seattle

eater's digest: revel

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

At the "Center of the Universe" (Fremont, Seattle, WA), there lives an urban-style Korean restaurant called Revel. The epitome of an open kitchen, the space is both understatedly hip and remarkably calm. Fragrant, pungent plates slide across the oversized counter, a constant flow of culinary eyecandy for diners smart enough to snag a bar seat.

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The brainchild of chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, 2013 James Beard Award semi-finalists, Revel is only one of the couple's local culinary projects. The nextdoor cocktail bar, Quoin, and Joule, an electic international spot in nearby Wallingford, are equally renown for Yang and Chirchi's fun, imaginative fare.

At Revel, this creativity is first apparent in the somewhat confusing menu, which the eager staff is happy to explain in detail. Even the bacon and eggs (the most straight-forward item on the brunch menu), were assertively different: dark, thick-cut bacon, grill-charred toast and scallion hash to swoon over.

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Donut fans should sample the almost custard-y, crunch-crusted donuts, mysteriously bereft of grease. Vegetarian, spice-driven eaters will find their groove with the smoked chili and eggplant DanDan noodles, further improved with a dash or two of Revel's signature fish and soybean paste sauces.

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Carnivores might consider the incredible short ribs, a heftier spin on bimimbap, but well worth the indulgence. And the wise will wash it all down with a super-spiced kimchi Bloody Mary or fuschia Hibiscus-Ginger soda.

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Revel
403 N 36th St.
Seattle, WA 98103
206.547.2040

au marché: pike place market

While preparing for my recent trip to Seattle, I started having "fish fantasies". There I'd be, in a yellow rain slicker, steaming cup of coffee in hand, hanging with the Pike Place fishmongers at 5am. pikeplace_1

Needless to say, my co-travelers weren't having this. But I did motivate them to head to market around 8:30, on a surprisingly sunny day, with the promise of coffee in their near future.

pikeplace_2 For all my fantasizing, I really didn't know what to expect. I knew they might throw fish, a quirky gimmick I'd witnessed in the opener for Seattle's Real World. Given the market's tv-ready renown, I assumed I was walking into a relatively delicious tourist trap.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3vcGax9ojE

First, let me attest that throwing fish is a pretty efficient way to move the product. When we arrived, there were very few other onlookers, so we got to chat a bit with the 'mongers about their fish flinging style. They also let us taste their smoked salmon (I hate this "word", but mouthgasm seems an appropriate descriptor), and sold us a bit of salmon jerky for the road, while I wantingly eyed the king crab legs.

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As impressive as the fish was, the biggest surprises at Pike's were the flowers and fruit. Generously bursting bouquets of cabbage flowers sold for the New York price of a bad bunch of dyed carnations. The range of local,  vividly-hued produce was also impressive, especially the iconic-ly tart local citrus: satsumas. We were also seduced by one vendor's chili-spiced spin on huckleberry jam. In short, the whole market was a series of sensory revelations.

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If I did have one critique of the market, it would be this: when the other tourists did arrive, few of them seriously shopped. It's hard to support a market on tourism alone, and you could hear it in the mongers' banter. "Step right up, anyone with money." "Someone here who actually wants to shop?"

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It killed me not to have a kitchen. Next time I go to Seattle, I'm cooking for myself.

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eater's digest: pike street fish fry

A few months back, I headed west - Pacific Northwest to be exact - to check out the locavore food culture of eclectic Seattle, WA. The ingredients I found there surpassed every expectation, from sweet-tart satsumas to incomparable smoked salmon. But my first edible stop on this city tour wasn't a colorful market. It was a fish lover's greasy spoon.

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Far from the waterfront stalls of the Pike Place market, the similarly named Pike Street Fish Fry is a dive-y bastion of pescatarian nostalgia. This "chipper", like the nearby Elliot Bay Book Company, remains the kind of spot that locals still haunt, undeterred by the accolades that further expose it to the masses. When we arrived for lunch on a Friday afternoon, it was quietly bustling, hawking greasy wares from a simple open kitchen. Overhead, a blackboard menu listed: battered & fried, grilled, sandwiches and sides - plus the option to "slap anything on the menu on a roll" for an additional dollar.

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Here, there are no standard "fish and chips" - you order by type of fish. We opted for fried cod, calamari and fish tacos. The tacos and cod initially seemed greasy, but one bite of the moist and flaky flesh revealed a light breading that puffed crunchily away from the fish. The fried calamari was an equal improvement on a classic: tender, freshly-caught squid that couldn't have been a further cry from the frozen, heavily-breaded version which frequents too many appetizer menus.

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As we dug into our fish, dashing malt vinegar over our salt-and-peppered fries, we struck up a conversation with a pair of locals. One, taciturn, deplored the number of overrated restaurants in the city. But this, this was his spot. Understated pleasure, pommes frites-style dipping sauces (try the lemon aioli or chili mayo) and self-serve soda fountain included.

Pike Street Fish Fry 925 East Pike Street Seattle, WA 98122 (206) 329-7453