Friday, October 12, 2007

Da Pino

4225 Rainier Ave. S.
Seattle, WA

I'd passed Da Pino near the corner of Genesee and Rainier for nearly 2 years before registering that it was actually a restaurant I might be interested in visiting.... the location is definitely lackluster and the building is not obviously enticing.

But today I went and was really glad that I did.

The restaurant is tiny, but just large enough to sit down and not feel like you are in the way. Upon entering you are greeted with a case of curing meats, and a beverage fridge with both Italian and American soft drinks. The Italian owner was there working in the back, and his handsome and friendly sons were working out front.

I was the only vegetarian out with 4 meat eaters, so we managed a pretty comprehensive tasting of Da Pino's small menu. We had a caprese salad and a really impressive plate of house-made salumi for starters. My enjoyment of this phase was mostly vicarious... in a generous and beautiful arrangement were cooked copa, regular copa, wine salami, prosciutto, some exquisite smoked mozzarella, and roasted almonds (I ate the latter two...) and probably more that I am forgetting now. There were sounds of immense appreciation from the rest of the table, which included at least one serious salumi/charcuterie buff and many hobbiests.

For the main course, I had the hot vegetable sandwich, which was pretty good aside from the fact that the main vegetable was eggplant, which I have a bit of an aversion to. In addition to the eggplant there was roasted zucchini and smoked peppers, and it was all quite good almost to the point that i was able to excuse the eggplant. I think that if somebody liked eggplant, they would be really happy with this sandwich.

Two other folks at the table had hot sandwiches, one a meatball, and one with sausage (again, both house made), and the reports were excellent.

The other two had daily pasta specials... one of which was housemade mushroom ravioli in a gorgonzola cream sauce, which was savory and decadent and tempting some even when full and satisfied with their own meal. The other ordered penne in a rich spicy olive oily tomato sauce with pancetta. I shared a couple of pancetta-less bites of that and it was my favorite item ordered today.

This restaurant falls outside of the trendy part of Columbia city, but is realistically just moments from it. It is totally worth venturing over (there is an adjoining gravel parking lot) for some really good food. You can also buy the housemade salami/sausages/cheese to take home, and the owner supplies these meats to many other Seattle restaurants.

I got the feeling that this place might be struggling a little bit due to it's location... it has the sort of honest, delicious, soul warming food at reasonable prices that should have lines out the doors.

So go check it out! Notice it next time you drive by, and stop in.
Da Pino in Seattle

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Rainier Teriyaki

I was thrilled when I saw that a teriyaki joint was going in to the newly remodeled Emerald City market building across from the old (gone now) Chubby and Tubby on Rainier Ave, and that they had tofu dishes on the menu.

Not just yakisoba and stirfrys (which they do have) but also a good old tofu teriyaki bowl in the nature of chicken or beef.

I ordered a bowl (I think it was about $5.00... plus an additional $0.50 for "spicy") and it was almost everything I had hoped: a bowl of sticky rice layered in char grilled vegis (carrots, broccoli, cabbage), then a pile of lightly fried tofu covered in a not-too-sweet sauce.
It was fresh and hot and the quantity was incredibly filling. My dining mate ate the teriyaki chicken breast and it was a beautiful thing... a big neatly stacked pile of thin white meat slices with real grill marks and sauce drizzled on top. His came with a salad and rice.

They specialize in really charbroiling the meats (and the vegis), which makes everything especially tasty.

I have since returned and made a special request that caused the cooks to laugh but that they were able to oblige: Mongolian Beef but with tofu instead. It was pretty good, but heavy on sauce and light on any kind of vegetables. The quantity was huge, and after filling up at the restaurant I brought my leftovers home and made a second huge meal by sautéing the rest of the saucy tofu with broccoli.

The inside of the restaurant is really pleasant... clean, new, fancy colored paint job and photography on the walls, nice touches like faux marble table tops instead of simple plastic, etc.

Everybody who works there seems incredibly nice, and the over all experience is a positive one for me.

My two complaints are:

1. They deep fry the tofu instead of grilling it, which is a bummer for me because I don't like the extra grease and the grill makes everything more delicious. I think that next time I go in, I will see if they could grill it instead. They seem friendly and able to adapt to requests.

2. They use a watered down mayonnaise style salad dressing on the salad that accompanies the teriyaki, as opposed to a more rice vinegary dressing. This is just a matter of my personal preference.

Over all, I think this place is great, and I am really excited to have them in the neighborhood and want to support them and help them stay in business. Worth giving them a try... you will definitely get a good value for your money, and the elusive tofu teriyaki is in existence here!

(Please see update to review here!)

Rainier Teriyaki on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 12, 2007

Teriyaki Bowl

I know that as a vegetarian, I am lucky to be able to walk into just about any Teriyaki restaurant in Seattle and be able to procure some sort of Tofu dish (not so in much of the USA, as I've recently learned), yet still, most of the time the dish is not exactly Teriyaki. There is plenty of yakisba and various stirfrys, but sometimes I can't help but envy the charred meat and rice dinners of my friends.

This is where Teriyaki Bowl really shines... they do a tofu equivalent of their Teriyaki chicken breast... two generous piles of plump sticky rice adorned in carefully layered out slabs of grilled fresh tofu drizzled in not-too-sweet teriyaki sauce. I have had mixed results in the grilling, sometimes the tofu is just barely golden, other times it has the same sort of intensity of appetizing grill marks that grace it's meat counterpart. Either way, it is always hot and soft and so delightfully not-fried.

A small ice-burg salad accompanies the meal and it is refreshingly dressed in a soy sauce/rice vinegar type dressing (vs. the watered down mayonnaise type).

If you dine in (the restaurant is small and mostly filled with people sitting down waiting for their to-go orders, from my experience), you have the option of shaking some very delicious looking mixed red pepper onto your meal (a jar at every table). I use it every time I'm there, and while it doesn't seem to effect the heat or flavor of anything, it sure looks good on that plate of white rice and tofu.

I really like this place for those unusual but intense times when I'm craving the simple Teriyaki special: rice and "meat" and a little ice burg salad.