KIRKLAND — I understand that we’re all feeling a bit stir-crazy, eager to get out of our homes and get back to whatever normal feels like. Or at least feel like we’re doing less dishes? Still, may I make an impassioned plea to bring some kindness along with your mask if you choose to pick up food at any restaurant. Channel supermodel Tyra Banks and “smize” — that’s smile with your eyes — as nonverbal cues are quite a bit harder to pick up on when we’re masked.
Don’t forget to call and check in on your favorite restaurants to see what their plans are and how you can best support them while keeping your own personal level of safety in mind. Many will still be offering takeout, wine clubs or to-go cocktail programs.
As for Neighborhood Eats, this week we’re heading to Kirkland for crisp dosas, massive Turkish meatballs and lip-smacking lemongrass beef.
Padria Mediterranean Cafe
9708 N.E. 119th Way, Kirkland; 425-814-1693, padriacafe.com; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday
After working in tech for 20 years, Shahin Shahidy opened Padria in November 2008. Located in the bustling Salix Village, the menu features comforting Mediterranean classics: gyros, falafel, hummus, roasted lamb and skewers of beef and chicken.
There’s a Padria Platter, complete with creamy, garlic-tinged hummus, baba ghanoush, silver-dollar-sized falafel balls, olives and a bulgur-wheat-heavy tabbouleh.
The chicken soltani plate features one skewer of marinated chicken and one skewer of beef, served on a bed of fluffy basmati rice with a fire-roasted tomato. The chicken is tender (and wonderful dunked in the dill-forward tzatziki sauce), the beef is finely ground and has a hint of cloves and coriander, perfect with the jammy tomato.
The Turkish meatballs called koftah are my favorite. The order comes with two softball-sized turkey meatballs swimming in a brick-red sauce, served with your choice of rice or salad.
The meatballs are mixed with green lentils, incredibly tender and layered with spices. The accompanying tomato-based sauce is a rich purée with plums adding just the right touch of sweetness. I was happy for the generous amount of pita and used it to sop up all that wonderful plummy gravy. The salad was also generous, an entire large takeout container stuffed with the makings of a classic Greek-style salad, an herbaceous vinaigrette on the side.
11451 98th Ave. N.E., Kirkland; 425-821-8188, kathakali-juanita.com; lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday
Situated just a stone’s throw from the Old Market Street Trail in Juanita Bay Park, Kathakali specializes in a modern take on the fiery cuisine of the coastal state of Kerala in India.
Whatever you order, don’t miss the basil spinach dosa, one of a half-dozen specialty crepes on the menu. Some mix in surprising flavors: white truffle oil, garlic butter or black-pepper mushrooms. This one features a basil spinach pesto mixed directly into the lentil-and-rice dosa batter. That batter is griddled until crisp and stuffed with creamy potato with mustard seed and other spices. Wrapped like a large envelope, the exterior managed to stay crisp despite my half-hour drive home. Pesto can occasionally turn bitter with too much heat, but this was nicely herbal, the interior still steaming when I finally tore into it, dipping hunks into the accompanying tamarind and cilantro chutneys.
The paneer butter masala was equally enjoyable, heavy on the butter and spices.
The kale, onion and cashew pakora, served with mint and tamarind chutneys, was stone cold by the time I arrived home, but the crunchy little clusters were easily revived in the toaster oven and perfect dunked in the accompanying mint chutney.
339 Kirkland Ave., Suite C, Kirkland; 425-947-7998, reunionmalaysian.com; lunch 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday; dinner 5-8:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
Pre-coronavirus, this teeny Malaysian cafe and coffee bar had a wide-ranging menu that included kaya butter waffles and crepe cakes, but your best bet now is to call to see what’s available each day. There are often weekly specials — whole roasted duck or Singapore chili crab — available to reserve in advance for pickup.
However, if you’re hungry right now — go for the national plate. For $25, you’ll get fall-apart tender lemongrass beef and two burnished garlic-and-chili-rubbed chicken quarters, plus broken rice and a smattering of cucumbers, hard-boiled egg and peanuts. A squeeze of lime kicks the flavors to 11. My only request is for the prawn chips to be packaged separately so they retain some semblance of crunch.
Also readily available is the nyonya laksa seafood with shrimp, clams, fish cakes, spinach, egg and two kinds of noodles. The spicy coconut curry broth is served on the side, preventing the other ingredients from steaming to death on the drive home. The broth smacks you immediately with spice, but it’s thin. Not totally without soul, but not all-consuming either, the spice doesn’t linger any more than any other defining flavor. The contrast of angel hair vermicelli and thicker, chewy wheat noodles was a surprising, tiny joy.