Small Saffron Deli delivers on big Southeast Asian flavors

January 31, 2012

A sign in front of the Saffron Deli announces “Southeast Asian fusion” cuisine.

Inside the eatery, the hostess said her menu is straight from Laos. It includes some dishes with which you are probably familiar, such as beef or chicken pho, but also some possibly more adventurous choices, such as Hainan chicken or Gau Lau beef soup.

The two visitors in question here played it safe with a vegetable soup and chicken pho, but were impressed with the flavor of each, enough that trying some of the other offerings at some point in the future is definitely not out of the question.

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Go out of your way to discover Szechuan Bean Flower

January 17, 2012

If you’re going to open a restaurant off the beaten path, it better feature food tantalizing enough to draw you out of your way to find it.

Such is the situation with Szechuan Bean Flower Restaurant, tucked way behind AtWork!, located on Locust Street.

Longtime diners will recognize the building that was home for a couple of other restaurants that have since moved or gone under. So, it’s a risk opening a Chinese restaurant in an unproven location.

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Japan Ginger delivers a quick, appetizing bite

December 27, 2011

Upon walking into Japan Ginger Teriyaki and Sushi Bar, one can get confused. Do you sit at a table and wait for a server or do you go up to the counter and order off the large menu board?

We ended up ordering at the counter and then helping ourselves to a seat — not a great beginning to a lunch, but it was all uphill from there.

As the restaurant is named for its teriyaki, I felt obliged to try some. My friend the vegetarian opted for yakisoba noodles with tofu.

The meals arrived in a very reasonable amount of time, our plates carried by a friendly waiter/host. The first thing we both noticed was how good the food looked, that the presentation was done very nicely.

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Zeeks Pizza finds a niche in busy pizza market

December 20, 2011

In a market saturated with pizza joints, both franchise and local, it really takes that extra something special to stand apart from the crowd. Whether you’re looking for authentic Italian, the biggest pie or just a lunch buffet, Issaquah has something for every discerning palate.

Enter Zeeks Pizza. With 10 regional locations, it still doesn’t qualify as a national chain. So you still get that hometown feel when you walk into its Issaquah Highlands setting.

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WildFin American Grill offers surf, turf options to reel in diners

October 25, 2011

The menu at WildFin American Grill roams across the landscape, and borrows from enough culinary traditions and trends to fill a Rand McNally atlas and a Zagat guide.

A kitchen toiling to round out such menus can often lose focus, although WildFin remains consistent — and excels.

WildFin offers surf-and-turf options dolled up in New American flourishes. The concept is not unique on the Issaquah restaurant scene, but WildFin puts a more memorable effort into execution.

The menu taps trends — such as small plates designed for sharing — to laudable effect.

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Find simple Italian cooking off beaten path at Montalcino Ristorante Italiano

October 11, 2011

When my wife and I vacationed in Venice, Italy, one of the best meals we had the entire trip came via recommendation of a local resident.

The bed-and-breakfast owner suggested a little family-run restaurant, way off the beaten path away from the usual touristy spots. The food at this hole in the wall was exquisite and memorable for its simplistic, yet bold flavors.

Well, Issaquah now boasts its own hole in the wall, family run ristorante Italiano — Montalcino Ristorante Italiano.

Located on Northwest Alder Place, a block off the beaten path of Front Street, Montalcino brought back memories of Venice with its intimate, rustic interior.

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Discover commitment to fresh ingredients at The Flat Iron Grill

August 16, 2011

Gilman Village slips in and out of style in much the same manner as fashion.

Just as leggings and off-the-shoulder tops re-emerged from some Reagan-era style sepulcher in recent seasons, a similar cycle is redirecting attention to Gilman Village. The landmark shopping center is in — and in the midst of a renaissance, as a Thursday farmers market and upstart businesses prompt neophytes to discover a classic Issaquah locale.

The credit for the latest revival is due, in part at least, to The Flat Iron Grill, a destination restaurant and a solid reason to explore beyond the periphery at Gilman Village.

The restaurant opened in the former Iris Grill space 18 months ago and, soon after, started to generate complimentary chatter among the local fooderati.

The acclaim is deserved.

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Sunset Alehouse brews up a fine menu selection

August 2, 2011

Sunset Alehouse’s The National Champ is an eating challenge featuring nine 1/3-pound patties and nine slices of cheese. File

The last time a group of us dined at the Sunset Alehouse, we didn’t go to enjoy the food so much as endure it.

You see, its menu sports an eating challenge — The National Champ — which features nine 1/3-pound beef patties and nine slices of cheddar cheese between two buns. As delectable as two-thirds of a pound of Nebraska beef per person was, we decided this go-around to give the rest of the wide-ranging menu a sampling.

Opened by the owners of JaK’s Grill across the street, they’d like you to think of Sunset Alehouse as a more casual version of the steakhouse.

Bar food this is not.

The menu has a wide selection of appetizers, soups and salads, burgers and hot sandwiches, and specialty items.

From the hot sandwiches section, we ordered the Italian chicken sandwich. Sunset takes the best of an Italian meal — grilled chicken breast, mozzarella, tomato, pesto mayo and a balsamic reduction — and puts it all into one convenient bite between a toasted baguette.

It’s always refreshing when a sandwich holds up to that many ingredients, as the baguette held its crunch from first bite to last.

While the sandwich came with fries this time, it’s nice to have a selection of alternatives, including spicy Baja slaw, Italian pasta salad, or chips and salsa.

In the mood for a good hot dog, I spotted on the menu the Baja Dog, a.k.a. The Uncle Geno.

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Max’s World Take Out has tiny menu, a world of tastes

July 5, 2011

Max’s World Take Out has as much personality as its owner and chef, Edna Noronha. After all, she named her small restaurant and catering business after her German shepherd, of and with whom she has professionally photographed pictures hanging on her walls.

Though Max’s menu is limited to a dozen or so items, what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in flavor, variety, flavor and did I mention flavor yet? Not the overwhelming, gluttonous kind, though. No, a light, perfect contrast of spices and textures. All of Max’s food is fresh, preservative free and prepared from scratch, right down to the tortilla chips.

Originally from Goa, in the southwestern part of India, Edna blends Indian, Korean, Portuguese, American and Goan influences with almost scientific precision. Fortunately for Issaquah residents, Edna wasn’t satisfied with a master’s degree in business administration and returned to school at age 41 — this time to the esteemed Culinary Institute of America in New York. It was there that she mastered her craft, though many of her creations are recipes passed down from her mother that she has tweaked to taste.

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Champions swings for the fences in sports bar cuisine

April 19, 2011

The best way to judge a new eatery is by determining how well it handles the basics.

The lunch menu at Field of Champions Bar & Grill epitomizes the basics of casual dining.

Located on the banks of Issaquah Creek, the restaurant has been described as a cross between Red Robin and The Gas Lamp — essentially a family-friendly alehouse. The sports memorabilia ranges from donated local Little League banners to signed mementos of national sports icons, like Michael Jordan. As a sports bar, at least four flat-screen TVs can be seen from every seat in the house.

As a group of us watched a replay of the previous night’s Mariners’ game, we decided to cover our bases and order a variety of basics from the lunch menu.

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