Monday, July 14, 2014

La Palapa, Port Orchard WA

It was a hot and steamy night in Port Orchard. The kind of sultry summer night that lends itself to romance and intrigue in this deceptively sleepy waterfront town.

Perusing the shop windows and looking for a little mischief, I saw him...sauntering down the street as if he owned the world. He had the certain something you see in IT men. That knowing glance that says "I can crash your network before I've even finished my morning coffee, and you'll never know what happened".

Khaki pants, comfortable shoes, a card key and cell phone strapped to his belt like Batman.

Oh yes, he would be mine.

Wait, he is mine, that's my husband.

We decided to try La Palapa (which, by the way is conveniently located next to our favorite martini bar). We'd seen it open and the Yelp reviews looked good, so OLE!

Walking in the decor is spartan (and that's being generous) Cement floors, wood tables and chair and almost nothing on the walls. This lends itself to being REALLY REALLY LOUD. Especially when an unsupervised toddler is running screaming through the restaurant. This was a rather significant snap back from my earlier view of said sultry eve.

Seriously, it was like a daycare but without the glamour.

We were adventurous! We were committed! We were going to sit in the bar where the screaming toddler couldn't reach us (not that the sound didn't carry, but it would keep him from drooling on my Kate Spade bag).

We were approached quickly by a delightfully cheery server. Cocktails? Yes please!

Beloved order a Cadillac Margarita, I ordered a large Pacifico.

The beer? HOLY CRAP! It was bigger than my head, and I have a big head. That's fine for a martini, but in a beer, it just makes me burp all through dinner. All pretenses to being a seductive siren this evening are dashed. Likely, he knows me well enough that this isn't a huge surprise.

Seriously though, I could have taken a bath in this beer. I needed two hands to hoist it.

His margarita was, in his words "meh". He swears there was no Grand Marnier in it.

I decided to order a couple of tacos ala carte. Fish taco (grilled) and shrimp taco. Both were good, would have been GREAT if they would have seasoned the seafood a little bit. Once I added a touch of salt, they came alive. Really really good. I didn't have any rice/beans nonsense. I like that you can economically piece together what you want for your plate. That's a fantastic option.

He order the Ceviche Tostada. It was, in a word, perfect. Fresh, crisp, and generally awesome. I ate more than my fair share of his dinner. I would order this again and again.

He also has the tortilla soup. It's not my favorite, but he really liked it. Had grilled chicken but ws made with beef stock. I thought it was weird, and wouldn't recommend it.

No room for dessert, but they had the usual, fried ice cream, flan, yadda yadda yadda.

I'd rate it a solid B. The food was good and fresh, albeit they could use a slightly heavier hand with the salt. Prices were very reasonable as well. Not somewhere I would go for a snack and a drink (the drinks just weren't that good) but for dinner, we'll go again. If they do something to make it feel less like a loud cavern, I could see this becoming a regular haunt for us.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Salty's on Alki :Brunch Addition

As usual, I'm going to start with my normal diatribe about previous experiences, expectations etc. That said:

GREAT view here and I love love love their happy hour. Interesting drinks and fun small plates to share. Service is always good without being cloying.

Beloved and I were trekking to Seattle for the day and I thought "Brunch!" No kids, no one on call, let's splurge. I'd heard great things about Salty's brunch (come to think of it, mostly from Salty's..hmmmmm) so, what the hell, let's blow $49.99 per person and see what the "best brunch in Seattle" tastes like.

LOVE that they have complementary valet parking. That's a huge thing for me.

Walked in the well trod entrance..HOLY CRAP! This place is busy. Really busy. Screaming
 kids and and LOAD piano busy. OK, maybe the kids weren't all that screamy, but one did almost take me out at the knees.

Checked in and did a little "buffet recon" and reported back the lay of the land. Gotta say, everything look appealing. Two young men just standing there shucking oysters? Contemplated just pulling my chair up there for brunch. Odds were though that would be more annoying than the toddler ballistic missile, so rethought that plan.

Seated by our reservation time. Score one for their scheduling.

Seated at a lovely comfy booth with a great view. This is starting well. Cocktail menu looked enticing, and, well, build your own Bloody Mary station? Yes please.

Waiting.....waiter filling other table's water.

Waiting....waiter removing dirty plates from other tables.

Waiting....waiter actively avoiding eye contact.

Waiting...waiter finally notices there are carbon based life forms at what was his only empty table!

I get that the waiter doesn't need to be at my table the second I sit down but, raise an eyebrow, nod, wave, something to acknowledge my existence within 3 minutes. Any gesture recognized as a bid at Sotheby's will do. Really, I'm not that fussy. Even hubby noticed we seemed to be set on auto-ignore.

Cocktail order taken..he then explained, ad nauseum a "strategy" to take just a little at each station so you don't fill up too quickly. Um, we've actually eaten at buffet's before. Maybe I was just testy by this point, but if I'm paying $50 just to sit down, I'll use any "strategy" that amuses me. I did buffet recon, I'm on it.

The Food
I can eat my weight in fresh seafood, so I bee lined straight for that station. Childish, but by this point feeling a tad entitled.

Plate full of Oysters? Check! Seriously, these guys weren't even looking at the oysters when they schucked them. I wanted to pack just one of these guys up and bring them home with him. I always end up just yelling at the oyster (which doesn't work, but makes me feel better). My bestie insists the only way that works is to yell at them in Russian.

Now in line for the other seafood, crab, shrimp....waiting...waiting while a guest stands at the chafing dish of steamed mussels and clams pulling individual mussels out of the shells and putting them on her plate. A LOT of them. Leaving nothing but shells for those behind her. Awesome.

They did a great job of keeping the stock replenished but the seafood station, arguably the most popular, was tucked in the corner which made for awkward queuing and egress.

Grabbed shrimp and Dungeness. The chilled shrimp were PERFECT. Clearly cooked that morning for just the right amount of time and then chilled quickly. Seriously, perfect peel and eat shrimp.

Lox? Like butter. I wanted to fashion it into a dress and just nibble on it all day (coral is a universally flattering color).

The Dungeness, unfortunately, tasted like the previously frozen variety. Given the volume they must pump this out on a busy brunch, I get it but honestly, looking out over Puget Sounds on a lovely Sunday, I really wanted fresh. I wanted to know it want swimming around making threatening gestures to its tank mates. Dungeness really are some of the most foul tempered creatures on the planet. Maybe their deliciousness is what makes them so surly? Maybe I've over thought the connection between being foul temper and being tasty and delicious? Maybe given my generally foul temper, I should forego this line of thought?

I may just tear up a bit here.

Husband went for more variety, which seemed to be a mistake.

Prime rib was tough and over done. Really, needed a steak knife tough. Steak knives, I may add, which were not provided.

Salmon Benedict? Dry, overcooked. I wasn't that surprised, rally, how long can you keep a poached eggs perfect in a chafing dish? Why would you even try?

The cocktails?
I went for the special of the day which was a vodka/rose concoction with cranberry. It was light, fresh and, for me, the perfect brunch cocktail.

My beloved went for the Bloody Mary bar use they did have a really impressive variety of mixes. He picked Tomatillo. While I get it, I don't think overall it was a visually pleasing choice. It was the color of baby foods peas. The he added Clamato juice, making it the color of mildewy sludge. Seriously, I couldn't even watch him drink it. AND he kept making me taste it. Spicy, but I just couldn't get past the color. Remember the slime from GhostBusters? Yes, not that pretty. And it was thick. The texture (yes, a drink had texture) was gag inducing. This is coming from the person who likes raw oysters,  Just sayin, try this at your own peril.

Round 2, I tried the "hot" station.

Fried clams? Rubber

Mac and cheese, separated and oily. Kielbasa? Why would you put that in there? Why? Maybe that's why it was greasy.

Chose not to investigate further.

More oysters? Yes please.

Dessert time....serious tables of dessert. I decided to try a few things. Cream puff, macaroon in dark chocolate, and a red velvet cupcake. All were OK, but not "rub all over your face" good. Took a bite and moved on.

Then, the cupcake. Oh, the humanity. It had some suspicious pinkish frosting (which I usually scrape off anyway. Not a frosting girl). Cut into the cupcake and...IT WAS PINK INSIDE! Not red as in RED VELVET, but a watered down rainbow pony pink.  The shock, the horror, the utter disappointment because I really really love red velvet cake.

Overall I'd give this a B-. Both highs and lows, and granted, if you want amazing eggs, don't pull them from a chafing dish.

I didn't try the pasta or omelette stations, and focused on things I don't usually cook at home, but I will say, everything I saw coming off the fresh stations looked really nice.

We both felt we could have used more love from our waiter (if you take the shell bowl, please bring us a new one before we have to ask).

The little doughnuts they give you when you first sit down don't suck either.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Aqua, Seattle WA

This one will just be a "she said" since, well, he wasn't there.

For background, this one was a business dinner, so I didn't send back thing I normally would have (in a heart beat)

Being this restaurant is owned by El Gaucho (who I love and adore) I was excited about trying their seafood sister.

First of all, this restaurant is amazingly gorgeous. It was a sunny day, you could see the Olympic Mountains, boats on the Sound. Truly, it was breath taking.

We all convened at the bar for our pre-flight cocktail. I had a serviceable pear martini. Just OK  (Salty's on Alki makes the best pear martini ever. Period. End of discussion)


We we ordered several things and shared. The Ahi tartar was amazing. fresh, crisp and delicious.

Oh, how I wished I'd stopped.

We shared crab cakes. I took one bite. One bite right into a large piece of cartilage.


Being the adventuresome type, I figure to give crab another go and selected the crab bisque.

Looked and smelled amazing. Rich creamy soup with large chunks of crab clearly visible.

The first taste...

BLECH! SALT LICK! So clearly over reduced.

Regaining my composure (business dinner and all) I figured "hey, at least enjoy the pieces of crab!"

"YUM!" I think as the spoon full of crab approaches my mouth.

"DAMMIT!" I think as another piece of crab cartilage assaults my dental work.

Seriously? This is a junior level mistake.


Halibut Cheeks were one of the specials of the day. If you've never had them and get the opportunity, don't pass them up. They're the sweetest most succulent part of the fish.

These were done with a beurre blanc and capers.....and almonds. I did not understand the almonds at all. Maybe to add texture? I just picked them off.

Overall the fish was OK. But at the price, I want awesome.


The view, location and decor, all stunning. Really truly stunning.

The service was excellent. Attentive without being cloying. The waiter was truly horrified by my continuous crustacean challenges.

Food? meh. Seriously, I've had much much better and half the price.

Overall I'd rate it a C+

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lone Star Cafe, San Antonio

Oh, San Antonio.......

She Said:

So, I had never been to the great state of Texas, and after enjoying a celebrity chef experience, we decided to hoof it around the River Walk and get dinner (well, that and we didn't have a car, so bi-pedal locomotion really was our only option)

That said, it Texas! It's BIG! Ranches! MEAT!


That was my first mistake.

As it was a Saturday night, we expected a wait. Hey, what's that? A bar? Well, alrighty then. I had my first Coronarita.

It won't be my last.

Hello Lover.

We were finally seated at the farthest table from the entrance. It was really freaking cold. In the whole place, outside, there were 2 working heaters (That were near the front. People were huddled around them like characters in a Jack London novel)


We decided to share the stuffed jalapenos. Please note, I'd had my first stuffed jalapeno the day before (yes, I'm a hot food sissy) and liked it. A lot. So, we decided to try them again.

I get that it's a busy restaurant, but these were so obviously frozen (and not good frozen) I could pick these up in the grocery store.


Wow, iceberg, a tomato wedge, ranch dressing and some dead bread. Last time I dined that well I was having lunch in the cafeteria at North Farmington HS.

Seriously, why did they bother?


So I had the rib-eye (my absolute FAVORITE CUT EVER), the big guy had a strip.

My Steak was cook properly, but paper thin. Kudos to the chef who can get a mid-rare on a steak you could read a newspaper through. Seriously, I want that guy at my next BBQ.

Side was a baked potato. It was so steaming hot the butter wouldn't even melt. Seriously. Or, it may have been piping hot but froze on it's journey through the wasted tundra; the location of our table.

The Big Guy's steak was also a perfect medium. Their grill-man is a genius.

We decided to splurge and go for the extra charge for his side to be mac and cheese.


This was a disaster. Cold (perhaps again the tundra effect), pasty, unseasoned drek. Awful.


OK, we're in the south...Peach Cobbler! Perfect!

Yea, not so much. OK, when 2 people who are still hungry can't finish their dessert, it's bad.



Seriously, we had trouble identifying the peaches they were so overpowered by starch and sugar.

Luckily, one thing did manage the passage to the tundra successfully, the ice cream on the cobbler! Yes, it was still perfectly frozen!


Major suckage, and that's not the residual effects of hypothermia talking.

NOTHING except the cocktail was good. And the service. Our waiter was pretty good. Oh yea, and the bartender was kinda cute. But I came for dinner, not to find a date (had one!)

Overall, D- (because neither of us got sick afterwords. I figured they deserved a little love for not giving us food poisoning)

Luke, San Antonio TX

Ok, I think we can all unashamedly admit we're suckers for a celebrity chef. Along that vein, being in San Antonio, we decided to try Luke.

She Said:
 Admittedly, we were early for our reservation, but the restaurant wasn't full yet for Friday service, so they were easily able to seat us immediately. Big point there.

They showed us to likely the worst table in the dining room. Seriously, in what appeared to be an atrium in the middle of the room. Cozy? Intimate? Not so much. Feeling like a monkey at the zoo? Yep, that captured it.

My beloved, though, stopped the hostess in her tracks, and requested another table. Whew.

Our server greeted us promptly, and took the order for our pre-flight cocktail. Off to a great start!

I need to preface this whole review with a bit of knowledge on one of our dining idiosyncrasies.

I know this is not the feminist point of view, but I like it occasionally when I don't even look at the menu and my beloved makes all the decisions. I know, I know...but it's true. I ask, and he delightfully obliges.

So, for my appetizer, Gulf Oysters on the half shell.

They were OK. Serviceable. I guess I just like our NW variety better. Not bad, nothing to write home about.

He had the lump Blue Crab Salad with Avocado.

This was so freaking good we almost came to blows. We share, but I didn't want to share this. I would have happily wrestled him (and potentially added a few illegal jabs and pokes to get more than my fair share). It was perfectly seasoned, clean fresh and crisp.


He ordered me the Shrimp Etouffee. Now, Etouffee is defined as "Étouffée or etouffee (pronounced: [e.tu.fe] ay-TOO-fay) is a dish found in both Cajun and creole cuisine typically served with shellfish over rice"

This came on penne pasta. Why not call it a Cajun Shrimp Pasta? This in no way resembled etouffee. It was, OK. Again, serviceable, but not worth ordering again or the price. Maybe a step above Olive Garden. Maybe.

And yes, so you know, I don't have a beef with Olive Garden.

He had the steak. It was flavorful and cooked perfectly. The sides...oh so so sad.

The kale was a horrible drab greyish green. Taste matched. There was also this weird piece of marble rye Bread on the plate under the kale. It was like a piece of bread trying to escape "Midnight Express" style from the kitchen, just peeking out to make sure it hadn't been followed by the Sous Chef.


So we decided to share, even though we were hoofing it back to the hotel (CARDIO!) but hey, there are limits.

We had the lemon tart with candied cranberries and fresh ginger ice cream. Each component was really really good. The ice cream was amazing. Together though? The ginger ice cream with the lemon tart was just...weird. Not too bad, but not completely pleasant. The tart, however, rocked.


Our server was just a delight. Amazed us when we found out it was her first solo night on the floor (we only discovered this when we flummoxed her on the wine list).

Wine selections were nice. We actually ended up having a great conversation with the manager about Russian River wines vs. Napa. He was delightful, and the service was top notch. Really. And I can be a bit of a bitch when service sucks.

Overall, Service A, food B. Feeling generous, I would rate the whole experience an A-.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Prohibition Gastropub, Everett, WA

We'd heard Gordon Ramsay had done his schtick here, so we thought we'd give it a try. What can I say, we're suckers for a restaurant on the edge!

She Said:
First, I hate the term "Gastropub". I know it's the chic new term for upscale comfort food in a casual setting, but to me in just sounds like a medical term for intestinal blockage. I hope this trend ends soon. I really do.

The decor was really nice. Felt like a 20's speak easy and the place was hopping!

Had a very nice cocktail at the bar, although the bartender seemed hesitant to give suggestions. Not sure why. Cocktails were also a bit spendy but not enough to make me choke.

I had the fish and crab cakes. They were really really good. Perfect, crispy and just yummy. The yummy where you don't want anyone to talk to you while you're eating kind of yummy. Yummy I just wanted to eat more of them yummy.

My husband had the duck salad. This is listed as a starter, but be warned, it's REALLY big. A leg and a thigh on the bed of greens big. This is an entree sized salad big.

That said, it was freaking delicious. Duck was beautifully done; golden and crispy. I don't remember much about the greens, I was really focused on the duck, it was that good. Not to denigrate the vegetarian's out there, but we like meat and unless someone has done something new! amazing! fresh! greens are pretty much just greens in my world.

Except Arugula. I LOVE arugula. retrospect how we wish we'd stopped after the starters. Great cocktails! Amazing starter! Lovely Wine! Intimate fun atmosphere! But no......we went further.

I had the Short Rib Stroganoff. I love Short Ribs with a deep and abiding passion that transcends all understanding. I felt personally betrayed by this dish.

This tasted like shredded bit of Chuck is weirdish sauce over store bought egg noodles. I really wanted to love this, I truly did. For $16 I wanted more than a bowl of egg noodles with a really small portion of what tasted like pot roast. Seriously, this was like Denny's food. I left most of it in the bowl.

My husband had the Salmon. While I've previously discussed our individual takes on Salmon (and to their credit, they wanted to cook it mid-rare). So, that said, Salmon had a weird mealy texture. Flavors were nice, texture was not nice. He'll doubtless have more too add here.

But did we stop there? Nope. We forged ahead to dessert!

Ok, by this point we were really full, but wanted to try a dessert. We decided to share the apple crumble.

Weird, mushy and tasted slightly burned. My husband actually made the waitress try a bite.

Overall, I think a great place for a cocktail and maybe a nibble. I really enjoyed everything up to the entree. So half the evening? I think overall that rates a solid C.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bay Street Bistro, Port Orchard WA

We've been coming to this place basically since it open. Time to share....

She Said:
This is a small cozy restaurant. While parking can be a moderate challenge, there's plenty of parking just across the street. I've heard people complain but really, it's less than a city block. This is a 21 and over only restaurant which I both love and hate. I love being able to have a quiet grown up dinner with the man, but I'd also like to be able to bring in my foodie teenage boys.

Never wait more than about 30 seconds when you walk in to be greeted. It's a small place where they get to know you.

They always greet you at the table with an aperitif. I love it. I don't always love the choice (although the apfel liquor was yummy) I just love the concept. An aperitif just seems so....civilized.

I almost always order off the specials sheet. It's inevitably interesting and super fresh.

We shared the grilled bruschetta with red onion marmalade and goat cheese. HOLY CRAP! I didn't chip a tooth! Bruschetta always scares me a bit (well, it's actually the fear of a large dental bill. Seriously, I've had some you could drive a nail with). There was a little too much of the onion jam and not enough goat cheese for my taste, but it was still yummy, and I just removed some of the jam. The toast was crispy, warm and nicely grilled.

This appetizer DID NOT work with my glass of Pinot Gris but my husband's Merlot was great with it. Yes, I likely drank too much of his wine, but it was goooood and he loves me so I can get away with it.

The winter greens, pear and pecorino salad was good. Not amazing but good. While whole rings of sweet onion look pretty, I hate having to take a knife to a salad. Could just be me. I think I just may be a bit of a salad snob. I get the concept of charging for a salad since, for most people, it's a bit of a throw away course. I just want it to be special or not at all.

Ok, yea. I'm a salad snob.

I ordered off the special sheet, ignoring my go-to rib-eye which, while spendy, is yummy when you just need a beautiful hunk of meat. Occasionally you just have to obey the inner carnivore. Well, at least I do.

The local Arctic Char was grilled with just sea salt and olive oil and served over wilted greens. It was perfect. I wanted to rub it in my hair and on my face. Roll around in it and purr. In just retribution for the earlier Merlot incident, my husband ate what was likely too much of my dinner. I considered this open warfare and dove into his steak.

They also serve the garnishes family style, putting the plate of roasted veggies in the middle of the table. I love this. I loved the carrots. I loved the potatoes. I hated the broccoli. Seriously, roasted broccoli is gross. The flowers are just dry, brown...yuck. And I truly and deeply love broccoli. Not like I love a great martini or a beautifully cooked steak, but as veggies go, it's in my top 5 and I will openly pursue it.

We decided to share one of the home made ice creams. This was not a good choice. It was freezer burned and crystallized. They offered us something else and removed it from the bill. Couldn't really ask for anything more. At this point we were both uncomfortably full, and passed on further sweets.

Always great. Servers are sweet, knowledgeable and don't hover. I hate hovering. I come for dinner to relax with my husband. I hate it when I feel stalked.

Chef owner always comes out and does a spin through the dining room. Always eager to hear feedback.

Overall, I'd rate it an A-. A tad spendy, but you know you're going to get something fresh and well prepared, receive excellent service in a cozy environment. If something's wrong, they make it right. To me, a good restaurant is not about everything being flawless, but how they recover. We'll definitely be back.