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Dinner at Zhu Dang, Capitol Hill

We decided to try this chinese fusion place because of seattle restaurant week, and there were some hits and misses. I would still recommend this as a good place to dine, but not for super authentic chinese food, just well done chinese-y food.

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We had the diver scallop chips, also known as keropok in the part of the world that invented this. It doesn’t have the same texture as scallop, but does have a really strong scallop taste due to the scallop being mashed up into the paste/chip that is then deep fried. Great with thai sweet chilli sauce, which they do not have. Not sure if it’s worth the $4 since this is typically served as an appetizer in most Indonesian restaurants, but prawn flavoured instead of scallop flavoured and is more flour than scallop.

Zhu Dang SRW
The pan-fried turnip cake was the most disappointing dish of the day – it was really solid and tough, and not tender like typical turnip/radish cake found in Hong Kong or Singapore. The flour to water ratio is totally off. I would not recommend this!

Zhu Dang SRW
Their Sheng Jian Bao are not bad, but not true “sheng jian bao” in the original sense of the word. For pretty legit sheng jian bao, I would go to Doughzone Dumpling House where they pan sear proper bao, with the fluffy pastry skin and all. This was more like xiao long baos that have been pan fried. Good, but not quite what “sheng jian bao” means.

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The San Bei Ji was really fragrant and really good! Try to finish it though because it doesn’t reheat well. The sauce was full of all the right spices and was sweet and sticky.

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Our favourite dish of the night was the five types of mushrooms braised in a clay pot – the braising sauce is heavy on the ginger and tastes amazing over the steamed white rice they serve it with.

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We had a pretty innovative chinese fusion dessert – Pu Erh Creme Brulee. The tea taste was strong but not distinctly pu erh, still it was a great creme brulee! It’s a pretty good idea to try to incorporate fragrant chinese teas into western desserts.

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We ordered a sunrise soda since it sounded pretty interesting – guava and… passionfruit? juice. Not bad, but definitely not as fresh tasting as the fresh squeezed lemonade at the Georgian.

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Dinner at Staple & Fancy, Ballard

We came here for the restaurant week menu and we loved it! Of course we’ve never met an Ethan Stowell Restaurant that has disappointed us so far.

The SRW menu here featured a bunch of small plates for appetizers – you get all of the little bites in the appetizer section, not just one.
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First up was a plate of prosciutto and pecorino. I thought the pecorino could be stronger but this was pretty good as is.

Staple & Fancy SRW
Seared albacore tuna, which I didn’t eat except for the cooked edges, which had a really nice charred taste

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Foie gras mousse on baguette toasties – definitely the highlight of the meal. The foie gras mousse was so light and creamy and decadent, smeared on a hunk of macrina baguette and drizzled with olive oil – it doesn’t get better than this.

Staple & Fancy SRW
Caesar salad with anchovy dressing was not bad, finally a place in Seattle that does it properly with lots of anchovies instead of lemon juice.

Staple & Fancy SRW
Arancini in marinara sauce and fried basil – this was a pretty dense ball of risotto mixed with mozzarella cheese. It went well with the marinara sauce – don’t think arancini could be served without!

Staple & Fancy SRW
Arancini cross section – look at that cheese.

Staple & Fancy SRW
Z got the culotte steak, which was three generous wodges of steak perfectly done (they don’t ask you what level of doneness you like it, because there’s only one correct answer) – even I ate it. It was really pink inside but did not taste gamey at all.

Staple & Fancy SRW
I got the braised pork loin and maitake rigatoni which was absolutely delicious. The pork loin was the tenderest pork loin ever and went really nicely with the maitake in a creamy, porky, wine-y sauce.

Staple & Fancy SRW
For dessert, Z got the lime panna cotta with rhubarb compote. It was a bright green, and we forgot what flavour it was so we thought it was matcha. Turned out to be lime, and is extremely sour, almost like a yoghurty sorbet-y custard. We probably wouldn’t order it again! The zestiness totally overcame the idea of panna cotta as a light, creamy dessert.

Staple & Fancy SRW
I had my chocolate terrine as usual, only they don’t serve it with candied macadamias here like in Mkt but with regular macadamias. Still it was really delicious.

I called the place up at the last minute (15 minutes before we arrived at the restaurant) and managed to reserve a spot at the bar. When we arrived there was a line of people waiting outside. There are merits to sitting at a table (more quiet, more spacious, you can have a nice private conversation) but sitting at the bar is definitely the way to go. You get to watch everybody working in the kitchen, feel the heat (900F) from the wood fired grill and appreciate all the work that goes into preparing your food. The bartender is a delight to talk to, as are the other patrons at the bar. Everyone is in everyone else’s business, your bar mates will have no qualms talking to you to find out what that delicious thing you’re eating is so they can order the same. We met this Greek guy there who told us that their grilled whole branzino was perfect, even though it was farm-raised :P We’ll definitely be back to try that – we saw the grill guy flip the fish on the wood fired grill and it looked fantastic.

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Dinner at Mkt., Tangletown

We came here for a quick bite since Z’s aunt sent us a $200 gift card to the Ethan Stowell Restaurants and we wanted to take pictures of the food to show her. This is the ESR closest to us (a 10 minute drive?) and is a kind of tiny space, but with a really good view of the chef’s process. I like sitting up by the bar watching them do their thing. They’re incredibly skillful and professional, I highly recommend the experience for any aspiring cook.

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We ordered the macrina baguette

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with tapenade and herbed butter – both were really good but I preferred the tapenade a little more.

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Their cute herbed butter disks comes in a tube like polenta and they just slice it off in petals of five onto little dishes for when anyone orders the baguette.

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We got the spiced duck confit, which was slightly different from a regular duck confit (in terms of the curing) but really tender and buttery. We saw the duck legs come in a huge metal tray, completely covered in duck fat. The chef would then scrabble around in the duck fat foraging for a good number of duck legs to get by for the rest of the night and set them aside. We try not to think about the humongous amount of fat in that tray.

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The server recommended the grilled green beans with lemon and sea salt, and I saw them come out from the grill in these little glass cups and thought I definitely need some of that. ESR are really good at grilled vegetables. They have a really hot wood fired grill that makes everything that comes off it taste amazing, especially drizzled with their house olive oil. This is what all green beans aspire to.

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We also ordered seared scallops with baked salsify chips, which added a nice crunch and also a slightly piquant, licorice-y taste. The scallops were perfect, the cauliflower puree (I think? or it could be parsnip) was perfect, I could have had two plates of this to myself. We shared, of course.

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The female chef searing these was REALLY skillful at making sure the meats that she grills/sears are done perfectly. We watched her throw a batch of slightly over-charred asparagus spears away forlornly. She tests all the meat that comes off her pans with her palm for both temperature and texture, and she handled so many saute pans on the stove at the same time, I wish I could be her apprentice.

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Of course I got my chocolate terrine with candied macadamias and salted caramel sauce, which was amazing as usual. Best dessert I’ve had in Seattle so far. The french press coffee here is not bad either!

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High Tea at Le Panier, Pike Place

I’ve been curious about this place ever since I saw svon’s macaron photos on instagram, so we finally made a trip out here after visiting the Seattle aquarium. The french pastries here are out of this world.

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We had a really fantastic coffee eclair – look at the pretty glassy glaze! The choux pastry was not bad, and the eclair was generously filled with coffee custard. None of that slitting it in half for you, it was properly piped in through a hole at one end.

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The hazelnut chocolate cake was a little like a truffle cake – a little dacquoise on the bottom, a beautifully rich chocolate truffle middle, with cocoa nibs dusted on the side. Amazing.

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The croissant au beurre or butter croissant was really flaky and buttery, hands down the best croissant I’ve had in Seattle so far. (Fresh flours is second) I toasted this the next day and stuffed it with a creamy tuna salad and it was amazing.

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The friand, or financier is a dense-ish little buttery cake. Very sinful but also really worth it.

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The coeur du france, or palmier, which I have still been saving (the best for last).

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We ate the chouquette hot out of the oven (they were restocking it when I was ordering, so of course I couldn’t resist). They were AMAZING warm. Chouquette are basically empty choux puffs (instead of cream puffs) that are studded with coarse sugar granules.

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I ordered a medium cappuccino just to wash all the unhealthiness down with a full fat coffee :P Their coffee game is decent.

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We had a ham and cheese pastry – I think they may have called it a ‘Mornay’, since the croissant is stuffed with ham, slathered with mornay, and then topped with shredded cheese. It was very good.

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Even better was the dauphinois feuillete, a puff pastry square filled with a potato/bacon mash. I regret not ordering more of this. It doesn’t look like much since the pastry is so pale, but it was really mindblowing.

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Their macarons (chocolate, noisette, passionfruit, cafe shown here) are slightly denser than I’m used to but with a nice crisp shell and a pretty sturdy cookie. I prefer them lighter, like the original macarons in Paris, but these are pretty good too.

We didn’t eat all of this at one go, of course. It was spread out of several meals and snacks :P But seeing how we’re so infrequently at Pike Place (parking issues, as usual), it was well worth it to make such a large purchase while we were there. The total came up to $39.05, which I think is pretty reasonable given the level of skill required to bake all of this!

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Pictures from Easter dinner

This is an account of our easter dinner this year… for two :P

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I made green bean casserole according to C’s recipe. It calls for Worcestershire sauce (which no college student has… unless maybe you’re British) so we substituted some oyster sauce (same color and consistency and everything :P I do NOT recommend this substitution in general) and it became really salty, but still quite nice :)

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The glazed ham from QFC that was only $1.88/lb! I took a photo and showed it to my mum. Hormel provides a convenient little glaze sachet for you to mix with water and spoon over the ham yourself during the high heat stage. It’s spiral cut, and I found the slices really quite thick (and unsuitable for ham and cheese sandwiches after). Most of it was diced into omelettes and I still have a huge hunk of it in my fridge :(

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Deviled eggs – my favourite part of the easter meal. Best with some paprika and snipped chives on top.

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Overview of everything on the table. My second favourite part of Easter dinner is Kings Hawaiian rolls toasted in the still warm oven and then smeared with butter. So good! Especially when the butter melts. Always use salted butter. It’s also soft and sticky and slightly sweet, just like the bread we get in Singaporean bakeries and makes me think of home.

My least favourite part of Easter dinner (when I used to eat it with my churchmates back in Ithaca) would be jello salad. Sometimes they call it fruit salad. I thought (and still think) mixing fruit wantonly with jello and mayonnaise and miracle whip is kind of disgusting. Maybe not if you’ve eaten it all your life. But it just reeks of one of those depression era recipes released either by Kraft or Jello just to make you buy more of their product to make a quick, fuss-free meal that one -just- might get used to eating.

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Dinner at Purple Dot Cafe, International District

We came here for dinner one night before doing groceries at Uwajimaya. It was rainy and cold and we were too lazy to walk far from Uwajimaya village so we just popped into this place. I’d say the food was decent but you’d need to know what to order. I went to Yelp for some ideas and someone recommended the beef hor fun in egg gravy but I didn’t like it at all!

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We got the Cajun wings, aka salt and pepper chicken. This is amazing, one of the best fried chicken I’ve had in Seattle so far, and better than all the korean fried places I’ve tried. They also salt and pepper tofu and maybe salt and pepper calamari but it went perfectly with this.

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Close up of the wings. They were really juicy and crisp and even heated nicely in the toaster the next day. It’s a pretty large plate and kinda difficult to finish.

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The beef hor fun in egg sauce. They have a dry one too that might be nicer. I thought the egg gravy was really 1-dimensional and unnecessarily salty. It was a really humongous plate! More like a trough, really, which is kind of off-putting to me. I wouldn’t order it again!

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The XO fried seafood was very good though, lots of wok hei and some really nice XO sauce. It’s a little greasy but totally worth it. There are no scallops, just some small prawns, sliced fish balls, cuttlefish, and fish slices with snap peas, celery and onions. XO seafood is best with scallops! And you DO get scallops if you order their hotplate seafood option, so I don’t know why they don’t put it in this one when the price is the same.

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The HK milk tea was thick, powerful, and a little less sweet than usual. I liked it!

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Lunch at Bamboo Village, Wallingford

We came here for dimsum first with some math folks on a Sunday afternoon (when they push those little carts around), but the dimsum menu is actually available all week long, just without the carts on weekdays. We’d always thought this restaurant looked a little bit shady with “egg drop soup” and stuff like that that is totally not Chinese. They also have a cute banner outside that says “LUNCH SET. Come with steam rice and egg roll” which is ambiguous about whether their lunch sets COME with steamed rice and an egg roll or if you are to go to the restaurant armed with your “steam rice” and egg roll. The lunch sets seem pretty affordable and also generously portioned (we peeked at other people’s orders). Us, we were there for the dim sum. I actually found it more difficult to order with the carts on weekends because they only put popular dimsum on the carts and the kind of dimsum that I like (yam dumplings and deep fried beancurd skin rolls) had to be “specially ordered”, and “specially ordered” there is slang for “tell the waitress what you want and it shall be promptly forgotten”. That doesn’t happen on weekdays where you have a proper menu and everything and can write down the numbers of the dishes that you want. I also feel like the dimsum on weekdays are hence more freshly prepared, instead of circulating the room on a cart until someone picks it up.

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We had the Zha leong, which is a deep fried chinese cruller wrapped in chee cheong fun pastry. Their regular cheong funs with shrimp or charsiew are much nicer. This was kind of large and the you tiao inside was pretty greasy. They also served it with a slightly fermented bean paste sauce, but we requested for the regular soy based cheong fun sauce.

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The taro dumplings are lovely, crispy nests of smooth mashed taro with savoury pork filling inside. This is one of my favourite dimsums but lesser known here. They’re a little bit greasy too, as is almost everything deep fried here which ought to be drained on paper towels.

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Their baked charsiew buns, which has a more yeasty chinese bakery pastry instead of mantou pastry. They have regular steamed charsiew baos too, but this is glazed with a sticky honey mixture that’s pretty nice.

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We really liked their siew mai! Over the one in Jade Garden actually. It was well seasoned, bouncy, and had large chunks of shrimp inside. It was pretty popular at the math lunch with other americans.

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Another favourite of mine – fried beancurd skin rolls filled with pork, turnip, shiitake, and shrimp (I think). They were huge and crisp and piping hot inside. You can probably ask the waitress to snip it up for you with their huge kitchen shears since it’s the size of a spring roll.

The dimsum here is pretty decent and I’d definitely come back seeing it’s so near my place and you can get ice cream from Fainting Goat after :P There’s a groupon for fainting goat ice cream now! $11 for $18, so you can pay as little as $13 for 2 pints of Fainting Goat gelato, which is super creamy and soft and amazing.

They also have restaurant parking! So that’s one less thing to worry about when dining here.