35th Street Bistro
709 N. 35th St
Seattle WA 98103
In Fremont, a Bistro That Sets the Bar
By: Robin P
On the hunt for a place to get lunch one too-late-to-be-chilly May afternoon, Grant and I were cruising up Westlake Ave when I remembered a little restaurant in my old neighborhood of Fremont. Tucked away just the down the street from one of downtown Fremont's crazy five-way intersections, sits the shy little 35th Street Bistro.
I lived in Fremont up until about three years ago, and noticed the place, but never took the time to walk over and check it out. Maybe it was a function of being younger and less determined to find really good food, because Blue C Sushi or Jai Thai always seemed more appealing. 35th Street Bistro seemed too fancy, too old, and too intimidating. At least not worth the gamble.
It's worth it. Fresh flavors, fresh high-quality ingredients, and inspired artistry make this sweet little joint truly a place to check out. Menus change frequently, presumably reflecting the availability of fresh ingredients. It is indeed refined and elegant, but without being intimidating.
I appreciate the use local and sustainably raised products, where possible-in my experience, these tend to lead to superior quality ingredients, and therefore superior quality dishes. As an eater, I find that they make things more satisfying, and seem to reach the palate on another level beyond the basic four or five flavors. Such was mostly certainly the case at the 35th Street Bistro. Diver scallops (hand-picked is by far the most ocean-friendly harvesting technique), farm-raised ham, grass-fed beef, and celeriac (a good cool-weather crop) all made and appearance at our lunch. While dining, I saw what looked like a crate of fresh, locally-made juice being delivered.
For starters, we ordered the diver scallops ($12.00)-two half-dollar sized scallops served on a buttery celeriac pure with a citrusy sauce. The scallops were tender without being too chewy, and while the citrus sauce by itself was quite strong, it was great with the scallops-the two complemented each other surprisingly well. However, the celeriac pure was puzzling; it had some fibrous bits mixed in it, as if the scruffy outside of the root had been thrown in, or at least not trimmed completely. I suppose it might have been intentional, but in any case I found it very unpleasant, as if I were eating farina with wood chips in it. Despite the weird texture, the flavor was quite nice. I find that celeriac can get almost chemically-tasting if not tempered with other flavors.
The farm raised, thinly sliced ham with gruyre, and bchamel on brioche bread made a fantastic croque monsieur ($10.00). Constructed like a regular sandwich (as opposed to being open-faced or served in a baking dish), the oiled outside quickly made my fingers oily and breadcrumby. However, it was wonderfully rich and savory-the ham was flavorful and lean, if a bit on the salty side, the gruyre made its presence known without being too strong, and the bchamel greatly improved the texture as well as helped keep everything from being too dry-the first time I have noticed or especially enjoyed bchamel. The specialty Famous Crispy French fries ($5) on the side were awfully good as fries go-the skins were left on, they were fried crisp but not hard, and were served with inspired accompaniments like parmesan, salt, pepper and oniony-but-not-too-oniony chives. Grant found them unremarkable, but I personally enjoyed them a lot, and my only regret was that I couldn't eat them quickly enough to get through them before they went cold.
Grant's bistro burger ($12.00) had thick, juicy patty on a fresh, porous bun that soaked up lots of the grass-fed beef juice. It was criss-crossed with two bacon slices that were decoratively long but for all practical purposes hard to eat. The beef was moist, had strong meat flavor, and was overall just a great burger that put Grant in a food coma before finishing. The cheddar and aioli almost vanished against the large patty.
The inside of the restaurant was very nicely done, with charmingly mismatched chairs, pretty vintage decor, wood floors and high ceilings yielding spacious windows. I found it to be well-decorated without looking like an interior decorator had just redone everything-it had a real, lived-in character, creating an effect that was more elegant than chic or modern. It's a neighborhood cafe and restaurant for Fremont not a pretentious Seattle scenester hangout. The service was great, with our very helpful server pointing out after I ordered fries (without realizing my dish already came with them) that I had made a redundant order. He was also prompt and efficient, checking in at all the right moments like only a really good server can.
Overall, 35th Street Bistro treated us to a fabulous experience. It delivers substance as well as style, and is not too precious or overly polished. It is definitely worth a visit if you're in or near Fremont.
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