This year we decided to spare ourselves from cooking on Thanksgiving. So, we settled on brunch at Eques at the Bellevue Hyatt. The menu had a nice variety of traditional and non-traditional dishes that would suit many palettes. However, the ambiance left much to be desired.
How to explain .... in order to serve as many people as possible, tables had been set up in the foyer just outside of the restaurant. As we waited to be seated, I thought, please don't let us get seated at one of those tables. In spite of having a reservation, that's exactly where we were seated. It felt awkward, as if we were in a food court at the mall. And, it distracted me from fully enjoying the food.
Considering the difficulty in serving hundreds of people a hot buffet meal, I thought that the execution was good. In the future, will I crave any of the dishes that were served? Probably not. Well, maybe the brussel sprouts because they were bomb. But, the decor both inside the restaurant and outside in the foyer was basic AF. Next year, I think that we'll be cooking.
When my husband and I got a hankering for some tapas on a Saturday night, we decided to find something other than our go to spot, Tango on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
I set to googling and came up with The Harvest Vine, which has excellent reviews and has been around for 20 years. Unfortunately, they had no available reservations for that evening, but I was determined to get one. Their reservations are powered by Resy, which has a "notify me" feature that contacts you if a space opens up for your desired date. At about 4pm, I set the notify for the same day, and an hour later I received an email indicating that a 9pm reservation was free. So, I took it.
The restaurant has been expanded from a tiny spot to a multi-level beauty with 74 seats. The decor is warm, cozy, and inviting. The waitress recommended that we order two to three tapas per person. And, she brought out a pintxo of marinated mushrooms with a splash of salsa verde while we debated which things to order on the extensive menu. I knew that we were in for a treat when I tasted those mushrooms, which made the choice that much more difficult. But, we finally settled on five tapas, an order of bread, and a crisp bottle of Spanish white.
The standout dish was the grilled venison with oyster mushrooms and licorice root sauce. There is nothing about this description that speaks to me. As, I am not a fan of venison or licorice. However, my husband was pining for it, so we ordered it. I was fully prepared to hate the dish, but when he took his first bite, he was convinced that I was going to love it. In fact, he insisted that I halt whatever I was doing, clear my palate, and take a bite. I did ...hesitantly, and boy was I surprised. It was fantastically grilled, tender, not gamey and not licoricey. I told the waitress how much I loved it and she said that the description sometimes scares people, but they generally love it if they try it. And, I'm so glad that we did.
The only dish that I didn't care for was the caramelized chickpeas with tomato-cumin sauce. It didn't have the complexity and depth as did our other tapas. And, it tasted like, well, tomato and cumin, like literally. Its flavor profile leaned more towards the Indian spectrum and it seemed to clash with our other tapas.
We didn't leave room for dessert, but if the other dishes are any indication, I'm sure that it's amazing. I love this place and am going back with friends in a couple of weeks. And, I haven't stopped singing its praises to anyone who will listen. Since it's been around for 20 years, I'm sure that it's not going anywhere and I can return again and again.
Salare claims to pay homage to several cuisines, including African / Southern / Caribbean. I found the menu (changes seasonally) to be somewhat pretentious and many of the ingredients listed were illusive and unfamiliar. The attempt at fusion landed flat and could more accurately be described as confusion. While reading the menu, I spent time googling things trying to figure out what they were. There was nothing on the menu that even remotely reminded me of Africa, the American South or the Caribbean. However, since my visit there in the Summer of 2017, the menu has changed and there are more obvious winks towards those areas.
The portion size for the two pasta dishes that we ordered was small, although the waiter encouraged sharing. They were plated on a salad plate. I would have expected them to be twice that size. They were actually quite good, but the meager portions made it difficult to really dig into them for fear of everyone not getting enough.
The grilled octopus that I ordered was dry, chewy, and borderline inedible. The accompanying puttanesca sauce was very tasty and the broccolini had a nice crunch and acidic note. Octopus misstep aside, the dish didn’t come together and the flavors seemed sort of random.
We also had a glazed carrot side dish that was DELICIOUS – sweet, savory, and herbaceous. I’m not a dessert person, but my friends loved the rhubarb something or other that they had.
In summary, we all agreed that my octopus dish was the dud of the bunch. The vast majority of the online reviews are very positive. And, the owner / chef, Edouardo Jordan, just opened a second restaurant (JuneBaby). So, obviously, he’s doing quite well. Although I didn't enjoy the experience, I'd give it another shot as I really wanted to love this place.