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Sky City Restaurant at the Space Needle

19 Jan

Every year for Christmas, I go back to the lovely island of Whidbey to visit family and friends. Lately, since boyfriend has been accompanying me on these trips, we have been doing little tourist activities because he had never been to Washington before. We’ve done Pike Place, Ivar’s for their clam chowder (and a whole bunch of other chowder places because I am nuts for chowder), Pike Street, the gum wall, Deception Pass and kayaking, and a few other things…This time around, we decided to do the Space Needle.

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Image Source: http://www.seattlephotographs.com/photos/space_needle/Space_Needle_photo_gallery.htm

The last time I was at the Space Needle was in the 8th grade for my Pacific Northwest History class. The Space Needle is definitely a sight to see, but it’s one of those things that when you live there, you don’t really visit it. I must say, though, that looking at the Space Needle in the city skyline whenever I fly back home is a-ma-zing. And more than being a lazy Washingtonian, it is also a bit pricey (around $20) to take the glass elevator up to the top. Yet, for the boyfriend, I will do anything. 😉

Since we were already going to go up, which would cost about $40 for the elevator ride, we decided to hell with it – we’ll just eat lunch at the Sky City restaurant as well (the ticket price is included in your meal price).

To begin with, the view is absolutely amazing. There is no restaurant that has quite the view as this…

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for the food. Don’t get me wrong, the food is good. But when your LUNCH bill hits $100, your food needs to be pretty dang spectacular. This food is good, but the price you pay is for the view. Anyway, we settled on two appetizers and one entree for lunch.

To start, we had the wild salmon fritters with herb remoulade ($14).

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These were….eh. I think we even left an entire fritter. I hate leaving food on a plate!

We also shared a bowl of razor clam and corn chowder ($9).

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This was delicious. But you know, I am obsessed with clam chowder. Toss in corn — and I am done. My one (huge) complaint of this was that it only had one razor clam in it. Really? C’mon.

And lastly, we had the Pacific Ahi Tuna Salad ($29).

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This was pretty tasty. I have had lots of ahi tuna salads, and I wouldn’t say this was the best one ever (not Asian-y enough for me), but it was good. What really stood out for me on this dish was the carrots (sweet, crunchy and delicious) and the porcini mushrooms. Everything was very fresh and presented nicely, it just wasn’t exciting.

Overall? I think it’s probably worth it for the one-time experience, but not a meal that I am scrambling to return too. Extra thought on this? There is a little cafe at the top where you can eat also and have the “eat and view” experience, minus some of the luxury.

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Border Grill (as seen on Top Chef!)

20 Oct

Recently, the boyfriend and I went to Vegas to visit his sister. Trust me, there was no “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” types of moments for this trip. I cooked breakfast, we went to eat, we drank beers at home, and were probably in bed by 10:30. I don’t know when I became so old.

But, we did go eat “brunch” at 2:30 in the afternoon at the Border Grill, located inside the Mandalay Bay Casino. When we were choosing where to go eat, I totally got suckered into the celebrity chef gig. I always do. The boyfriend and I have also been to Bobby Flay’s restaurant in Vegas and to Morimoto’s in Napa. Border Grill is owned by two chefs I have seen on Master Chef – Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Fenige.

The other thing that I am a sucker for is bottomless mimosas. The brunch is $29.95, but to add bottomless mimosas is only $5 more. Decision made.

The restaurant is served tapas style — which is interesting for a brunch. However, I love this style of eating food because it means I get to try an assortment of foods and it gives me an excuse to eat a lot.

First things first, we ordered the mimosas. The mimosas came in different flavors, so we decided to try a different flavor for each round (and repeat). Naturally, we started with the traditional orange, but also tried pomegranate, grapefruit, peach, and mango.

They also automatically serve you guava empanadas and a fresh fruit plate.

What was particularly good about this fruit plate is that it had passion fruit juice drizzled over the rest of the fruit. I love passion fruits. In fact, one of my bff’s make passion fruit mimosas. Try it.

My first order was of chilaquiles. Duh! It is only my favorite breakfast item. These came with machaca (shredded beef), egg, and roasted chiles.

They were good, but I have to say, the chips could have been crispier. I think boyfriend’s mom wins the chilaquiles round.

The boyfriend’s first plate was of crispy potato rajas taco. It had roasted potatoes, chiles, corn salsa, and guacamole. I am a sucker for corn and for guacamole. This might have been one of the best tapas we ordered.

I ordered the Mexican(ish) version of shrimp and grits. I have never had grits before, so that was a big factor in my selection of this dish. The shrimp had a chile flavor and were cooked deliciously. The grits had Parmesan cheese, so they were nice and cheesy. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was a good way to try something new for me.

Next up, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bacon and jalapenos.

If you like sweet and spicy, you will like this. It is exactly what it sounds like.

My other favorite dish was this — a green corn tamale with salsa fresca and sour cream. The tamale was moist and full of corn flavor and of course, it had sour cream!

You can tell I liked this dish because I accidentally took a bite (or two or three) before I took a picture. The boyfriend is always annoyed with me because I make him sit in anticipation of eating because I have to take pictures. This time, the anticipation took over me because I never forget the Asian in me and forget to take the picture first!

For the next few rounds, the waiter just brought us whatever the kitchen could still make. Unfortunately, we arrived right as brunch time was ending and the dinner prep had to begin. I wanted to order the huevos rancheros, but this no longer was an option. So, he brought us out the following:

Frittata Tart. Egg, spinach, onions, and a variety of cheeses. If you like quiches or egg dishes like this, you probably would enjoy it. I regretted putting it into my mouth. I am a freak about textures and this was just mushy. I don’t think anyone else at our table of six even bothered to try it.

Plantain empanadas. I was still too busy eating my tamale, I did not try these.

I mean, they are just pancakes. Pancakes with a whole lotta butta.

As you can see, by the time that 3:00 rolled around, we were very full and our waiter just brought us out whatever. That made the brunch end with a slightly lacking punch. However, there were still several other things on the menu that I would have liked to try…the skirt steak and eggs…the chorizo and egg burrito (my other favorite breakfast)…the huevos rancheros. My suggestion? Get there when it opens and plan to eat and drink till 3:00 so that you have plenty of time to eat, rest, and eat some more! I definitely wished that that we hadn’t gotten so full so quickly and that we had more time to enjoy our food and mimosas.

Overall? I would come back. $35 is typically more than I will spend on anything, but, if you make a feast out of it and get your drinks worth, for Vegas, it is probably a very good deal. And, if nothing else, I can chalk it up as another Top Chef meal.

Nahm (as in nom nom nom)

8 Oct

Nahm is the restaurant that I found on a list called “Word’s Top 50 Restaurants” when I was doing food research for our trip. In case you haven’t realized it yet, Emilio was in charge of the travel plans and I was in charge of the eating interary. You can read the list of amazing places to eat for yourself here. (I just want you to know that that is the first time I have ever made a link without actually showing the URL – I am getting better at this blogging thing slowly but surely).

Nahm is run by an Australian chef who has the same restaurant in London – which won a Michelin star (and then lost it). And just because its a new trick I learned, you can learn about Michelin stars here. It is Thai food, but obviously a bit modernized, priced way higher than street food, and just taken up a notch. It is inside the Metropolitan hotel and is a great setting.

We decided to get the set menu – where they bring food out to you, but you don’t necessarily know what its going to be. This was 1700 baht a person (about $55) but this is cheaper than set menus at renowned restaurants in the States. The silly thing was that we also got a bottle of wine and that was 1800 baht — more expensive than all the food!

We started off with canapes – little small plates that get your appetite going.

The first was a dish (and I don’t know what the fancy restaurant name of any of these things are) was this tapioca dumpling that had peanut and smoked fish on the inside. Looked weird, sounds weird, tasted good.

Actually, that was a lie. Before we got this dish, we got compliments of the chef. This was a triangle of pineapple with minced pork and palm sugar on top. The palm sugar made it a bit chewy, but the flavor was spicy and sweet.

Ok, I’m done lying…back to the canapes.

The second canape was southern grilled mussels. These were smokey and for a non-shellfish lover, they were pretty good. They were served with a side of fresh cucumber (notice how small cucumbers are here — these are not the GMO veggies of US grocery stores) which was a nice refreshing contrast to the smokiness bbq of the mussel.

We then were served these little rolls that looked like a cross between fried spring rolls and wafer cookies. These wafer rolls had chicken and lychee on the inside. Simple, crunchy, sweet.

Our last canape, which honestly could have been our last plate because we were already getting full and had so many dishes to come, was probably the best thing we ate all night. It was spicy pork with mint, peanuts, and crunchy rice which you rolled up (like lettuce cups) in betel leaves. Side note – I looked up what betel leaves were because I had never heard of them and apparently people in SE Asia often chew them for both their questionable medicinal effects and for their euphoria-inducing effects. Interesting, eh?

Then, came the salad. For this, we received a salad of deep fried soft shell crab with pomelo (a citrus fruit), chilies, and coriander. And I forgot to mention this. When we first ordered the set menu, our waitress asked us if we had any dietary restrictions or foods we didn’t enjoy. We eagerly assured here that no, we ate pretty much anything. We forgot that we hate fish sauce. At least fish sauce overdone. This salad had potential to be good, but the dressing definitely had fish sauce. I tried to sneak it across the table to the boyfriend’s side, but he didn’t appreciate that much since his nose is also now sensitive to this stench.

The soup course was a clear broth with minced pork and prawns with pak warn and squid. I have absolutely no idea what pak warn is. I tried to do a search of it but all my results said something like “US officials warn of Pakistan threat.” Um, that wasn’t in my soup. The identifiable thing to me was spring onion. It was good, but honestly, at this point, we were reaching our full limit. We literally went outside for a breather.

Our next course came in three parts. I was very confused how to eat this all together and our waiter had some difficulty explaining it. It was a coconut cream soup with pork, prawns, green chilies (which means they are young and not as spicy – I learned that in cooking class, bitches!), shallots, and coriander. It was served with this platter of vegetables — cucumber, leaves, and the like and deep fried carp fish. This could have been my favorite thing to eat, I think, except the fish sauce was ridiculously heavy in the coconut soup. I tried to filter out the prawns to eat, especially since I like coconut soup flavors, but I am not even sure Emilio tried it once I mentioned fish sauce. I tried to push it to his half of the table again – he wasn’t having it.

Our next dish was the curry dish. There were so many amazing sounding options for the curry serving that this was the only time I wished we hadn’t done the set menu. The curry that we were served had wagyu beef with bai yar (some kind of leaf vegetable but I don’t know what it is). All I can say is this – fish sauce.

The second dish that was in competition for favorite dish of the night was a simple stir-fry. It was stir-fried pork with yellow beans and ginger. We ate it with steamed rice and it had a great kick to it. Nothing that was overpowering, but enough to make you go, “hmmm…spicy!”

That was a dish I might have to re-create. After we ate it, Emilio told me that pork was his favorite meat. What?!?! I cook dinner every night and I never make pork. I think maybe twice I have cooked it. So apparently, more pork and maybe more pork when its done like this!

With all this food, we couldn’t finish it. We ate all the canapes because we walked in hungry. But all these main dishes, unfortunately, had some leftovers (except maybe the pork 🙂 ). But, there’s always room for dessert right?

Except dessert tonight……

We decided to go for it. For the past 24 days, we’ve walked in the streets and always smelled this smell that made us exclaim, “What the hell is that?? I had been tempted to try it, even though I watched Andrew Zimmerman barely swallow it on his show. I mean, it’s fruit? How can a piece of fruit possibly taste bad?

If you have never tried durian before, I highly suggest that you never do. Mi mascota and I will, as you probably can tell, will try just about anything. I tried three bites of durian and I spit each and every bite out. Emilio swallowed a few bites but was laughing (that kind of laugh that you have when you don’t know what else to do in the situation) and couldn’t believe at how “gym-socky” it tasted. It was disgusting. The saving grace was this excellent mojito-type cocktail I had that washed it all down. Why durian is called “the king of fruit” in Thailand, I can not understand. Our waitress said she’d never even tried it — it smelled too bad. Dare I say that we left this trip with a strong distaste for fish sauce and durian? I think so.

We also had two other “treats” for dessert.

One was this simple, unripe mango fruit with a lime-salt on it. I think I just prefer ripe mango with sticky rice.

We also had a persimmon dish that had yellow noodles (I couldn’t see or taste this) wrapped in another pastry roll. This tasted fine, but again, my belly was just bursting and I wanted to not burst the seams of my dress. The funny thing was that when we did our food tour on Friday afternoon, I saw these little permission pancake rolls everywhere.

I am not sure if you noticed, but those little fruits on the durian and the pancake dish were bites of one of the most amazing fruits (unlike durian!) that I have ever had. They were called mangosteen. And they were umptious, delicious, delectable little bites of sweetness. I understand why mangosteen are considered the “queen of fruit” in Thailand. It can claim that title justly.

Overall, how would I rate Nahm?

The dishes we had were done well. If we didn’t have such strong aversions to fish sauce, and now apparently, a fruit of all things, I think we could have easily said it was a great meal. And, it was a great meal. I just wish that we had thought to speak up (and remember, even) our food/taste preferences when we were asked. Otherwise, this might have been a 4.5/5 star rating for me (I am a stickler for giving 5’s), but for me, it was probably more like 3.5/5. I would come back, but probably control my menu a bit more so I could be more selective.

So, how did the boyfriend rate it?