What: Harissa chicken

Where: Bennett’s Pure Food Bistro , 650 S.E. 27th St., Mercer Island

When: Last week for dinner

Would I eat it again?


I Ate This: Chicken Harissa @ Bennett's Pure Food Bistro

When Applebee's goes all-natural.

What: Harissa chicken

Where: Bennett’s Pure Food Bistro, 650 S.E. 27th St., Mercer Island

When: Last week for dinner

Would I eat it again? Not at that price

Official Tasting Notes: I’ve been curious about Bennett’s, the Mercer Island deli-restaurant owned by Kurt Beecher Dammeier of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and Pasta & Co., since it opened for dinner last year (our own Molly Lori wrote about her lunch there before dinner service started). So a friend and I stopped by last week for a full meal. The place was packed, packed, packed, even on a weekday night.

Bennett’s, which looks like a handsomely decorated airport restaurant, makes a big deal about picking good local purveyors like Macrina and serving ethical food (local, sustainably grown, etc.)—all high on my priority list. But my friend opened up his menu and said, “Doesn’t this sound like we’re in Applebee’s?” Here’s the description for the pork shoulder, for instance, copied and pasted from their online menu:

The ultimate in comfort food indulgence! Boneless country style pork slow roasted over Walla Walla sweet onions, in fresh apple cider, honey and Pyramid Hefeweizen. Served over Bennett’s BBQ Sauce. Accompanied by Beecher’s "World’s Best" Mac & Cheese and just enough fresh vegetables to keep mom happy.

Nothing like an exclamation mark in a menu description to make me feel like I’m at a TGI Friday’s—all that’s missing are a few TMs.

My harissa chicken turned out to be an overcooked, flabby-skinned chicken breast topped with a spoonful of a good-quality prepared harissa (a North African roast pepper-tomoto-garlic-cumin paste). It came with some nicely cooked fingerling potatoes, a few crunchy green beans, unpeeled and slightly dirt-tinged baby carrots, and raw onion slices. A decent enough plate of food—if they’d charged $12 instead of $17.50.

At $50 a person for a meal (one appetizer, two entrees, one dessert, two glasses of the cheapest wine we could order, at $9), I don’t care if the food’s pure—it better not be slopped together like a chain restaurant.

Insider Tip: The cheese course, which features many great local cheeses besides Beecher’s, may be the best thing about Bennett’s. Just skip the chile jam served with it, which tastes like ancient jarred garlic.

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