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Seattle's Underrated Restaurants


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On another thread tighe and I mentioned Ponti is a good restaurant that gets overlooked, maybe because it's been around so long, or for whatever reason?

What are some other underrated restaurants? Good places that have stood the test of time and are a reliable choice for an expertly prepared meal... (and why do these places get overlooked?)

Three places we sometimes go to with Swiss friends of ours are Kaspar's, Tosoni's (in Bellevue), and Geneva. All 3 places serve European cuisine in a lovely setting, and we've always had very good meals (2 chefs are Swiss & 1 is Austrian), as well as good service. I've heard Kaspar's also has an excellent wine bar, but I've only eaten in the main dining room so far.

Canlis is of course great, but probably doesn't get mentioned since it's been around forever, and is a special occasion place. If money was no object, I'd dine there more often. Have any of you eaten there lately? It's been almost a couple of years since I went.

What are some of Seattle/Bellevue's other underrated or overlooked restaurants?

edit: I can elaborate on one of the reasons Tosoni's gets overlooked, and that's because it's located in a Bellevue strip plaza on NE 20th. Doesn't look great from the outside, but once you get inside it's charming & cozy.

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BH, we must be on the same wavelength, as I was talking to my wife about starting this very thread over breakfast this morning.

The topic came up because we were eating at Brassrie Margaux in the Warwick Hotel. We had a great brunch (my account in on the 'Brunch-able' thread) which, combined with the two dinners we've had there, confirmed for us that it is a really fine restaurant. At dinner, they offer a menu of pretty standard French items which are executed very well. You won't be wowed by creativity, but that's OK with me.

Staying on the French theme, I think Maximilien doesn't get the recognition it deserves for the most part. The quality of the food there combined with the views from restaurant make it one of my favorite places to take visitors for lunch.

It's interesting that you mentioned Canlis, because I would probaly put them on my most overrated list. I've only eaten there once but I thought the food was not up to the quality level needed to justify their prices. Their wine list is absolutely criminal in my opinion. They seem to pop up pretty regularly in media articles about the Seattle restaurant scene, so I can't really say I think they get shorted on pub.

I'd love to try Tosoni as I've heard good things about it.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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I think you're on to something, tighe. French restaurants tend to get lost in the shuffle, probably because French food has been hopelessly unhip for years. I wonder if that will change now that people are starting to become convinced that butter won't kill you.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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tighe, I hadn't thought of Canlis lately, but having read the recent threads about Herbfarm and Cascadia got me to thinking about where I would go to have a splurge/fine dining meal experience, and I remembered how much I liked Canlis (and I don't hear much about it anymore). Elegant setting, beautiful view, good service, and our meals were excellent (not to mention they've been open for 50 years so they must have some satisfied customers). I think I would choose another elegant meal at Canlis over trying the Herbfarm.

That said, after reading Ben's great review of Mistral, I'm anxious to try Mistral for a special occasion meal. I don't think Mistral receives much newspaper coverage, and so it could also qualify as a good place (albeit one that I have not been to yet) that deserves more coverage.

I agree that French Dining has for the most part been underrated/overlooked in Seattle (with the exception of Le Pichet and Campagne). I've been curious about Brasserie Margaux before, too. tighe, are there any dishes that you particularly recommend there?

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BH,

The best thing I've had at Brasserie Margaux was a lamb shank with a port demi glace. It was good enough to virtually bring me to tears. Today at brunch somebody next to us had the steak-frites which looked excellent.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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OK, people...this is a great topic and I refuse to let it die on the vine! :biggrin:

Most of you must have at least one or two places in town that you think don't get the recognition that they're due. If you want to throw in your nominee for most overrated, that would be fun too.

The menu for the anniversary dinner at Maximilien that I mentioned during the Nha Trang get-together can be found here if anyone is interested: Maximilien Anniversary Menu. My wife and I have reservations for 8:00.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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OK, here are my two:

Capital Club. Funky neighborhood place with sort of a Marocan interior. The food - creative mediteranian - is always good, interesting and very reasonably priced. Good bartender too. Makes a great French 75.

Lampreia. Expensive, but worth it. Impecable service, seasonal French cuisine, beautiful, modern presentation. One of the best meals I've had in Seattle.

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Over-rated. Oh man, are you sure you want to open this one up?

Campagne, Tango, Palace Kitchen (I find Douglas' restaurants suspect in general but I've only been to the palace) Bistro 1200 (ach), eva . . . off the top of my head . . .

underrated: Le Gourmand (People talk about this as a good meal for the city of Seattle. This restaurant is unique and wonderful. The type of place you just don't find elsewhere, anywhere!) I liked La Bodega alot before it closed . . . haven't been to Au Bouchon yet. Still curious though.

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Nightscotsman-- What did you eat at Lampreia? I must admit I've been hesitant to eat there after stories of the Soup Nazi-esque Chef. Would love to hear the details of the meal if you can recall them.

And I thought it was Italian? . . .

The last time was over a year ago and I only specifically (but vaguely) remember the seared foie gras appetizer, which was wonderful. I think it was served with asain pears.

I had also heard the chef was a little controlling, but the staff we interacted with were friendly and we had great service. Just remember that it is european-style service: very professional, but not hovering or overly friendly. The overall feeling of the place is elegant, but not stuffy or formal.

And definitely not Italian.

Oh, and I agree that Tango is completely overrated. I ate there last year and the service was increadibly bad as well as the food being hit and miss. Good desserts, though.

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Nightscotsman-- What did you eat at Lampreia? I must admit I've been hesitant to eat there after stories of the Soup Nazi-esque Chef. Would love to hear the details of the meal if you can recall them.

And I thought it was Italian? . . .

From what I understand (I have not eaten there yet and it is next on my list) he does not tolerate picky eaters and the like. I guess he does not take kindly to anything sent back. Think Bourdain if he were to come out a give somebody a tounge lashing if they ordered their steak well done.

I can respect his viewpoint, but the cliche "You can attract more flies with honey than vinegar" would be a better position for him.

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Looks like I may have been a little hasty saying Lampreia wasn't Italian. Seems like he's had much experience in Italy and is into Mediterainian ingredients. I just remember the overall preparation felt French to me. Maybe it was just the foie gras that gave me that impression?

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I was thinking about this in terms of Cafe Juanita as well. I hear a lot of people go out there and eat and say, "Great food, but not really Italian, you know."

It seems that precision and careful presentation have become the exclusive domain of the French?

I should get into Lampreia soon. No picky eaters here! Alas, no cash.

Is it just tasting menu there nightscotsman or do they also do ala carte?

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It's interesting that you mentioned Canlis, because I would probaly put them on my most overrated list.  I've only eaten there once but I thought the food was not up to the quality level needed to justify their prices.  Their wine list is absolutely criminal in my opinion.  They seem to pop up pretty regularly in media articles about the Seattle restaurant scene, so I can't really say I think they get shorted on pub.

Canlis: Agreed on all counts. Great setting, backed up by decades of mediocrity. I went about a year ago, and my impression was unchanged. Their wine list is criminal not only in its markups, but in its failure to be "smart" and offer unusual finds that deliver price/performance value.

Don't bother.

Steve

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

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underrated: Le Gourmand (People talk about this as a good meal for the city of Seattle. This restaurant is unique and wonderful. The type of place you just don't find elsewhere, anywhere!)

Le Gourmand: again, agreed. Bruce's food is uniquely his own, and the location--off in a corner of Ballard across from Domino's Pizza--sort of epitomizes Seattle's strength in neighborhood finds. Bruce was one of those rising star big-name chefs twenty years ago, but he dropped out, started his own place with his kitchen garden and his house next door, and did his own thing. Sort of followed Candide's final advice: "We must cultivate our garden."

*Very* smart wine list.

He tells me he's booked solid for weekends these days (hooray for him--wasn't always so), so book in advance. I'm going tonight for a wine-drinking friend's 50th. Haven't been there for nine or twelve months. I'll report, though I don't expect to report that it's changed much. A happy thing, that.

Thanks,

Steve

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

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It's interesting that you mentioned Canlis, because I would probaly put them on my most overrated list.  I've only eaten there once but I thought the food was not up to the quality level needed to justify their prices.  Their wine list is absolutely criminal in my opinion.  They seem to pop up pretty regularly in media articles about the Seattle restaurant scene, so I can't really say I think they get shorted on pub.

Canlis: Agreed on all counts. Great setting, backed up by decades of mediocrity. I went about a year ago, and my impression was unchanged. Their wine list is criminal not only in its markups, but in its failure to be "smart" and offer unusual finds that deliver price/performance value.

Don't bother.

Steve

Great info guys. If I liked Canlis, then it just goes to show that I really need to get out more often. I concede on Canlis. :raz:

Looking forward to your next report...

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BH,

No need to concede. As one of my professors used to say, "intelligent people of good will can reasonably have differences of opinion." I try to remember this. I know I often state my opinions in strong terms, but I would hate for you (or anyone else) to think that I believe myself to be some definitive arbiter of taste.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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No need to concede.  As one of my professors used to say, "intelligent people of good will can reasonably have differences of opinion."  I try to remember this.  I know I often state my opinions in strong terms, but I would hate for you (or anyone else) to think that I believe myself to be some definitive arbiter of taste.

What tighe said! (Far better than I could have.)

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

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My list of good to great places that always get overlooked...

La Medusa--maybe it's the location. I love it. Always great.

Sostanza--in Madison Park. It's romantic, good food--not great, but I liken it to Maximilien, as it's one of those places where the food can suffer a bit for the ambience and I don't mind as much.

Sanmi--probably the best sushi I've had in 2 years.

Monsoon--maybe not underrated, since everyone seems to think it's good, but overlooked in general. Very good food.

Brad's Swingside on the hill on Fremont Ave. What a cute spot. Sort of reminds me of Marco's Supperclub, another of my personal favorites.

Ok...I can't think of any more off the top of my head.

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aaustin, Welcome. Please tell more about Monsoon. What do you like to order when you go there? It's a place I've really been wanting to try, as I love Vietnamese food, and I've read this is very upscale Vietnamese. Can't believe I haven't been.

mamster, if you are reading this... didn't you say quite awhile ago that you were going to write an article on Monsoon? Did you write it and I missed it?

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I was going to mention their tamarind-broth soup in an article; that article hasn't run yet, but I'm pretty sure (a) I did mention it, and (b) it'll run before the end of the year (in the Sunday Times magazine). Of course, it's not like Monsoon hasn't had enough publicity lately.

It's really only upscale compared to Banh Mi 88 or Nha Trang; they've got beautiful-people waiters and prices in whole dollar amounts and a wine list, but they also have a chicken dish that's suspiciously like General Tso's. I like the place a lot--don't miss that soup.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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