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Pioneer Square Eats and Drinks

Many good eats in Pioneer Square and too little stomach space!

Recent trip brought me to Kraken Congee.

I heard about their creativity and their take on the Chinese congee when they were a pop-up, but was never able to make it; so I was extremely glad that they have a brick and mortar store now.

On a lunch date, I had their duck confit congee, Bang Bang shrimp pinch bun and sticky fish sauce chicken wings.

I was stunned by the congee!

Extremely creamy and smooth, it was better than some of the Chinese restaurants around.

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The duck confit was very tender and flavored with five-spice, it was beautifully presented with a dash of red beet soaked mustard seeds, soy sauce egg yolk, boy choy and pork crackling.

Lots of flavors in a bowl and I loved the color, the presentation and the flavors — although I admit the flavors were foreign at first.

I had to get used to strong flavors being put on the congee, rather than mild flavors from ingredients cooked in the congee.

The Bang Bang shrimp bun was delicious.

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Soft buns with slightly crispy fried shrimps tossed in mayonnaise and hot sauce, with fish eggs, chives and cucumbers.

Many texture and a cohesive flavor, I only wish there was more fillings in the buns.

Sticky fish sauce chicken wings, however, was a disappointment.

I had such high hopes from the other dishes, and was really hoping that the wings would be good enough to replace the long drive to Pok Pok in Portland.

Alas, that was not the case.

The wings were soggy, and came with a sweet honey. slight fish sauce flavor sauce.

Nothing stood out, and in fact the sogginess of the wings was quite undesirable.

Overall it was a good meal, and I am curious enough to return for other dishes such as crab fat congee, their simple chicken congee and kare kare beef noodles.

Another beautiful spot for meals is Girin.

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Decorated beautifully, Girin made Korean restaurant upscale.

We had the Gochujang wings, and they were nicely fried with good spiciness and flavors, the sauce was runnier than I expected, and the wings were tiny.

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Kalbi was tender and marinated through and through, and the accompanying miso paste was bold and strong.

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The side kimchi was crunchy and garlicky, and the salad had a flavorful toasty sesame dressing with fresh lettuce, delicious fried onion and not too much crab.

Side soup had a rich broth with firm tofu and mushrooms.

Food was good with beautiful presentation, but it was not that much better than Stone Korean.

Lastly, Elm Coffee Roasters.

Loved the modern white/wood, minimalist décor with the backdrop of red bricks – signature of many buildings in Pioneer Square area.

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Elm Coffee Roasters roasts their own coffee on site.

I had the decaf mocha, and it had single origin chocolate in it.

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It was caramelly, roasty and dark, quite acidic and completely unsweet.

The latte had unique flavor as well.

It had a grainy character, almost chestnut-like smoky milk flavor.

While I appreciate the freshness and the stand-out flavors, the coffee was more acidic than my liking.

Kraken Congee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Heartwood Provisions

On a Sunday night, we celebrated a girlfriend’s birthday at the chef’s table in Heartwood Provisions, to experience first hand, their chef’s tasting menu.

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A view of the kitchen

It was a quiet night, and it made this already big restaurant seemed even more cavernous.

My friend really loved one of their unique cocktail drinks made with whiskey and a slice of prosciutto in it, she said it was one of the best cocktail she had for a while.

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The meal started off with the ends of some nice, fatty, cured ham.

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Followed by their famous Wagyu beef jerky, and they were excellent!

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L: Wagyu beef jerky, R: prosciutto, oysters and anchovies

Nicely salted, sweet soy, garlicky flavor in semi-dry beef, reminded me of the beef jerky we used to get at home in Hong Kong.

Second plate was a small appetizers mixer with sweet, crunchy oysters, which was a contrast with the chewy fatty ham; and anchovies that were pickled and lean.

Beet salad was a mix of fresh, sweet beets, with gingery pickled beets.

With a buttery, whipped Chevre, a little gamey, a little spice and sweetness, this dish was a burst of flavors.

There was pistachio in it, and something minty as well — it was like a little treasure pot, there was more when you kept digging!

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Top: beet salad, Bottom: tomato salad

Sweet heirloom tomato salad was served with Burrata cheese, paired classically with balsamic vinegar, some microgreens and some small fried nuts for texture and nutty flavor, very tasty.

We did not have room for entrée, and resorted to having a bite of each and taking the rest home.

Although the trout with succotash looked a little messy, it was exceptionally delicious.

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Perfectly fried, fresh, tender trout with the bright flavours predominantly of corn and red onions.

The succotash was spicy with smoky ham bits.

Second entrée was beef.

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Lean, grass-fed, and full of flavours, it came with crisp, small potatoes, and delightful thin-sliced, pickled mushrooms.

The beef texture was nice, with a light cilantro garlic dressing.

My friend had requested the dessert to be their smoked panna cotta.

We devoured it without taking a picture =(, and it really was quite special.

Smoky creaminess, with a perfect sweetness caramel and nuts, simple elegance but with a smoky twist that elevated an already wonderful dessert.

Paired with toffee ice cream, it was a pot of milky sweet goodness.

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We even received some fun cocktails on the house!

The 5-course meal was $140 for 2 people, it was a great find!

Heartwood Provisions Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eating Out in Queen Anne

How does a friendly Northwest neighborhood business street look like?

One can experience that when you step on the Upper Queen Anne stretch of Queen Anne Avenue North.

Quiet, friendly, prosperous with many eateries and shops.

Starts off with southern-most Cederberg Tea House to Chocolopolis, I found myself at Susahi Samurai next.

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Happy Hour starts at 4pm, with sushi set at great price, small varieties of rolls, and discounted drinks.

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Top: Samurai roll — Bottom: Happy Hour sushi set

The 12-piece sushi set was only $12, and came with the salmon, smoked salmon, tuna, escolar, shrimp and albacore.

Fish slices were on the thin end with ok freshness.

I wanted to try the Samurai roll even though it was not on the Happy Hour menu.

Flavor was good overall with baked seafood on top of salmon roll, unfortunately the top baked seafood was burnt.

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The seafood poke had good chili sauce/soy/sesame flavor, tossed with salad greens, seafood was mostly tuna and squid.

Tuna was very sloppily chopped and tendinous.

The tendon was very hard to chew; it looked like there was an attempt to cut them but it was not successful at the end.

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I liked the crunchy salmon rolls.

Chopped salmon roll with tempura bits on the outside, topped with spicy mayo.

Perfect amount of mayo, fish and crunch.

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The negitan roll looked interesting on paper.

A yellow tail and green onion roll, fried, and topped with eel sauce.

Unfortunately, I could not say I was a fan of it.

The rolls were soggy and not crunchy, and the fish flavor was drowned by rice.

I would much rather go back to my usual spot, Ginza, for sushi.

Continue North on Queen Anne Avenue North, there is Trader Joe’s, Cupcake Royale, Menchie’s and my favorite coffee place, Storyville.

Right besides Storyville, is Bounty Kitchen.

A simple, airy restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, with simple, healthy, local and organic food.

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Bounty Kitchen offers toasts, soups, salads, sandwiches, and “great bowl of goodness”!!

We had a soba bowl and their Havana Libre bowl, both were delicious, and truly lived up to the name of “great bowl of goodness”.

Bounty kitchen did a fantastic job with textures: the raw vegetables, such as spinach and arugula gave the crunchy texture in my Libre bowl while the sweet potatoes and avocado were soft, and black rice provided the chewiness.

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Full of flavors such as citrus and cilantro, garlic, onion, tomatoes from the sofrito, each bite was packed with texture and strong addictive flavors.

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Soba noodle in the soba bowl was cooked perfected, tossed with carrot, napa cabbage, lettuce, bean sprouts, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, finished off with a miso dressing.

The chicken was Draper Valley’s all natural salt and pepper roasted chicken, tender and tasty.

Their menu consists of plenty vegan/vegetarian options as well.

There are still so many places I want to check out around the neighborhood — Grappa, a Mediterranean restaurant, and Eden Hill, a fancy set course dinner spot, to name a few.

More trips to Queen Anne to come!

Sushi Samurai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seafood Versus

Every time we had out-of-town visitors, was when I madly researched for seafood eateries.

I wanted to show case the best seafood we had to offer in Greater Seattle.

This past months we tried Highliner Public House and 100 pound clam, and the 2 spots cannot be more different.

Tucked quietly in Ballard’s Fisherman’s Terminal, away from the Ballard’s hipster main street, Highliner Public House is a pub, with their menu consists of plenty of fried seafood.

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Fried clams at the back, fish and chips in front

We tried the fried clams, and it was certainly one of the best I had.

Usually I do not enjoy fried clams because the clams are generally very small, and the pieces are mostly batter; these fried clams, however, stood out with its generous and big meaty clam meat inside a fluffy batter.

Fish and chips with salmon was unique; batter was not as good as Nosh’s, and the fresh fish made up for it.

Crab cakes were not very big, and had very good flavors, and lots of crab meat.

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The star of our whole meal was the simple steamed clams with butter, garlic and white wine.

Each flavor was distinctive, and complimented the super fresh and huge clams extremely well.

Some mentioned that Highliner sold seafood to other Seattle restaurants, no wonder their seafood is so fresh!

When compared to the traditional, no-frill Highliner, 100 pound clams was very different.

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One can find the shack of 100 pound clam by Daniel’s Broiler at Lake Union waterfront, one of the development hot spot in recent Seattle history.

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I went on a chilly late summer day to find that they only have outdoor seating; made me wonder how the dining experience would be in the rainy months.

We had seafood chowder, fried avocado and white prawns, salmon BLT, and steamed clams.

The chowder was hearty with unfortunately mostly potatoes and some fish.

The fish was fresh and of good quality, and the broth was tasty enough.

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Steamed clams were small, and DH did not like the fennel and Lil’ mama’s peppers flavor combination; I did not care for it either.

The clams just felt greasy.

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The salmon BLT had a good soft bun, tasty bacon, with a nice piece of salmon cooked perfectly.

There was too much mayo and masked the flavor of the salmon.

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L: salmon BLT, R: fried avocado and prawns

I enjoyed the perfectly fried avocado and the super fresh, crunchy white prawns.

The coarse texture of the cornmeal coating was great, but overall, it was far too salty.

Between the 2 seafood places, I am much more excited finding Highliner Public House than the much raved 100 pound clam.

Higherliner was great fresh quality seafood with simple preparations, where as 100 pound clam had ok seafood that was drowned out by other non seafood components.

100-pound clam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ramen Versus

The ramen wave in Seattle is still going strong, after Santouka, second Kukai, Arashi and Jin Ya, two other ramen stores opened their doors on the east side.

Ramen Bushi-do is in Issaquah.

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I was super excited with this place because the menu looked interesting.

The dish I was dying to try was the fish tsukeman.

Broth was very strong in bonito flavor, noodle was nice and thick.

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The other attractive-looking dish was the salmon cold noodle.

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Noodle was good, flavor was ok.

I had mechanical issue with the dish: why were the salmon and vegetables diced?

With every bite, the diced ingredient fell through the gaps of the noodle; then, I had to pick up the diced vegetables from the plate.

I would prefer the vegetables to be julienned, and perhaps salmon in larger chunks.

It looked great on presentation, but difficult to eat.

On the appetizers, gomae did not have enough sesame flavor and was too wet.

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The “appetizer” of marinated bean sprouts were ok.

Chicken karaage was fried nice and crisp, but it came with a Chinese salt and pepper dipping sauce for Chinese steamed salted chicken, not Japanese at all.

We opted for the low sodium version of the Tonkotsu ramen which, perhaps was a mistake.

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The  sodium level was just right for our taste, but the flavor was weak.

There was the thickness from the collagen of the bone broth, but without flavor, a little strange.

By comparison to Ramen Bushi-do, Yoshi Ramen in Bellevue had a much smaller menu.

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On the first visit, I had the yuzu ramen with chicken soup.

It had a fragrant grapefruit/citrus flavor in a light chicken broth, very delightful.

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Their #1 noodle was the Jiro noodle with pork, and tons of bean sprouts.

The broth had a deep, garlicky flavor, little salty but still good.

Pork was tender, and noodle had the perfect chewy texture.

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A note on their noodle, they were not the typical ramen noodle: a lot thicker, almost like Chinese noodle, and I absolutely found the bouncy texture enjoyable.

Some people online did not like their broth because it was not thick.

It did not bother me one bit.

Being Chinese, I like brothy soup, and Ramen Yoshi’s broth was right down my alley.

Ramen Yoshi’s shining star was their mazenmen.

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Dan Dan, spicy flavor with ground pork, delicious and addictive.

For appetizers, chicken karaage was fried very well, and marinated flavorfully with lots of garlic, exactly how I like them.

The fried squid was also very good, tender and crisp.

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I am partial to Ramen Yoshi in this round of ramen versus.

Ramen Bushi-Do Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato