Monday, April 27, 2009

Noodle Boat

Had the unexpected pleasure today of discovering a fantastic east-side restaurant, Noodle Boat, in Issaquah. It was yet another example of a restaurant I probably wouldn't have found without the excellent recommendation (and company, yay!) of east-side friends.

The restaurant has a good array of thematically complex decor to keep the eye entertained, ranging from a small suspended boat with a decorated wasps nest dangling at its head and a pile of cash coming out its rear, to a series of cloths painted in the theme of dangerous animals with flowers dangling from their mouths.

The menu was large and printed in a hardbound book with an elephant carving on the front, and promised that "all dishes can be made vegetarian style." As it happened, I initially chose the one dish that couldn't be made vegetarian, the Ka Pao Rad Khow (described as: "Stir-fried ground meat with chili, bell pepper, Holy hot basil"), which, the waitress explained, they wouldn't make with tofu because it involved grinding the meat, and "it would be too much work and too mushy to grind tofu." Fair enough.
My second choice, the Cha Cha Cha Hot Plate was an easy pick. It was described as "Stir-fried meat, krachai, kaffir lime leaves, bell peppers, green bean and basil with fresh garlic chili sauce," and it came to the table in a scalding hot cast iron dish nestled into a second outer wooden plate, sizzling and spattering a savory, spicy, perfectly oily sauce and a big beautiful pile of thinly sliced veggies and aromatics and cubes of pan charred soft tofu.
I couldn't have asked for a better dish, it was deeply flavored and satisfied every dimension that this sort of dish should satisfy. The rest of the table also ordered vegetarian style, which included a couple of different curries and another stir fried plate. All of these, including the curries, could be made without fish sauce, and all were exceptionally delicious.
The menu includes a fantastic variety of curries, soups, salads, noodle dishes and stir frys, some of which have fanciful English names like, "Low Tide Noodle," "Dragon's Antenna, " "Hot Meat," and "Whatever You Called?"

The only complaint I can muster for this place is that the spice level varied significantly dish to dish, even when ordered at the same theoretical level. Not a big problem, unless you happen to have somebody at the table with an especially sensitive mouth.

If the Noodle Boat was in Seattle, it would definitely (based upon today's dining experience, anyway) fall into the small selection of my favorite Thai restaurants. As it is, I look forward to going back across the bridge at the soonest possible convenience!

Thanks to M for providing the camera phone, and to E for figuring out how to operate it. Great to see you guys!

Noodle Boat Thai Cuisine
(425) 391-8096
700 NW Gilman Blvd Ste E 104
Issaquah, WA 98027

Noodle Boat Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pho on Broadway

The recent tiny explosion of summer inspired a trip up to Jetty Island in Everett for some kite surfing (him) and beach walking and kayaking around (me). Have you heard of Jetty Island??? Check it out. I don't tend to spend much time in Everett, but am stoked to report that there is at least one cheap, good eating option there with multiple vegetarian choices: Pho on Broadway. Excellent news for after Jetty dining!
Started off with a dip into the dining room fridge stocked with a nice selection of beers, both familiar and not.
The vegetarian part of the menu had a selection of the usual sort of miscellaneous Asian options... stir frys, Vegetarian Pho, etc, and one that stood out more than the others on a Vietnamese menu: curried vegetables and tofu, which I gambled on and was delighted with.
To begin with, the plate was beautiful in a bygone days type of way... there were four garnishes, a radish rose, a tulip carrot, orange slices, and basil leaves (all of which I eventually ate), the silver wear laid across the plate in a careful way, and the soft tofu (you can request it soft instead of fried) was arranged atop a big pile of soft white rice and perfectly steamed vegetables in a delicious, not too salty, not too spicy, not too oily curry sauce with a liberal sprinkling of crushed peanuts crowning the whole thing. I was thrilled at how good this was.

As we wrapped up our dinner, the very friendly waiter (owner?) brought out some unexpected creampuffs to top it all off.
It is always exciting to discover a vegetarian friendly place where you aren't expecting one, and even more exciting to find one with and actively delicious an unexpected dish. Yay!

Pho on Broadway
(425) 304-0879
1820 Broadway
Everett, WA 98201

Pho on Broadway on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Agua Verde

Agua Verde is the super busy Mexican restaurant/Kayak rental combo near the University of Washington that is so popular and well loved that it seems to have become cool recently to give it a good diss. Too busy (true), not as good as "everybody" thinks (hmmm), too many yams (do you know how to read a menu?) etc. Are our egos that fragile?? I guess it is human (or at least hipster) nature to turn against something that too many people like.

With that said, it is really busy. Too busy. Line out the door, take a pager (don't start thinking of the Olive Garden or Cheesecake Factory... this little device is necessary here but does feel out of place) and wait for an hour kind of busy. And the kayaks aren't a huge selling point for me either; while kayaking and eating are both nice activities, it's not like Seattle is short of places to find food after kayaking on the lake. But the location is lovely, especially on a sunny day, and the food is healthy, interesting, inexpensive, tasty and fresh and includes quite a nice selection of vegetarian (and vegan) choices.

Fresh sturdy chips with chunky guacamole and cocktails made from housemade juices

I went recently to celebrate a birthday, and after our customary wait (which, by the way, can be passed quite pleasantly at the adjoining park at the lake's edge), we began with drinks. Dining companions ordered margaritas with Mexican lime, and I got a mango margarita. I ordered without full consideration of the menu, and soon wished I had ordered the prickly pear which was served on the rocks instead of the tasty but filling blended smoothie mango.

When eating here I tend to order the "3 sides and 3 tortillas" option because their sides are delicious and vegetarian (rice with chard, chili mashed potatoes, black beans, jicama salsa, red cabbage slaw, etc), but this time decided to order yam tacos, which are one of the two vegetarian taco options (the other variety is portobello).
They weren't a disappointment. The soft corn tortillas came mounded with buttery yam cubes sauteed with onions and chilis, and drizzled in creamy avocado sauce and sprinkled with cotija cheese. The plate also came with black beans and chard rice.

The salsa bar (yes!) tends to have 3 salsas, including one with slightly smoky roasted jalapenos that I find especially delicious.

Something else I really appreciate about this place is that they make a real attempt to be responsible with their food. The following is a statement of their practice and intent taken from their website:

"We strive to use organic, sustainable and eco-friendly food and are proud of our recycling and composting efforts.

What does this mean?

Meat - produced from animals raised on farms (as opposed to factories), given vegetarian feed without growth hormones or antibiotics

Seafood - caught or raised sustainably using eco-friendly techniques

Produce - vegetables and fruit grown organically and obtained from local sources when possible

Drinks - hand made in house juices and margaritas

Coffee - shade-grown produced by small co-ops and specially blended for Agua Verde

Recycling - product packaging is recycled - cardboard, plastic, glass and metal

Composting - food waste is composted and meal packaging is compostable - including to go cups, boxes, and utensils."

I think it's a good place. I love the variety available to vegetarians, the location can't be beat on a sunny evening, and I appreciate the efforts they make towards being an ecologically responsible establishment. And the food just tastes good... fresh, healthy, well figured out. I don't often end up braving the wait, but I do understand why people do.

Agua Verde
(206) 545-8570
University District
1303 NE Boat St
Seattle, WA 98105

Agua Verde on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Recently took the trip over the bridge to the east side for some Indian food at the surprising Mayuri in Bellevue. I say surprising because it is located in a strip mall and I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought had it not been for the recommendation of an Indian friend, but it turned out to be really delicious.

To begin with, the vegetarian section of the menu was as large or larger than the meat section, which got me off on a nice start. I was in the mood for something rich, and ordered the Navaratan Koorma, which is described on the menu as "Vegetables, cheese and nuts in a mild cream sauce," as a Thali plate that also came with the vegetarian curry of they day, lentil soup, dal and beans, raita, rice and naan. Dining companion ordered the same thing, but with Lamb Vindaloo as the main.

For the most part, the food was all excellent. My Koorma, with soft cashews and satisfying cream, was exceptionally rich and delicious (so rich that I ended up using it more as a garnish for the other little dishes than by itself), and the Vindaloo was described as the best my dining companion had ever had. Everything, for the most part, was well spiced and balanced in that way that makes you think "mmmmm, this is good," without having to think to hard about why exactly. Another nice detail was that most items weren't overwhelmingly salty.

One of my favorite details of eating at an Indian restaurant is the selection of sauces that they bring to the table, and they tend to vary wildly. In the case of Mayuri, they were exceptional. One tasted like spicy tomato cardamom, and the other tasted like toasted grains and coconut.

The only item that didn't really live up to the others was the vegetable curry of the day, which was the contradictory combination of being simultaneously bland and too spicy and salty.

Gulab Jamun, aka fried doughball in sweet cardamom syrup, as the Thali dessert.

Ordering Thali is always fun, but we were seeing some pretty spectacular specialties brought to the tables around us, including things like stuffed thigh sized moong bean flour crepes, and I'd b be curious to sample some more specialised dishes.

Mayuri Indian Cuisine
(425) 641-4442
15400 NE 20th St
Bellevue, WA 98007

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