Monday, November 30, 2009

I enjoyed great Asian food in Federal Way

From K.

One popular saying I committed to memory this year: Fish where the fish are. It works in business, for sure. But it's also a sensible way to find tempting vittles. Case in point: Federal Way, home to a huge Korean population (and, a huge population of Korean restaurants!).

My husband and I checked out Kokiri (32703 Pacific Highway South, 253-838-4288‎) for Korean barbecue on a recent Friday night and ordered wayyy too much meat for our in-table grill. If it's just the two of you, order one meat selection to grill and try something else as your second dish. We really liked the short ribs and our chicken, however. Not to mention the wealth of banchan!

Last weekend I finally checked out HMart, a Korean food mecca in the spirit of Uwajimaya sans the bright lights and fun decor. Scored a great deal on a box of dainty, delicious pears. Found Squirt in bottles, Mexican Coca-Cola, heavenly sponge cakes, so many different types of beans, produce and flours and an entire area devoted to fresh kimchi.

They even had a man outside roasting sweet potatoes for immediate consumption. One of my favorite ways to warm my belly and my hands, a habit I picked up after visiting family in Japan and picking them up in the park at the end of frosty fall runs with my family.

What a nice surprise it was to also discover a great Japanese restaurant in the neighborhood. Koharu (31840 Pacific Highway South, 253-839-0052) offers a delicious range of well-executed dishes in a tranquil setting surprising for a strip mall. Below is one of my favorite dishes, katsu-don (deep-fried and breaded pork cutlet atop a bed of hot rice, soaked in a shoyu-egg broth). It's not raw; apologies for my lousy camera :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I was befuddled by The Counter

The Counter taunted me for for weeks before it opened with images of perfect burgers piled with fixings of my choice. MY choice! I'm a Red Mill devotee, but was willing to consider defecting if the burgers demanded it.

K and I met there for Sunday lunch. Maybe it was the hour, but overall the place seems really kid-friendly, which makes sense considering the menu. It's just burgers, fries and shakes, right? But once I started trying to decide among the burger toppings, a burger no longer seemed so simple. Jalapenos, grilled pineapple, fried egg, red peppers, dried cranberries, bacon, gruyere, fried onion strings on a bun or English muffin or in a bowl?

Oh my. I couldn't think straight. Then I started to think they should have designed the burger for me. I didn't want to do it any more. And they have a few pre-designed options, but they all felt safe and lacked the tantalizing choices like roasted corn and black bean salsa. So I boldly went for: gruyere, caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce, avocado, garlic aioli. I know, not bold. K chose similarly traditional toppings, though she went for Russian dressing. You also can go halvsies on sides, so we split french fries and sweet potato fries ($4.95), forgoing the third choice, fried onion strings.

The fries were disappointing. A burger place should know how to do fries and The Counter's are not up to snuff. They were rather dry, and for thin fries, not very crisp. The sweet potato fries were much more satisfying, with a mellow sweetness.

But our burgers showed up piled as high with toppings as I hoped. They were quite intimidating to consider. The grilled bun was neither fantastic nor bad, just a pretty decent burger bun. The meat patty was quite thick, almost too thick and the meat was underseasoned. But the caramelized onions were beautiful, if slippery, and along with the gruyere and half an avocado, made up for the lack of flavor in the meat. The aioli also was served on the side, a nice touch.

I rather enjoyed my burger ($9.25) and K also had a banana shake ($4.95) that was thick with chunks of real banana. Nothing was really wrong with our meal except the fries. But it also was not the kind of place that ignites an all-consuming passion, like Red Mill with its incredible burgers and heavenly onion rings. Like its meat, The Counter is just a little bland.

The Counter
4609 14th Ave. N.W.

The Counter on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I sipped at the 20something wine party

From K.

It was a dark and stormy night. Puddles soaked our cute boots and peep toes. Our cheeks were pink from cold.

What better time to cozy up to one bar, then another, then another, for sips of luscious Washington wine?

My friend KT invited me to 20something, a wine event for the younger set at Fremont Studios. They transformed the space into a sleek party-ready spot, complete with a decent DJ, flattering lighting, tasty bites and plenty of great-looking boys and girls. Single ladies, be sure to get tickets for next year's event. There's plenty of shopping to do ;)

But as happily partnered women, we focused on the wine. Favorites included the syrah from Gilbert Cellars and the riesling from Cave B. Beyond that, my memory is a bit ... compromised ;)

The people watching also was great. Saw tons of fun headbands and fascinators (aka, those feather-heavy concoctions that perch atop one side of your head). Fashion sense skewed toward dressy/sexy, with only a few folks in jeans. You could get away with a cute cocktail dress here or even classy hootchie-wear, though more ladies opted for a few steps down in formality/over-the-top sexiness. Guys were in button-downs and dressy sweaters. Only remember one guy in flannel.