult oasis in an area where too many restaurants cater to the sports-jersey crowd. A commanding bar gives you a good view of patrons and passersby outside; there's also a more private eating level on the mezzanine above. Behind the bar, there's some kind of high wooden scaffold filled with booze and accessible by ladder that looks like a siege tower from Lord of the Rings. (Sorry, but 10 Mercer reserves the right to refuse service to orcs.) You want to climb the damn thing and start tossing down bottles of amaretto to your pals below. The bartenders and staff are friendly without getting in your face about it, and the food does not disappoint. Word to the wise: Leave room for dessert. Or just go for drinks and dessert at the bar (my favorite m.o.), where there are always conversations worth eavesdropping onor starting. B.R.M. 10 Mercer St., 206-691-3723. LOWER QUEEN ANNE $$ 13 COINS

Historic preservation.

It's hard to imagine an eatery more enduring or more frozen in the 1960s than this 36-year-old, 24-hour joint a block off Denny Way. So what do they do? They go and remodel the lounge. It's half again as big, with room for live music and more tables, and now you can order off the dining-room menu. An alarming change, but probably a good one for the sizable Friday-after-work crowd of Seattle Times staffers and others from South Lake Union offices. The rest of the Coins is intact: the decades-old menu of steak, pasta, and seafood; the dining-room counter with high-back swivel stools in front of the grill; the ceiling-high booths where occasional pro jocks and rock stars, and ordinary folks out past bedtime, can find a discreet place to eat at any hour. After midnight, it's the nicest place in town. C.T. 125 Boren Ave. N., 206-682-2513. CASCADE $$ Casa Mia:

TRATTORIA MITCHELLI

How many times can the good food, reasonable prices, and welcoming ambience of the Trat brighten your day? An infinite number, it seems. Danny Mitchell's recipe for success only seems effortless; actually achieving it requires great skill. Mitchell has created in the midst of our young, vanilla city a restaurant that captures the virtues of a great old neighborhood joint in Boston's North End or a trattoria in Rome's Trastevere. The best evidence for this is the pasta. The Trat starts with quality pasta and knows how to handle it. They cook the radiatore (or penne or fettuccine or . . . ) long enough so it goes down smoothly and briefly enough that it retains its flavor. Next they add the sauce. Nothing indicates what an Italian restaurant can do better than the basic marinara. The Trat's marinara showcases plump, ripe tomatoes and surrounds them with sweet onions, pungent garlic, and intoxicating herbs. Top it off with quality Parmigiano, scarf it on down, and you're ready to go back to the office for a siesta. That's living, Mitchelli-style. G.H. 84 Yesler Way, 206-623-3883. PIONEER SQUARE $$ T Cubed:

TUP TIM THAI

I prefer the appellation TTT for this Lower Queen Anne stalwart of fast, cheap Thai food, the better to avoid the constant linguistic confusion between "Tip Tum" and "Tum Tip," since I can never remember which is right. Fortunately there's no forgetting the famously brisk, bustling vibe and excellent value to the place, which usually result in a wait in the crowded vestibule before getting a table. (When, oh, when will they serve beer to the impatient throng?) My two favorite default orders are No. 40 (Mussaman Neua beef curry) and, of course, No. 61 (phad Thai with whatever you want). Spring rolls and chicken satay skewers make for tasty starters. You can get out of here with a lot of food without flattening your walletone reason for the crowds, where you'll sometimes see three generations of diners seated at the same table. Helpful hint: Order two beers and extra rice at the outset of your meal, since the harried waiters can be hard to flag down later. B.R.M. 118 W. Mercer St., 206-281-8333. LOWER QUEEN ANNE $ Extra Spicy:

TYPHOON!

Not to dump on Wild Ginger, but its new space has the charm and acoustics of a basketball court. Typhoon! was wise enough to grab the old venue below the Market, which has a much more intimate feel for lunch, dinner, or drinks. It also doesn't hurt that the prices are reasonable and that you can get a table before, say, the next presidential election. Typhoon! is Thai, but it's not strict Thai, where someone's going to get upset if the New Zealand mussels in the Spicy Seafood Medley aren't actually available in Bangkok. You can amp up the phad Thai's spiciness to mouth-scorching intensity if you like, or opt for the Death by Asparagus (what a way to go). Eating at the bar is always a good idea, especially late nights, when locals in the restaurant trade sometimes drop by to swap stories and pick over appetizers like the delectable Ahi Spring Rolls. B.R.M. 1400 Western Ave., 206-262-9797. DOWNTOWN $$ Hindu Holiday:

UDUPI PALACE

To techies from foreign lands who make their homes (and our computers) here, Bellevue is the Emerald City's polyglot suburb of choice, a sort of latter day Ellis Island without the big statue. Microchip-happy and fully globalized, it hosts a dizzying array of transnational-minded businesses. The mix includes not just Microsoft, which is HQ'd here, but also Uwajimaya Market and Trader Joe's, which has moved into throbbing Crossroads Mall to take the international pulse. South Indians, the original non-Aryan "Hindus," are the latest addition to the mix, and Udupi Palace, part of a seven-restaurant national chain, caters to these immigrants with real South Indian food at bargain-basement prices. Try the excellent Paper Dosa, a long cr갥 filled with potatoes and spices, served with a piping-hot yellow lentil soup called sambar. Eat with your hands, as this is finger food, wet as it may be. Also try the Idlis, bite-sized, steamed rice cakes. And be prepared to hear patrons speaking in South Indian tongues you haven't heard beforeTamil, Telegu, Malayalam, Kannadaas they get all happy and drop their rupees at Udupi. H.J. Crossroads Mall, 15600 N.E. Eighth St., 425-649-0355. BELLEVUE $ Under the Bridge:

VOULA'S OFFSHORE CAFE

Maybe it's the proximity of Dunn Lumber, or the working waterfront (where the Kalakala slowly rusts into oblivion), or Dale Chihuly's nearby glass studio (God forbid), but there's something endearingly, enduringly working class about Voula's that's made it an institution in its shaded patch below the I-5 Ship Canal and University bridges. The early morning set ranges from lawyers with cell phones to contractors with cell phones to boatyard workers with cell phones, and they're all drawn by the same sort of effective, reliable cheap eats that are disappearing in Seattle as fast as, well, the working waterfront. Here you get flat old-school hash browns with your eggs and baconnone of the froufrou affectation that makes ordering such a chore at breakfast joints that accommodate vegans and the lactose-intolerant crowd. People read both the P-I sports section and The Wall Street Journal at Voula's; it's the kind of place where contractors and clients can seal a deal with a handshakethen still have enough money left to fight over the bill. B.R.M. 658 N.E. Northlake Way, 206-634-0183. NORTHLAKE $ Twisted Roll:

WASABI BISTRO

This is not your papa-san's sushi. Wasabi Bistro does have a bit of a Belltown complex (read: The aesthetics are aggressively slick, the lighting is forcefully dim, and the service can be a tad, well, "cool") and that fixation carries into the food. But even purists should be able to appreciate the new-world twists, because they're twisted just right. And, if that purist is a fan of the avocado, then he'll probably be even more forgiving. You almost have to assume these guys are in cahoots with the California Association of Avocado Growers; slices of nature's most perfectly creamy fruit guest star in just about all of Wasabi Bistro's inventive rolls. To wit, the sinful Seattle Tempura Roll: Salmon, cream cheese, and avocado are rolled maki-style, and then the whole thing is coated and fried like a tempura veggie. Indulgent, delicious, and completely unconventional. L.C. 2311 Second Ave., 206-441-6044. BELLTOWN $$ Preshow Palace:

WILD GINGER

Few restaurants survive a radical change of scale and location without damage. Rick Yoder's Wild Ginger went from a relatively modest Western Avenue storefront to special-built cafeteria-size downtown humongosity and never looked back. Yoder's passion for pan-Asian cuisines is matched only by his subtle style sense and business acumen. The new Wild Ginger is big but doesn't feel big; if you like to linger over your meal you can, but if you have an eye on your watch (as hundreds on Seattle Symphony evenings do), the staff will get you in and out at your own tempo. Even rarer: Menu descriptions are not just an excuse for poesy but provide solid information for those of us who didn't grow up with the tastes of taro, jicama, kabocha, and lemon grass. Lunch offers a wide spectrum of satays and one-bowl meals at remarkably reasonable prices for a dressy downtown spot. R.D. 1401 Third Ave., 206-623-4450. DOWNTOWN $$ Greek in Greenwood:

YANNI'S CAFɼ/B>

The dinner menu at Yanni's is lengthy. So lengthy that perusing it as a first-time visitor could be described as daunting. Which of the 14 appetizers will you get? Which of the 14 house specialties? But for regulars and neighborhood residents, the extensive menu is perhaps the greatest thing about Yanni's. One can visit with some degree of frequency without exhausting the dinner selections. It's like a challengeYanni's dares you to try everything it offers. You'd like chicken tonight? You're going to have to be more specific, sir: souvlaki, saganaki, krasati, skaras? There's no shortage of chicken dishes here. Don't eat meat? No worries. You too have plenty of options. Calamari? Keep thinkingthere are four variations. Still, it takes more than a lengthy menu to make a good neighborhood restaurant. The food's good, too, and the staff is friendly. K.M. 7419 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-783-6945. GREENWOOD $-$$ Sexy Spirits:

ZIG ZAG CAFɼ/B>

This is what happens when the bartenders own the place: It's a drinker's paradise, a low-key, no-frills hideaway tucked under Western Avenue on the Pike Street Hillclimb. Owners Ben and Kacy are also bartenders extraordinaire. Plus they have Murray Stenson, one of the best bartenders in town. There's no stumping them with outlandish drink requeststhey know just about everything there is to do with spirits, including a few things you've probably never heard of. Recently remodeled when the bartenders bought the place from the former owners, the bar and dining room are all dark and stylish, with a classic teak-trimmed bar and voluptuous, curved green-mohair-and-mahogany banquette seating. Sure, the Mediterranean-influenced menu is trendy, but with a Salumi alum heading up the kitchen, specialties like the roasted chicken risotto or the grilled anchovy sandwich can transcend trendiness. The Moroccan-spiced three-bean dip with cumin-crusted crostini may be the perfect snack. K.M. Pike Street Hill Climb, 1501 Western Ave., 206-625-1146. DOWNTOWN $$

 
comments powered by Disqus