The 10 Best Dishes in Seattle

Over the last six months, we’ve tasted dozens of entrees. These are the standouts.

When you dine out every week, even good dishes can fade from your memory quickly. But then there are the ones that stay with you, that are so delicious or unique (or both) that you find yourself reminiscing about them weeks, even months later—exhorting friends to go and try them and dropping back in for another go after your review is long past, even though you have dozens of new places to try. Here are 10 items that have recently emblazoned a memory on my taste buds and that, should I get a window of unspoken-for dining time, I’ll be hurrying back to savor again.

Braised Brisket With Hominy from Cook Weaver

Cook Weaver’s splendid menu of “Eurasian Food + Drink” (heavy on the Korean and Southeast Asian influences) has many delicious surprises, but one of the best is the braised brisket with hominy, reminiscent of bibimbap, the Korean dish of warm rice with veggies, meat, a fried egg, and gochujang (chili paste). Here, a boulder of braised brisket—nearly black in its crisped-skin glory—is served with a fried egg, fried bites of hominy, and ribbons of butternut squash sauced with miso. Also available for your blending pleasure: an addictive hot sauce of habanero and pineapple, with a spoonful of mustard seed on top. 806 E. Roy St., 324-0599

Roasted Half Chicken from Café Hitchcock

Brendan McGill’s downtown outpost, in the historic Exchange Building with its art deco flourishes, is both lovely and laid-back, something that’s hard to find downtown. The food is exactly that as well, with light, French-leaning dishes heavy on Pacific Northwest provenance. But it was the roasted half of a Mad Hatcher chicken that really won me over—testimony to everything chicken should be. Twenty-five minutes in the stove yields white meat that not only gushes juices but is adroitly seasoned in a way that doesn’t just read salt, but chicken. That’s right—poultry actually has a flavor all its own when prepared well, which is rare. The skin is a gleaming golden brown that fights with just the right effort to stay adhered to the flesh before gracefully giving way to the fork. A watercress and wild radish salad with its cider vinaigrette adds a playful splash of acidity. This may be the best roasted chicken in the city. 818 First Ave., 467-5078

Shrimp Gumbo from JuneBaby

Edouardo Jordan’s ode to Southern food in Ravenna is not to be missed, and it’s the shrimp gumbo that to me symbolizes everything great about it. While gumbo so often becomes a cornstarch-laden, one-note soup, Jordan reminds us of the complexity possible when it is painstakingly crafted. From his short-grained “Mississippi” rice with just the right bite to his diced hot link and small rounds of okra, the elements are well-proportioned, but it’s the broth that beguiles. You can taste the layers of flavors built here, of chicken stock and a dark roux made from bacon fat, grapeseed, and flour cooked down for two hours, the smokiness never overwhelming. Three large, handsome head-on shrimp crown it, coated ever so delicately in semolina. Eaten with a side of antebellum buns and honey butter, it’s a perfect meal. 2122 N.E. 65th St., 257-4470

Octopus from Adana

What started as a multicourse Japanese kaiseki menu has since evolved into a more approachable—but by no means dumbed-down—selection of elegant and homey dishes that can be ordered a la carte and that showcase intricate techniques. Among the best, though, is the octopus—a whole tentacle cut into meaty discs, as succulent as you’ll ever have it because they literally beat it with a bottle to tenderize it. It then spends hours in dashi until it’s ready to be warmed and served, when I was there, over a complementary spring-forward pea purée. Don’t miss the katsu sando (pork cutlet) sandwich, either: Cooked to perfection—as only sous vide can—it’s then breaded and fried on the outside, heaped with a crunchy coleslaw that’s just glistened with mayonnaise and stacked between two slices of billowy white bread. 1449 E. Pine St., 294-5230

Black-Peppercorn Chitarra from Union Saloon

Wallingford hit the jackpot when Michelle Magidow, former manager at Delancey, opened this gem of a spot, where a saloon-like atmosphere belies truly elegant, lovingly prepared food. There’s much to gush over here, but the black-peppercorn chitarra is a seriously flawless dish. If you’re going to have just one pasta option, it’s a good idea to make it memorable, and Union Saloon does. The housemade chitarra—essentially spaghetti, but with square ends—is coated in a lush sauce studded with bits of maitake mushrooms, ribbons of zucchini, and slivers of guanciale. It has the mouthfeel of carbonara, but is light and summer-forward, yet still a little naughty thanks to the cured meat. 3645 Wallingford Ave. N., 547-2280

Duck Liver Paté with Kalamansi Jelly from Navy Strength

The drinks—Tiki-bar style—are the real raison d’etre here, but that doesn’t mean good food can’t accompany them, and chef Jeffrey Vance of No Anchor (and formerly of Spur) works his magic on small plates that are heavily Asian-influenced, some of which rotate according to a particular featured country (which changes twice a year). Not to worry, though; the duck-liver paté is a staple and will light up your taste buds year-round. Smeared on large toasted rolls, with kalamansi (a lime-kumquat hybrid) jelly to spread over it all, it reminds me of an old-school jelly donut—but with a savory paté as icing. It’s gourmet stoner food, maybe a new genre in itself. 2505 Second Ave., 420-7043

Lamb-Belly Carnitas from Pablo y Pablo

A Mexican restaurant that takes a lot of well-executed liberties, Pablo y Pablo in Fremont is doing tacos better than anyone else in the city, slightly bigger than street-size with fillings that run the gamut from grilled steak to charred broccoli. What makes them particularly special—aside from great yellow-corn tortillas and well-cooked proteins—is the way the kitchen customizes the sauces and garnishes for each. My favorite: the lamb-belly carnitas, with its stronger flavor, tempered with a light four-chile guacamole, mint, and pineapple salsa. You may never want pork carnitas again. 1605 N. 34th St., 973-3505

Beef Panang Sandwich from Pink Bee

The tiny, family-run Pink Bee in Ballard is serving a handful of Thai/Malaysian dishes that you can get in three iterations: as a sandwich, over rice, or as a salad. It’s really the sandwiches (a kind of Malaysian banh mi) you want to come for—served on a choice of Essential Bakery potato bread or Dutch Crunch (similar to a baguette, it consists of a paste of baked rice flour and sugar, which gives it a crackly top and an ever-so-slight sweetness). Though the pork sandwich is a messy, heavenly lot, the beef panang rivals it, its coconut-milk/lime-leaf/fish-sauce flavor a hit between two slices of bread with onions and a smattering of cilantro. 2010 N.W. 56th St., 466-1650

Ethiopian Spiced Fried Chicken and Pancakes from Thackeray

Run by the Heavy Restaurant Group (Pablo y Pablo, Purple, Meet the Moon), this Fremont beauty has a brunch item you won’t find anywhere else—and that you’ll find yourself busting a gut to finish. The Ethiopian spiced fried chicken has that deep red hue that comes from berbere spice (that key flavor in Ethiopian food) and pairs dreamily against a stack of malted buttermilk pancakes with a smoked honey butter and spiced maple syrup. Both are packed with taste yet don’t overwhelm each other—the perfect choice for when you can’t decide between savory or sweet. 3400 Stone Way N., 737-8743

Master Stock Crispy Chicken from Coba Viet Kitchen and Ales

This casual Lower Queen Anne brewpub, which also serves Vietnamese standards like pho and noodle salads, surprises with some more distinctive items worth checking out. Take, for instance, the master stock crispy chicken: A small plate for sharing, it’s a thigh and leg cooked in a traditional “master stock,” then pan-fried and served with sautéed yu choy greens. It has a gingery-garlic flavor, and it reminds me of duck, both in its preparation and its sweetish flavor profile. It makes for a perfect appetizer or, as they suggest, something to share alongside other dishes. I enjoyed it with a beer cocktail. 530 First Ave. N., 283-6614