Dineout Around Washington (mostly Bellevue)

Last weekend we went to Bellevue for a two-night stay. Since getting the hang of Priceline for great hotel prices (4* Hyatt for $90/night at the last minute), getting older and appreciating more the “Stateside getaway”, and perhaps not wanting to dash so much, and–dare I say it–wanting go somewhere else longer, I like the entire-weekend trip. There is a de-emphasis on shopping and a focus on relaxing, which might lead to a new emphasis on eating… and that’s not too bad, is it?

Bob’s Burger and Brew

We’ve seen this burger joint near Seattle Premium Outlets and the nearby Walmart Supercenter countless times but have never been to. When Eda said there weren’t that many food options near the shopping area, I felt tasked to find somewhere to eat. Bob’s Burger sounded decent so we ended up there after a couple of hours of driving for a big lunch requiring immediate shopping/walking afterwards!

The chalkboard specials were fish burger and clam chowder and somehow both of them ended up being part of my meal! I chose the fish burger over a beef burger and soup as the side over salad or fries. The “fish burger” was actually two pieces of battered and fried fish-and-chips fish (cod) on a bun. The bun was slathered with mayonnaise and tartar sauce was further proviced. Thank goodness for the mayo because the tartar sauce was really weak. The clam chowder was oddly goopy. NPY ordered a mushroom chicken burger that was not much to photograph but he said it was good.

boom noodle

That fish burger earlier at Bob’s did a great job of sticking to you so we weren’t overly hungry for 7 hours. And even when it was a decent time for dinner, many dining options didn’t sound appetizing. So we went for boom noodle, somewhere we had all been to before, for some noodles and happy hour items.

While Eda, Olive, and NPY ordered ramen (misos and NPY’s tonkatsu), I ordered two appetizers, the edamame puree and a plate of green beans. The edamame dip was pretty thin, light in flavour and we really enjoyed dragging the cucumber slices, yuzu pepper, and sweet potato crisps through it. The green beans were drizzled with silkyo miso, a nice portion. Comforting ramen and vegetarian appetizers were the perfect counterbalance meal.

Cheesecake Factory

NPY and I are behind in watching Happy Potter so we could not join Eda and Olive taking in the newest installment from plush leather seats at Lincoln Square Cinemas. So we were off on our own and decided to get dessert. Hmm, dessert options for us around the central hotel were to go to Joey’s or hit up Cheesecake Factory.

I didn’t mind going to Cheesecake Factory again because I was dreaming about the red velvet cheesecake I had last time–it was a towering cheesecake with layers of red velvet cake between the creamiest layers of cheesecake, topped with cream cheese icing. And just as I was thinking about ordering it to complement NPY’s original strawberry cheesecake, I spied its nutritional content and changed my mind to the lemon raspberry cheesecake. Because… the red velvet cheesecake has twice the number of calories as the basic cheesecake, at 1,540 calories per slice! Alas, I will not be allowed to eat my own slice of red velvet cheesecakes unless I’ve run a half-marathon (13 miles=1,300 calories). Sheesh.

The lemon raspberry cheesecake had raspberry-vanilla sponge cake, lemon cheesecake, raspberry sauce, and lemon icing. It was a little overpowering on the raspberry side, which neither of us liked too much. We switched halfway through and I had some of the original cheesecake. It was perfectly creamy with a gorgeous cream cheese aftertaste.

The Brief Encounter Cafe

We tried to go to Twisted Cork in the hotel for brunch but some equipment was acting up and their brunch menu was not available. A breakfast buffet did not seem ideal. So we head out to Brief Encounter Cafe which has some good reviews. It’s an original old-fashioned diner and I’d have to say I was a little uncomfortable between booth seats with weird springiness and slightly water-spotted cutlery. But I don’t fuss too much when it’s not my recommendation.

Olive and I ordered the German sausage with potato pancakes while Eda ordered the Pressley’s Potatoes, the latter being a cheesy vegetable scramble. We found the German sausage was overly salty. The potato pancakes were made from shredded potatoes, pancake batter, and scallions. While the batter made the potato pancakes more moist, I think I would have preferred it without pancake batter–I was quite confused whether butter or maple syrup was appropriate.

 

blissberri

While scrolling through the list of all restaurants in Bellevue on Urbanspoon, blissberri appeared early in the alphabetical list and the name caught my eye. It’s another frozen yogurt chain and I persuaded the group to go there instead of Red Mango, which is also in Bellevue Square. I didn’t think it would be open since the website still says “Coming Soon!”

The blue bird logo kind of hearkens the Twitter bird and the brand just seems very modern from the all-lower case name, mention of “bliss”, and misspelling of “berry”. We soon learned that it is a self-serve yogurt shop with twelve flavours and a range of toppings. I went with original tart yogurt topped with granola and mango boba. The boba beads burst when  you bite them without much flavour. I also got the pomegranate-raspberry yogurt topped with strawberries, blueberries, and a blackberry. Finally, I also got the chocolate thin mint flavour topped with chopped Kit Kat. It was like a new-fangled Neopolitan frozen yogurt! We loved our little treat and I loved the freedom of the many flavours and self-serve concept. We even had it again the next day!

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

We only learned about Happy Hour menus within the last two years and now we kind of plan our meals around them. So we planned our first full day with lunch at 12, early happy hour at 4-5 and late happy hour at 10–nicely spaced out!

Our early happy hour meal was at Ruth’s Chris that Olive told us about. He’s the ardent carnivore so Ruth’s Chris had good options. We kicked off with some drinks: glasses of wine about $4 and my lemondrop martini for $5.

The prime rib sliders, although grilled with butter, were dry. I don’t know if NPY and I got the dry bun and lack of vegetables because Olive ordered his sliders first and that’s how ours came as well. I ordered the tenderloin brochettes in an overly sweet sauce but the meat was really divinely tender. Eda ordered the seared ahi tuna which Olive said was correctly seared and most “seared” tuna I’ve seen so far was over-cooked. It was a nice fresh morsel but I did not like the spicy mustard pool under the tuna. We also got the Caesar salad to feel better from the vegetable intake. Prices and portions were fantastic and the atmosphere was swank.

(Oh, while I was looking up Ruth’s Chris, I learned that they have expanded to Canada–Alberta and Ontario, so far–and I wonder if they have Happy Menus….)

Wild Ginger at the Bravern

 

Wandering and driving around Bellevue, I find it awesome to come across sponsorship by and headquarters of huge tech and internet companies such as Microsoft and Expedia. I had found the Trophy Cupcakes shop at The Bravern which in turn lead me to take a closer look at the Shops at Bravern–they are super-high end so we never went. But we did enjoy our late dinner on Saturday there, surrounded by high-end condo towers and office buildings with the name Microsoft across the top. This Wild Ginger location was huge with upstairs, downstairs, bar seating, and private rooms. We were seated in the hallway along windows with private rooms behind us so it felt like we were enjoying quite a bit of privacy. We were intrigued how the top floor of a building a block away was lit up and I guessed that it was a games development company and there were many screens to test out the product, or the competition. The waiter told us it is the 911 call center which was fascinating.

Drinks were cheap with $4 cocktails but they were a bit watery. I order a tofu satay skewer to start things off and it was a nice bite but nothing spectacular. It also gave us some picked vegetables to munch on. The rice bowls were just $8 so we got the only non-spicy one, the Thai tofu bowl flavoured with kafir lime leaves and basil. It was flavourful but light. We ordered vegetables to meet our daily requirements and the portion sizes were good. I also ordered the duck sliders which took a long time to come out. It turns out that when I asked for no cilantro on my meal, they had to remake new plum sauce because it was chopped finely and added to it! I’m not a fan of plum sauce and found it overly sweet and fruity but it was a great deal better without a cilantro infusion! The steamed bun concept was a hit.

 

Din Tai Fung

 

Din Tai Fung opened its first Pacific Northwest location around this time last year but we haven’t been to Bellevue for nearly two years and I could only read about other people’s visits. So NPY, Eda, and Olive were kind of haplessly dragged along to this “tourist trap” which pricked me a little to hear. A tourist trap is P.F. Chang’s, I think. DTF is a successful dumpling restaurant from Taiwan making a global expansion.

As we walked the Sky Bridges between the central Bellevue towers, we would pass by DTF’s window open to the kitchen where dumplings were made in an organized assembly line process. The people milling about waiting for a table could watch the process for a while to pass the time. On the first day, I shied away from the idea of a DTF meal given the limited-looking menu online and the perpetual queue to get seated. But the style of the restaurant has pretty quick turnover and when I picked that DTF would be our Sunday lunch instead of brunch, the menu options expanded greatly since they were serving dim sum.

It was a little weird to have the concept of “family-style” explained to us by our Caucasian server but it was the portions that threw us out of whack a little. We are used to portions of 4 Cantonese dumplings like siu mai for an average of $3. When it comes to xiao long bao (XLB), the basket usually has just 6-8 dumplings. The 10 pieces indicated for XLB and most of the dumplings means you will fill up on one dish. Upon learning so, we had to order accordingly.

The XLB were quite nice but pricey at $9.50 for the 10 pieces. The dumpling skin was nice and thin–it really should be when it was so exactly made–but I found the dumplings were no very hot by the time the server got to our table with our basket and there wasn’t quite enough soup with the delicious minced pork.

 

Because there were 10 XLB, we were leary about ordering more dumplings so we proceeded with ordering fried rice, hot & sour soup, steamed buns, and a stick rice roll.

The shrimp fried rice arrived and we paused. It was nicely presented as a rounded mound with shrimps laid on top but we couldn’t help being depressed how it cost $9 for that small amount of rice. It was well made, however, tossed nicely with shredded egg and scallions. You could taste that the shrimp was not cooked with the rice. We ordered the medium size of hot & sour soup for $5.75 and shared it amongst three of us. It was really tasty with fresh ingredients and a vibrant Chinese red vinegar lent tang to the black pepper heat.

There was another moment of pause when we looked at the two pork and vegetable steamed buns. We knew there would only be two and that it cost $4.25. At the very least, we traditionally expect three, but up would go the price tag! I really liked the minced pork and chopped vegetable (bok choy) filling–it was refreshing and light–but the bun was not light at all, very chewy. We wouldn’t be able to bite in except the bun skin was thin. The sticky rice was also interesting. It was a hybrid of the lotus leaf and bamboo leaf sticky rice with highly flavoured rice. The filling was simple, just a piece of pork belly, but NPY liked it! The price hindered him from ordering another one.

 

It’s kind of funny how we ended up having three Asian meals, one per day. Either we just can’t handle that much American food any longer or we’re maintaining a sense of balance! After our meal, which was satisfying and less costly than a brunch would have been, we wondered if we would return. It is priced higher than even high-end dim sum spots in Vancouver although the quality is higher and apparently so, so we probably would not return unless with guests who insist on a taste of the global chain.

Top Pot Doughnuts

When I visited Seattle for the first time in decades in 2005, we came across Top Pot Doughnuts. Back then, Lil’ Sis and I refrained, I think, but this time we had Olive and NPY along who are enthusiastic. I spied the Valley Girl Lemon doughnut while NPY wanted the jelly-filled one. Olive kindly went around the corner to pick up doughnuts while we were getting ready to go to DTF and NPY and I enjoyed the highly powdered and yeasty donuts after dim sum! I thought the lemon filling was just perfect.

On this day..

One Comment

  1. Wild Ginger’s a classic, love that place. I’ve got to try Boom Noodle, haven’t been there yet but the edamame and green beans look good and it sounds like a place with lots of vegetarian options.

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