A Food Critic's Year in Review - Grant

Grant YMarch 10th, 2008
By: Grant Y

If you should ever have the fate of becoming a food critic, two of the most common phrases you will hear are: "Oh you're so lucky, I wish I could do that" and "So what's good in Seattle?" The first usually leads to a sheepish shrug as it's hard to explain to someone that doesn't eat for work why it's not nearly as glamorous as one would think. As for the second question, I generally smile and simply say, "It depends."

The reason that it depends is because restaurants vary far and wide in terms of taste, service, ambiance, value and goals. If you're a foodie, I'd surmise that you the type of person willing to deal with the soup nazi if his chowder was out of this world. On the other hand, if you're the professional businessman looking to impress, the service and scene are likely more important than a scrumptious meal that may be lost on your client.

Realizing this, myself and the rest of the Chef Seattle core team decided to each write a 'Year in Review' of our experience in the Seattle dining scene, listing off the best (and sometimes worst) restaurants that we have come across in each category imaginable. It's been a crazy year, so I hope you enjoy this list.

Best Seattle Date Restaurants
  • Serafina - It's cozy, artsy, friendly and the food is deeee-lish!
  • Andaluca - Good food, good service, good ambiance and good value. Good enough?
  • Boka Kitchen and Bar - Crystal bamboo art, comfortable alligator skin chairs and curvy retro chic - can you dig it?
  • Yarrow Bay Grill - Window seat at sunset + black cod = you owe me.
  • The Purple Cafe - The Seattle location is quite incredible, but the Woodinville location can do in a pinch.
For My Final Meal, I would Kindly Ask For
  • Tulio - The lavender rack of pork. Juicy, succulent and will send shudders down your spine.
  • Tango Tapas - The only better seafood paella I've had was in New York, and it's still a close call. Simply, wow.
  • Tosoni's - The genose cake is my favorite desert to date.
  • Tropea - Say after me: smoked salmon fettuccine.
  • Kikuya - One of the only restaurants in all Seattle to serve genuine Japanese teriyaki chicken.
The Hungry Foodie List
  • La Casa Del Mojito - Can't go wrong with fried white fish or pulled pork for $10.
  • Cedars - Voted Best Indian restaurant by who else - the UW Indian Students Association.
  • Fort St George - Surprisingly tasty pseudo fusion meets $7 plates.
  • Spice Route Indian Cuisine - Out of left field comes this no-namer to take the spot of best Indian buffet on the East side, period.
  • Wonton City - They apologized when they increased menu prices to $5.75. Need I say more?
For the Soup Nazi Lover in Us
  • Fu Man Dumpling House - The dumplings are the best in Seattle, so you're just going to have to wait outside already with everyone else.
  • Cafe Ori - If you've had bad service here, it means they've finally accepted you. Now enjoy the Portuguese and curry chicken.
  • Top Gun Seafood Restaurant - The original in the International District was shut down for food violation, but that never stopped the crowds there from the dim sum rush.
  • Regent Bakery - Stop taking so long to order and just get the salt and pepper wings with an order of yee mein already.
I'm a Sell-out Because I Like
  • Veil - Your Ikea inspired designs don't fool me and neither does calling chopped spuds "root hash", but I simply can't resist your mouth-watering duck confit.
  • Manzana - What can I say, I liked the nut crusted salmon.
  • Mixtura - I almost think it fails at being pretentious and ends up just serving awesome food. Duck confit is superb.
  • Sushiyama - In the context of conveyer belt sushi, this kaiten-zushi shop beats the others.
Oh No! It's Overrated!
  • Etta's - Since when did ketchup turn into "green tomato jam", Tom?
  • Brasa - Repeat after me: lifeless, android hostesses, servers and runners is not chic in this town.
  • Chan's Place - Lobotomy. Now.
  • Coho Cafe - The only thing worse than my fish taco? The look on the guys face who bit into one on my way out.
  • Todai - $25 for all you can eat for rubbery sushi and cafeteria tempura. Yummy!
The Humble Rock Stars
  • Lee's Asian Restaurant - The originator of Wild Ginger, Lee's delivers a star power punch in a tiny little space on Alki
  • Rocking Wok - Rocking what? Interlake where? Just give me the Chinese pancakes and wined chicken already.
  • Ginza - I'm not telling you where this is because I don't want you to find it. Go away.
  • Santorini Greek Grill - If gyros and souvlaki plates are considered Greek fast food, then I'll take the super-size with extra tzatziki sauce, thank you.
  • Sichuanese Cuisine - 20 dumplings for $5 plus sichuan hot chicken and you're a happy camper.
Mixtura's causa marina potato cake, topped with avocado and smoked salmon
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