SEATTLE TIMES FOOD writers Bethany Jean Clement and Tan Vinh took over reviewing restaurants for the paper in August, setting out on a mission to find the best eating at all kinds of places, run by all kinds of people, at all kinds of price points. While recognizing that they’ve only just gotten started, they’re very happy to bring you this highly arbitrary shortlist of their favorite dishes at the new restaurants they tested around the Seattle area in 2019 — the things they think you’ll love, too.
THE EGG-ON-EGG SANDO AT HANNYATOU IN FREMONT
1060 N. 39th St., Seattle; 206-294-4104; hannyatou.com; $-$$
This sake bar is a playground where rising star chef Mutsuko Soma toys with Americana foods that date to the era of ABC Afterschool Specials and Kid Power lunchboxes — think Spam, Honey Nut Cheerios and Goldfish crackers. Soma also adds her Japanese sensibilities to American classics such as the egg salad sandwich — served on toasted Wonder Bread, the egg salad gets augmented with shallots and spicy mustard, then elevated with house-cured salmon roe and Kewpie mayo, making an umami bomb. That eggy creaminess will feel familiar in your mouth, but once you chomp down, you get tiny, briny pops — and man, I’m telling you now: Every egg salad sandwich you eat after hers will be a disappointment. — Tan Vinh
ALL THE PASTA AT CARRELLO ON CAPITOL HILL
622 Broadway E., Seattle; 206-257-5622; carrellorestaurant.com; $$-$$$
The handmade pasta at Seattle’s vaunted Altura is incredible, and it’d better be: The finest-of-fine-dining Seattle Italian restaurant costs $157 per person (more than Canlis!). The advent of chef Nathan Lockwood’s way-more-affordable second spot, Carrello, is a blessing for local pasta devotees, rivaled only by the also-amazing arrival of Il Nido (see below). Carrello is just across Broadway from Altura, and along with pastas for $14 to $19 per plate, it also serves little Italian dishes off roving carts, plus shareably big entrees that might very well be as good as Il Nido’s steak. Because the restaurant’s still brand-new at this writing (Pacific NW magazine goes to press in advance, so I’m coming to you from early October), it seems best to leave a full report for later, but I already practically ran there and ate all the pasta, and you should, too. My favorite on the second night of Carrello’s existence was a supremely light, eggy tagliatelle simply dressed with rich Sardinian olive oil, saline gratings of the delicacy that is cured tuna heart, bits of exactingly toasted garlic, plus parsley for freshness, all in ideal proportions. My God, it was good. See you there. — Bethany Jean Clement
BEIJING DUCK AT IMPERIAL GARDEN IN KENT
18230 E. Valley Hwy., Ste. 116, Kent; 425-656-0999; mywali.co/business/imperialgardenkent/index.html; $-$$$
Dining around strip malls in the South End, I kept hearing raves about the crispy duck served at this revamped banquet restaurant in the Great Wall Shopping Mall. Have you been? You need to. But order ahead, because the duck takes 70 minutes to crisp up — that is, if there’s any left. Only 32 ducks are made daily.
This duck is expensive — $59.99 for a whole, enough for two big portions or four smaller ones. But that crispy skin is decadent. The server debones and plates the duck in the shape of a turtle shell, leaving the mahogany skin glistening under a patina of fat. That unctuous meat underneath tastes 10 times richer than any chicken thigh. For some, that crispy skin is too rich, so to make the duck fat go down easier, they smear blueberry jam on the rice flour pancake, wrap the meat with matchsticks of melon and dip it in sugar. The young bucks drop black bean sauce or sriracha on and fold it like a taco.
But this is how you should play it. Grab a sliver of duck skin and dip it in the sugar bowl, and then put it in your mouth. Within seconds, the sugar grinds the crispy skin into specks that melt on your tongue, like a poor man’s molecular gastronomy. — T.V.
EVERYTHING AT BY TAE ON CAPITOL HILL (AND PROBABLY EVERYTHING AT TANEDA, TOO)
1424 11th Ave., Suite E (inside Chophouse Row), Seattle; no phone; facebook.com/bytaeseattle; multicourse lunch $32
I very much want to eat chef Hideaki Taneda’s kaiseki-inspired set menu of raw fish and small dishes at Taneda, his new nine-seat spot tucked away inside the Broadway Alley building. These dinners last a couple hours, jazz playing, with chef Taneda reportedly quietly intense; they cost $124-plus per person. The thing is, Taneda won a three-star Seattle Times rating in May, before I started reviewing restaurants. I bet my editor would let me expense it regardless, but guilt’s involved in spending our resources that way, and something in me still finds committing to splurge-level dining difficult. I’m going to go, though. Soon!
Meanwhile, just blocks away, also at a tiny, hidden counter space — eight seats inside Capitol Hill’s Chophouse Row — chef Sun Hong runs his lunch-only, $32-per-person raw-fish-and-small-dishes By Tae. Here, Sun (everyone calls him Sun) might play all of “Pet Sounds” while initiating a debate on the virtues of that album versus “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” His set menu might include miso soup that by smell alone bests all the miso soup you’ve ever tasted, served in a paper cup; one delicately wrappered beef dumpling with black sesame and perilla; or a crispy-tender mung bean pancake with shrimp and kimchi. Stellar hand rolls and nigiri happen, too. Sun might, with no fanfare, pull out a whole, silvery-shining, gorgeous fish, calling out, “Washington albacore!” when somebody asks, laughing with delight. He works quickly but with deep respect; watch, and you’ll see how little is wasted, whether motion or fish. As Sun places a single piece of caught-that-morning albacore sushi in front of each person, they fall silent, then maybe quietly moan or give a little involuntary shout.
Apropos of a fish’s beauty or the wonder of our local mushrooms, Sun sometimes waxes briefly philosophical. “We only have so much time here,” he’ll say with a strange sort of joy, making our imminent demise something to be urgently, continually celebrated. He says we all deserve luxury. — B.J.C.
THE RIB-EYE AT IL NIDO IN WEST SEATTLE (WITH AN HONORABLE MENTION FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE BURGER ELSEWHERE)
2717 61st Ave. S.W., Seattle; 206-466-6265; ilnidoseattle.com; $$$
It’s true that the source of chef Mike Easton’s prodigious renown is his incredible pasta, as long evidenced at his Pioneer Square lunchtime-only spot, Il Corvo. Those heading to Il Nido, his new restaurant, ensconced in a gorgeously rehabbed, historic Alki log manor, might most look forward to all things noodle. It’s also true that eating less — or no — meat is the single most important thing any of us can do, foodwise, to help stave off climate change. (An honorable mention here for the meat-free, actually great Impossible Burger, now available all over Seattle, from Red Mill to Maslow’s.) If and when we’re going to indulge — meat as an indulgence, not a mainstay — we should do it right. This means eating animals that have been treated humanely, raised on a small enough scale that each one is cared for as a matter of course, given enough space so that they’re not exhausting the land or creating piles of waste — animals that have themselves eaten high-quality, natural stuff. Respect should be a given. Meat should not be cheap. The sous-vide-then-grilled rib-eye at Il Nido is expensive — $49 — but it is big enough to share, scrupulously sourced and probably the best steak you’ll ever have in your life. Get some pasta, too, while the world burns. — B.J.C.
THE FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH AT SODO CHICKEN
6538 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle; 206-898-5862, facebook.com/sodochicken; $
In the year of the fried chicken sandwich, we wanted to find the best. We ended up anointing a humble sammie that drew very few reviews on Yelp. Other fried chicken sandwiches around town tower over SODO Chicken’s squat one by a good 1 to 2 inches, but don’t let appearances fool you. The ratio of juicy dark meat to craggy crust is perfect, and it is structurally impeccable, the batter sticking to the meat and never falling apart, like many other fried chickens. It’s a clean bite that tastes, well, like a bird, without the pomp of any slaw or exotic flavored aioli. This unfussy (and inexpensive, at just $6.95) sandwich delivers with just a squirt of mayo and three pickles on a buttered sesame burger bun. Unlike most purveyors, SODO Chicken leaves the skin on the thigh meat, so you get that film of salty, crispy fat flavor. The best fried chicken out of a bucket comes with the skin on, so why should it be any different with a chicken sandwich? — T.V.
THE KHACHAPURI AT DACHA DINER ON CAPITOL HILL
1416 E. Olive Way, Seattle; 206-708-6855, dachadiner.com; $
There’s so much to love about Dacha Diner, starting with its airy, triangle-shaped, lace-curtained space. The menu, rife with dishes representing “Eastern European & Jewish cuisine,” makes choices here a happy challenge. Herring under a fur coat? Not just an Instagram star, its multilayers are also entirely delicious. The latkes? Others pale beside Dacha’s lacy-crisped-outside-yielding-inside version (and, psst: They gave us the recipe). The pelmeni? Also a paragon of their form. If the Reuben’s on special, get it — this sandwich, on Dacha’s marvelous housemade black bread, might bring tears to your eyes. But if you love bread and cheese and joy, prepare to engulf the khachapuri, a golden-crusted vessel of pure, gooey goodness. You want the one with the egg yolk to mix into the fluffy, fresh-tasting, very hot cheese; the superlative quality of the bread-boat carrying it makes perfect sense if you’ve ever been to Dacha Diner’s older-sister restaurant, the excellent Independent Pizzeria. I’ve never had khachapuri anywhere else, and now I’m afraid to. — B.J.C.
THE BEEF PASTRY AT NÚODLE IN BELLEVUE
14603 N.E. 20th St., Suite #6, Bellevue; 425-395-9999; nuodle.us; $
This chain from mainland China specializes in Lanzhou-style hand-pulled beef noodle, but if you eye all the slurpers around you, scarcely any table is without a beef pastry next to their bowls. That pastry tastes like a hybrid between an Aussie pie and a pâté chaud, with ground beef lying under the pastry sheet all bundled up with the green onions. “Beef pastry” is a misnomer; it’s all about the scallions. When that puck sizzles in the deep-fryer, the mound of green onions morphs into a silky-soft goo and envelops every coarsely ground beef bit to form a caramelized-onionlike sweetness of a filling. If you’re lucky, you might get a fresh one that sat in the cooling station for no more than 15 minutes. That’s when the crispy pastry really sings. — T. V.
ALL THE KATHI ROLLS AT SPICE WAALA ON CAPITOL HILL
340 15th Ave. E., Suite 202, Seattle; 206-466-5195; spicewaala.com; $
Spice Waala owners Uttam Mukherjee and Aakanksha Sinha call what they sell at their counter-service-only spot “Indian street food that is unapologetically authentic to us,” and they take pride in its greatness. The short menu centers on kathi rolls, just four different kinds, each garnished with Spice Waala’s life-changing mint-and-cilantro chutney, then rolled up in warm, pliant roti and served wrapped in silver foil. Chicken tikka’s most popular — tender, rich thigh meat tasting toasty and complex after a 36-hour marinade in coriander, garam masala, cumin ginger, turmeric, garlic and more. Ground lamb also gets a day-and-a-half marinade, coming out soft and deeply flavored, too. Filled with its namesake crispy-fried potato patties, the aloo tikki roll is best ordered Calcutta-style, with a fried egg. Then there’s the kathi roll filled with fresh, crumbly housemade paneer. Which will be your favorite? Bring a friend, try them all and find out — these samples of some of Seattle’s best Indian cuisine are just $7 to $8 each.
THE WHOLE-GRAIN FUDGE BROWNIE AT LUCINDA GRAIN BAR IN RAVENNA
2120 N.E. 65th St., Seattle; 206-457-8180; lucindaseattle.com; $-$$
When is a brownie more than a brownie? The one served at James Beard superstar Edouardo Jordan’s Lucinda Grain Bar is as stellar as the humble melt, mix and bake favorite can be, and that’s because of the sum of its parts. Pastry chef Margaryta Karagodina, entrusted by Jordan to make the best, took her own fudge brownie recipe with which she’d been tinkering for years and enlisted the help of her staff to tinker yet more. What they came up with involves coconut oil and a stick-and-a-half of butter, cocoa powder and high-quality chocolate (the latter in the quantity of 1¾ cups per batch!). The Lucinda Whole-Grain Fudge Brownie also involves, yes, whole-grain flour, which makes it sound like it’s going to taste unfortunately healthy. It does not — it’s melty and super rich and unbelievably chocolaty. Go unto Lucinda, and eat of it — or go unto our website, find the recipe that Jordan and Karagodina kindly gave us, and make your own. Only then will you know all that a brownie can be. — B.J.C.
KEY: Average price of an entree: $$$$ — $35 and over; $$$ — $25-$34; $$ — $15-$24; $ — under $15