Monday, April 18, 2016

Eating BIG in Seattle

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and much more in Seattle

I took my inaugural visit to Seattle recently and ate really well. It was actually my first trip to the Northwest which is every bit as beautiful as the postcards portray it to be. Just a quick three nights so we stayed in city limits but I hope to get back sometime in the summer and do some exploring and outdoor sightseeing.

Greetings from Seattle

Never been to Japan, though that will change, but I've been fascinated with the food culture ever since I started reading all about it which in many cases happened over at LTHforum. Since Seattle has a nice sized Japanese population I was excited to scope out the scene there. I'll start this report out with all the Japanese spots I got to though I really only scratched the surface as there were handfuls of other spots I wanted to try but we only had so much time.

Corner Shot in International District

First up would be an Izakaya with roots in Vancouver. I liked what I read and then saw on them. They're open all day and were a short 20 minute walk from our downtown Hotel so it was the perfect first stop.

Suika Seattle

The atmosphere inside was pretty relaxed, as was everywhere else in Seattle. I knew what we were here for and wasted no time in getting the lady fed. First up was an order of Smoked Tataki with sesame soy dressing and housemade chili oil. Simply outstanding. I'm sure the fact this was the first thing we ate all day played a part but it was also pretty much the only thing on this trip we ordered a second round of, aside from oysters and cocktails of course. You get to try a little more this way.

Smoked Tuna Tataki

Moving onto the Grilled Yellowtail Cheek with grated daikon and umami soy. Every bit as good as the tuna tataki. This was a great opening act for what was to come later on in the trip.

Grilled Yellowtail Cheek

We also got a round of Battera aka Osaka style pressed sushi where wooden blocks are used to mold the rice. I believe mackerel is the common topping in this style and it's usually lightly seared as it was here. Another tasty dish.

Aburi Saba Battera

While it's no longer an active enclave the Japantown district in Seattle still has some interesting remnants from it's heyday as it's said to be the most intact historic Japanese American district in the U.S. It's located in the International District which is where I headed to check out the Uwajimaya Market which is basically like Mitsuwa Market times twenty. I browsed through some things but because I carried on my luggage I wouldn't be able to bring back any sauces, whiskeys, or anything else fun. But I did hit up the food court.

Tako Kyuuban Takoyaki

Had to stop for an order of Takoyaki. These little balls of batter and octopus were good but I feel like they could've been been slightly more browned. But then again I've never eaten these on the streets of Osaka so I'm not too well versed in them. But I thought the Love Balls Bus in Austin was better. Though still enjoyed these.


Upon entering Uwajimaya Market I spied a food truck parked across the street and then again when leaving. I wandered over and was soon greeted by the sweet smell of fresh cooked waffles.

BeanFish Food Truck

These guys are cooking up made to order Taiyaki which is a favorite Japanese sweet consisting of a waffle shaped fish stuffed with some sort of filling. Most common being red bean paste. So although there were some really delicious sounding options I stuck with the Jiro "a.ka. the original; sweetened organic azuki bean."


Staying in the International District I had wanted to catch the Sweet 16 games on Friday night and had the perfect stop to do, while eating food of course. Located on the second floor of the building pic'd below is a neighborhood drinking/eating favorite.

Fort St. George

Fort St. George labels itself as a different kind of sports bar and while there is a bar frequented by older regulars there's also a dining area frequented by younger couples and families out to eat. Foodwise they specialize in Yoshoku which is Japanese interpretation of western cuisine. More commonly known dishes like Tonkatsu (Fried pork Cutlet) are served as are less known plates like Hamburg Steak and Tarako Spaghetti. I was all over the Doria which is a rice casserole that has a Swiss connection. I chose it with bacon and mushrooms, half and half. That being half bechamel sauce and half tomato. Loved this dish. It was perfect with a few cold Asahi's. It all made up for the crappy pre-HD TV's they had at the bar. This place isn't for those looking for a nice night out. It's anything but fancy.

Bacon / Mushroom Doria

Umi Sake House is located downtown. Because of that as well as the fact they sport couple different Happy Hours it's a popular spot for both tourists and locals.

Umi Sake House

If you're staying downtown this place makes for a nice spot to grab a drink. I'm just getting well versed in Sake and learned some stuff here. Happy Hour is around the normal post work time and then also later in the night after 11p. The menu for it offers a bunch of different options both cooked and raw. We ordered a few to go with the booze. Good stuff, maybe not great as great as elsewhere around town, but better then you're finding in any landlocked areas.

Sashimi Platter

Tuna Poke

Crunchy Prawns wrapped in Ramen

With the two hour fallback I was up pretty early for West Coast time. Not much on offer in the early hours, especially if you're not big on breakfast to begin with. But I did find a cute little old school Asian-American style diner.

Mia's Off Broadway

I had read some reviews that made this place sound like Seattle's version of Hamburger King (now Rice 'n Bread). As soon as I entered it felt just like that classic Asian-American diner you'll find here and there. There was a couple behind the counter and a few regulars sipping coffee. Can't do a trip to Seattle without chowing on some teriyaki. It's as commonly found there as the hot dog is here. Every Seattlean? / Seattleite? has a spot for teriyaki in the same way we have a spot(s) for hot dogs. Mia's is located right next to a Seattle College so it's easy to see why it's so popular. Big plate of food with both juicy (on the inside) and crispy (on the edges) bites of dark meat chicken. Perfect with some white rice drizzled with the teriyaki sauce that dripped off.

Chicken Teriyaki Plate

Sticking with the Japanese fast food options I kind of wanted to try Katsu Burger when reading up on spots and then decided to do so when we were near there. Place was packed for lunch.

Katsu Burger

This is a local fast food spot with a few locations in Seattle. I guess you could say they specialize in Asian Fusion burgers. They're putting Japanese ingredients into a burger focused menu. I believe katsu is short for katsuretsu, the Japanese word for cutlet. Burgers here come in beef, pork, or even chicken cutlets and are dressed in a variety of ways. I rolled with the Katsu Curry option which comes with a Natural Pork Cutlet topped with American cheese, curry mayo, tonkatsu sauce. Everything includes cabbage, tomatoes, red onions, and pickles. This was a mighty sandwich, tasty too. The side of Nori Fries are kind of blurred but they were also awesome.

Katsu Curry Burger with Nori Fries

Last up from my Japanese Eats portion of the trip was the best part of the trip. I knew I wanted some sushi while in town. A little bit of research led me to a few spots. One of the most popular places is Shiro's which was formerly owned by Seattle legend Shiro Kashiba until he sold it. Though he recently opened a new spot called Sushi Kashiba inside Pike Place Market. Problem with that was they don't take reservations at the sushi bar thus getting there when they open at 5p is best bet to indulge in the Omakase. But Pike Place was packed all weekend when we visited so I wasn't sure we'd get a spot there. Enter Wataru.

Sushi Wataru

I read up on this place in a recent Seattle Times article as it opened not to long ago. Chef Kotaro, the owner, trained under Seattle icon Shiro Kashiba who was a longtime student of Jiro Ono in Ginza. He told the story of when he joined Shiro at Jiro's spot as well as a bunch of other interesting stuff as he stuffed us up. Really nice guy, and very proud of his work. As he should be.

Chef at Work

Chef Kotaro explained how it took him over ten years of training to feel confident in opening his own spot where he's specializing in Edomae style sushi. So don't go in expecting any California Rolls. He's using a combination of fish flown in that morning from Tsukiji Market in Tokyo as well as some locally supplied product such as Sockeye Salmon, King Crab, and Geoduck. We were there for the Chef's Choice Omakase but had to start with an order of Black Cod Cheeks. HOLY SH!T. Straight butter. Best thing I've ate in forever.

Black Cod Cheek

I was able to reserve some seats at the bar (5:30 / 7:30 seating times) where we would indulge in the Chef's Choice Omakase. He throws together a bunch of amazing extra fresh stuff and you just eat until you cant anymore.

Sockeye Salmon

King Crab 

 Amber Jack

For us that was after round 22. Not going to post all the pics but I will share some. Wataru is small as it only has six seats at the bar and 16 at tables. But you really want to sit at the bar and do the omakase. Reserve your spot if in or headed to Seattle soon. Word is starting to spread!

Tuna Two Ways - Zuke

Spot Prawn (complete)

 Uni (Sea Urchin)

Then there's everything else. It was enjoyed. As I mentioned up above I didn't get to hit many of the spots I had hoped for but did save my google maps guide. Seattle is quite a large city so I used to it figure out what spots were near others so I wasn't going from one end of the city to the other and back and forth. Gotta make a stop at Pike Place Market if you're an inaugural visitor which I was.

Pike Place Market

It was a nice 60 degree day on the Saturday we walked over and thus it was a madhouse. It actually made the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco seem tame. I got a nice chuckle when I saw a line extending almost a block long and came to realize it was a Starbucks when walking by. I assume it's the original. Another long line spotted for a place called Piroshky Piroshky which is pushing Russian Pirozhki.

Piroshky Piroshky

Wasn't going to wait then and there but I did walk back down this way on our last day and decided to give them a try. Pirozhki are baked buns stuffed with a variety of fillings. Everything from hearty to fruity. I tried a beef and onion option and liked it. Good for a quick snack but not something I would wait in a long ass line for.

Beef and Onion Pirozhki

The place in Pike Place that should have lines out the door is a semi new spot from Seattle's locally famous Szechuan chef. It sits tucked away thru a hall and up some stairs but it's easy to find with the signs leading you there.

Country Dough

The star of the show here is the Guo Kui. The premiere street food of Chengdu, China. They're flatbread sandwiches where the dough is sizzled in oil and crisped up in the oven. They're labor intensive and require high turnover thus Pike Place is the perfect spot for this shop.

Making Flatbread

They offer a few different meats and a veggie filling in a few different styles. I loved the Szechuan chicken version which was both sweet and spicy with a wonderful texture in the bread. I tried to return but they weren't open yet. Would've liked to have tried a lamb cumin flatbread and taken an order of hand shaven noodles home. They also do Chinese Crepes and Meat Wraps and offer an assortment of teas. Definitely worth a stop on your Seattle food itinerary.

Szechuan Chicken Guo Kui

If there was one spot I was going to make sure I made it to, Din Tai Fung was it. With a location in Seattle now, as well as Bellevue, this was my chance to finally try the Taiwanese based Soup Dumpling giant.

Din Tai Fung

I got there maybe 20 minutes before opening and a line was already forming. This would be a commonplace on this trip, lots of lines in Seattle. I was able to snag a seat at the bar and immediately placed my order for a Pork/Crab Xiao Long Bao as well as an order of Shrimp/Pork Shao Mai.

Xiao Long Bao

I thought these were going to be better. Not that they were bad but they weren't better than an order I had in Dallas recently and that umami bomb of both crab and pork flavor just wasn't there. Some of the spots I went to in Frisco gave off much bigger explosions. These just didn't seem to live up to the hype or the $14 pricetag though I'm sure they vary by location.

Shrimp/Pork Shao Mai

The Shao Mai were a bit better but again not as good as I was hoping. Thought the skin could've been more delicate. I probably went in expecting the best dumplings ever so the bar was set high.

Making Dumplings at Din Tai Fung

Not a big brunch guy but when on vacation it's all about having a good time and where there's brunch there's booze. There's lots of Vietnamese food to be found all over town ranging from pool hall grub to chef driven spots in hip and happening neighborhoods.


Her pick for a spot to meet up at after I finished over at DTF. No counter offer from me as the brunch menu here actually looked appealing with the dim sum part of the menu standing out. So even though I had just put down 20 something dumplings I was ready for more.

Shrimp Wonton

These wonton were a candidate for best bite of the trip. First and foremost as far as why was the shrimp itself. Nice sized specimens still fully intact were full of succulent shrimp flavor and the skin was perfectly crisp and not too thick. Green onion aside the shrimp had lots of crunch and pungent flavor. If I hadn't ate so much earlier I would've tried more of the dim sum menu as it all looked good. She got the Dungeness Crab Benedict which was loaded with crab meat and served with a side of simple but delicious breakfast potatoes. Everything on the plate was cooked perfectly.

Dungeness Crab Benedict

If looking for some good food and drink late night this place in the Central District is very hip and happening. They're doing Vietnamese Cuisine with Craft Cocktails in an industrial setting.

Ba Bar

Street Food made with local ingredients is the way here. Starting off with an order of Bánh Nậm was a good call by our waiter. Described as Vietnamese tamales these rice based treats get mixed with locally raised pork and cooked in a banana leaf. They were great with the potent dipping sauces served on the side.

Bánh Nậm

Also got the Bún Chả Cá Lã Vọng option from the Vermicelli Bowl portion of the menu. Served with Idaho Catfish, crispy imperial roll, cucumber, dill, roasted peanut, shrimp sauce, turmeric. Very fresh and little substitution of funk but plenty of sauce options on the side to add more should you want to.

Catfish Vermicelli Bowl

Continuing on with the hip Asian spots we head over to the 2015 'Best New Restaurant' in Seattle. Located near the stadium(s) they're doing Korean Style Sssam Plates with Steak and other meaty options.


It's basically a Korean steakhouse and it's huge inside. The design is pretty sweet. Same goes for the food. Just a Happy Hour session here but it still allowed us to try their housemade ginger sauce in ssam form. Got to watch some of the tourney and indulge in some good drinking food. Would head back to further explore the menu if the chance was there.

Ginger Pork Sausage Ssam

I didn't have much of an opportunity to explore some of the less touristy traveled neighborhoods but I did get a chance to break away one day while she looked at dresses. I chose to roll over to the White Center Neighborhood where there's a bunch of different ethnic options. I went with Cambodian food. I know people are starting to detest the word "authentic" but I have to use it here as I didn't feel like I was in Seattle anymore upon entering.

Queen's Deli

Just me and a few locals speaking in native tongue over some coffee. The menu was a whats what of dishes I've never tried. All of it under $10 and in many cases $8. I would wind up settling on the Num Banchuk aka Khmer Noodle. "Old and very traditional noodle soup made from ground lemongrass and spices, served with many kinds of vegetable." This was a vegetarian dish but it still had substance. Underneath all the noodles is a bunch of different greens. I enjoyed it as well as the housemade egg rolls. Hard to find a better deal, so much food, for just $10.

Num Banchuk aka Khmer Noodle with an order of Egg Rolls

Taylor Shellfish is an oyster farm outside of the city that has a few different oyster bar locations within the city. If you can manage to squeeze in during happy hour it's one of the better deals in town. Much cheaper than the regular prices.

Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar

I'm pretty much a fan of all oysters but tend to prefer the cold water west coast options. These were an assortment of Taylor Farms oysters with the Shigoku and Kumamoto being most enjoyed.

Assortment of the days fresh Oysters

Always down to check out a city's doughnut scene and did so at a spot that gets lots of love. General Porpoise is owned by the group behind Seattle heavyweights Walrus & Carpenter as well a The Whale Wins amongst others.

General Porpoise Doughnuts

They're doing custard creme filled doughnuts and coffee. I got an original and loved it. Cant say I've had one like this in Chicago. The shop sits in Capitol Hill right next to Bar Melusine and Bateau which are two other hotspots from the aforementioned group.

Stuffed Doughnuts

As long as I'm talking about Sea Creatures, the Seattle Hospitality Heavyweight, let's get their most popular Seattle food stop up. Here's a place most tourists make it too, and plenty of locals as well.

The Walrus & the Carpenter

Considered by many of professional to the one of the better restaurants not just in Seattle but also the country. Happy Hour is a good time to go but since the oysters are MP you're not getting any sort of crazy good deal. Still the oysters themselves are divine.

View at the Oyster Bar

Aside from the actual dining space being small, the menu is too. Just a few options on top of the oysters. We rolled with an order of Grilled Sardines with Shallots and Walnut Parsley that was just perfect. I'd advise travelers to go early and guarantee yourself a seat though should you have to wait there's a bar next door.

Grilled Sardines with Shallots and Walnut Parsley

The people behind Manolin are former employees of Walrus & Carpenter so we wanted to check them out too. Similar setup although this space is a bit bigger especially if it's warm enough outside where there's a big area surrounding a fire.


Menu setup is also similar to Walrus although there's not any oysters here. The focal point is the wooden grill on display in the open kitchen. That and fish. First order up was a plate of Smoked Salmon that I'm still thinking about.

Smoked Salmon / Dill, Turnip, Mustard Seed, Sour Cream

The salmon itself was as good of smoked salmon as I've had which I guess makes sense considering the area I was in. The flavor combination of smoked salmon and dill with some sort of cream is one that gets me excited and this dish made me happy. After that we had to get a taste of the first halibut of the season. Grilled over the fire this too was a harmonious. The food was good enough to be satisfying at almost any price-point but nothing on the menu on this trip was over $13 so it's an excellent deal and a good way to taste a few things. Highly recommended.

Grilled Halibut / Epazote, Buttermilk Crema, Navy Beans

I'd give the city's cocktail scene a solid B+ not quite on the level of places like Chicago and San Francisco but better than Nashville and others. Canon was as good as the critics say it is, beautiful space as well, whiskey fans should enjoy it. Rumba was the spot for rum drinkers with 100's of bottles on display as well as island vibes as far as food and music. Really liked it there. E.Smith Mercantile was the definition of hipster with a store selling toiletries for your beard as well as bitters in front and a cocktail bar in back. Bathtub Gin & Co. was hidden behind an apartment building in an alley but worth finding. Enjoyed a big boozy coconut drink at Stateside where they're doing elevated Vietnamese food and drink.


Also available for your indulgence is a wide selection of cannabis and cannabis related treats available at the city's Recreational Marijuana Shops. It's not quite like Denver where there's stores all over over but there are about 40 something stores where the average age of those in line is somewhere around 40 years old. Unlike San Francisco, I never really smelled or saw people smoking it so you wouldn't even know unless you visited one of the stores. I doubt much has changed since weed became legal in the state of Washington. Prescription overdoses are probably down though.

Checking out the Menu at Uncle Ike's (for research purposes only)

Continuing on with the drinking spots we were near a place called No Bones that had tiki drinks and a totally vegetarian menu.

No Bones Beach Club

Stopped in for some drinks which were good, not great, but an order of cauliflower wings was enjoyed. These were meaty and sauced well but a tad too big for one bite so a bit of a mess.

Cauliflower Wings

If you talk best sandwiches in Seattle there's always going to be a mention of Paseo which is a spot serving Caribbean style sandwiches. Long story short the owner of that place got in trouble and had to sell his business and did so to a local guy minus the recipes. The new owner then hired the old employees to make the sandwiches like they used to. Not too long after that, the sons of the former owner of Paseo opened up their own spot.

Un Bien

I guess this place is pretty much the same stuff as Paseo but loyalists will tell you which one they like better. Un Bien is known for long lines so I was delightfully surprised to find maybe 3 people in it when we arrived. Got the signature Caribbean Roast Pork Sandwich and it was indeed as glorious of a mess as it was said to be. That pork is cooked in some sort of crack while the onions are memorable and the bread is fantastic. Seattle seems to be an excellent baking city. As good as this was it wasn't even the best sandwich on this trip (read on).

Caribbean Roast Pork Sandwich

Lots of spots to get fish and chips in Seattle and Spud Fish & Chips on Green Lake is a nice place to eat some with the views of the water across the street.

Spud Fish & Chips

Cool looking spot and I love the old time places (Since 1935) but these F&C were just average at best. Overfried and the breading itself was nothing special. The fries were better but I assume there's better elsewhere in town.

Fish & Chips

Was able to slightly satisfy a crave that's always coming to me when I checked out one of Seattle's favorite late nite spots.

Pelmeni Dumpling Czar

Those familiar with Paul's Pelmeni in Madison will find this place to be alot like it. Down to the pelmeni topped with hot sauce, cilantro, curry powder. What gives? This guy used to be partners with Paul in Bellevue. These hit the spot but when I said slightly it was because I didn't think they were made with as much care as Paul's where the perfect amount of toppings goes on and the dumplings are bit better in texture.

Half / Half (Beef / Potato) Pelmeni

Rounding out this trip report with the Italian spots visited. Neither of which are any sort of hidden gems however both are must stops on my itinerary. If you get into Seattle in the morning this should be your first stop for lunch. They don't dinner so if not on day one make sure you go on day two. That's how good it is.

Il Corvo

Lines start forming before they open but they move fast as it's counter service and you sit after you order. There's three daily pasta selections as well as some small bites like a plate of olives that was the best I had since Spain. I got the Pappardelle Bolognese and she got an order of Sicilian Perciatelli and both were perfection. I'd eat here twice a week if I lived in Seattle. Only catch is they're only open Monday-Friday. Its worth extending your vacation or skipping work if necessary.

Pappardelle Bolognese

Perciatelli with Anchovies, Sardines, Garlic, Chilies, Chicorices, and Toasted Bread Crumbs

Last stop up! Long heard good things about Mario Batali's Salumeria and sandwich shop. Me and many others. Get here early because there will be a line. I'd say it moves medium-fast.


Everything looked and also sounded good so I eventually just got what the guy before me got which was a salumi sandwich with everything and their famous pork meatball on the side. The meatball was good, sauce was top notch but I prefer some beef in my Italian style meatballs. The sandwich was downright glorious.

Salami Sandwich

I was so disappointed in myself for not taking one to go home. The peppers and onions are something special, almost as much as the salami itself. If someone wanted to call Salumi the best sandwich shop in America they wouldn't get an argument from me. See ya next time.

The Insides

Suika Seattle
611 E Pine St
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 747-9595

Tako Kyuuban Takoyaki
600 5th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 682-8256

BeanFish Food Truck
Check site for locations

Fort St. George
601 S King St #202
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 382-0662

Uni Sake House
2230 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 374-8717

Mia's Off Broadway
1601 Harvard Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 325-4992

Katsu Burger
6538 4th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98108
(206) 762-0752

Sushi Wataru
2400 NE 65th St
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 525-2073

Piroshky Piroshky
1908 Pike Pl
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 441-6068

Country Dough
1916 Pike Pl #14
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 728-2598

Din Tai Fung
2621 NE 46th St
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 525-0958

615 19th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98112
(206) 325-2111

Ba Bar
550 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 328-2030

501 Stadium Pl S
Seattle, WA 98134
(206) 257-4259

Queen's Deli
9808 14th Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98106
(206) 767-8363

Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar
410 Occidental Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 501-4060

General Porpoise Doughnuts
1020 E Union St
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 900-8770

The Walrus & the Carpenter
4743 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 395-9227

3621 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 294-3331

1112 Pike St
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 583-7177

Uncle Ike's
2310 E Union St
Seattle, WA 98122
(844) 420-4537

No Bones Beach Club
5410 17th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107

Un Bien
7302.5 15th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98117
(206) 588-2040

Spud Fish & Chips
6860 East Green Lake Way N
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 524-0565

Pelmeni Dumpling Czar
3516 Fremont Pl N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 588-2570

Il Corvo
217 James St
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 538-0999

309 3rd Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 621-8772

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