Friday, December 18, 2009

French Happy Hour at Bastille

A week ago on Friday night (which seems like an eternity due to the hellish week I've had) I met Matt at Ballard's newest french restaurant, Bastille (www.bastilleseattle.com or 5307 Ballard Avenue NW, Seattle 98107), for happy hour. I was excited to go because I keep reading mixed reviews about this place and I love french food-- well, most french food anyway.

We didn't have a meal, so I can't do a complete review, but we did have an appetizer and drinks. We ordered the steak frites au poivre to share and it was pretty good. Although we asked for the steak to be medium rare and it came out medium well on one half and pretty medium on the other-- not exactly even or what we ordered-- but it tasted fine and the french fries were great. I definitely would like to go back and try the duck confit (a bit of an obsession of mine since we went to Branzino-- I am even making duck for us on Christmas Eve!) and the macaroni gratin.

As for drinks I had a French 75 (gin, champagne, lemon and sugar) which was $9 on happy hour (seriously?!? that is pretty steep!) and a goose martini with a twist. The french 75 was pretty good, but I prefer cocktails to be strong and this one was a bit too girly, even for me. The service at the bar was great . . . not too attentive, not too busy . . . all we had to do is make eye contact with the bartender and he came right over to help us.

The ambiance was great!! Perfect lighting, black and white decor, tile everywhere, arches over the bar that looked like subway arches but at the same time were reminiscent of the Arc du' Triumph in ol' Paris. It was pretty loud in the restaurant due to the acoustics from all the tile, but I actually liked it. It was not SO loud that we had to scream at each other, but it was just loud enough that I felt like our conversation was private.

Overall, I had a very enjoyable experience and would VERY much like to come back for a dinner or another happy hour anytime!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Welcome to The Ridiculously Slow Life, Virgin Islands Style


Well, I am back from my Virgin Islands vacation: I am a bit more relaxed, sun tanned and definitely more appreciative of everything I have at home.

When the good Lord created me he did not bestow the virtue of patience upon me, but as I have gotten older I have slowly become a bit more patient. However, the little patience I do have was tried endlessly on this vacation, particularly at restaurants. Every single restaurant I visited in the Virgin Islands had the slowest service imaginable. We're talking 15 minutes for your server to even come over and give you the specials, another 20 for her to return and at least another 20-25 to get your food once you have ordered. So, when in the Virgin Islands it is advisable to NEVER go to a restaurant when you are starving. Instead you MUST arrive just before you think you may start to get hungry, that way when your food arrives you will be starving and ready to eat. This is not an exaggeration. I kept getting so angry at restaurants, and my parents had to keep reminding me, "You're on island time, Natalie". Island time-schmilandtime! I'm hungry NOW!!!

Anyway, on to the reviews of the food at the St. Thomas restaurants I visited . . .

The restaurant we visited the most often, Robert's American Grille (http://www.robertsamericangrille.com/ and 6800 Estate Nazareth, St. Thomas USVI 00802) was actually located at the Elysian Beach Resort where we stayed. The picture above is of a fresh scallop salad with lime vinaigrette dressing at Roberts restaurant (and some pinot grigio-- yum!). This salad was divine and had a spicy-flare to it that I hadn't expected, but enjoyed very much. The dinner menu at Robert's is re-created every night in order to integrate the freshest catch of the day. For example, my Dad was able to order fresh caught wahoo, which is a fish I have never seen on any Seattle menu. One of the most fantastic (and VERY Caribbean) dinners I had at Robert's was a jerk chicken with mango chutney and black beans-- absolutely delicious and something I did not feel any calorie-guilt when eating. Robert's has excellent breakfasts as well; the smoked salmon eggs benedict was one of the best breakfasts I have eaten in many years. Not only is the food fresh and delicious at Roberts, but the staff is extremely helpful and friendly (albeit very slow) and you can literally eat it 3 feet away from the sandy beach. Definitely the perfect vacation dining spot.

We also went to an Italian place called the East End Cafe (http://www.eastendcafesttomas.com/ and 6501 Red Hook Plaza, Suite 201, St. Thomas USVI 00802). When I looked at trip advisor this restaurant was rated 4.5 out of 5 stars and voted the number one restaurant of 94 on St. Thomas-- and I have to say I agree! The restaurant has dark, modern furniture, dimmed lights, white table cloths, candles and a swank vibe. It is right next to (and owned by the same people as) a wine pairing place and the wine list was extensive and our server did not shy away from making wine recommendations for each dish. Unfortunately, I was unable to drink much on this trip because we were very physically active and my back injury from my car accident in April was threatening to act up-- drinking plus muscle relaxers can equal BAD. However, my parents had coconut martini's to start and wine pairings with their dinners, and they both seemed quite pleased. The bread they brought us to start was great and they paired it with a garlic ricotta cheese spread instead of butter. I loved this idea! It was like they had taken ricotta cheese and a few cloves of garlic, thrown it in a food processor and whipped it to perfection: it was light, flavorful and a hell of a lot less caloric than garlic butter. We also started with salads and potato truffle soup, which was divine. I ordered the chicken parmesan and it was very good, but the portion was so enormous that I could only eat about half. It came with yummy zucchini and pasta. My parents both ordered the wahoo fresh catch special that came with a cabbage leaf filled with savory panna cotta. This dish was absolutely beautiful and very creative, if you ask me. Overall, my experience here was great barring the slow service and the fact that the power kept going out. Yes, the lights completely went out and our waitress came over to explain that it happens all the time and the generator would kick on shortly. We were in the dark for about five minutes, during which time my Mom couldn't stop giggling, until the generator kicked on minus the air conditioning. So, about 10 minutes later it was quite balmy in the restaurant and definitely time to go. This whole scenario was a little weird, but makes for a great family vacation story.

We also went to an Asian fusion/sushi place called Lotus (6100 Red Hook Quarters, St. Thomas USVI 00802). Lotus had the best atmosphere of any place we visited: dark, SUPER modern, lime green walls, great place settings, large screen TVs stacked and showing under water video-- it almost rivaled Tao in Vegas for Asian bistro campy ambiance, almost. However, the food for me . . . not so much. I should say that I have tried sushi over and over again, and I really, really want to like it, but I hate it. Sushi is nasty and I gag every time I try to eat it-- with a very open mind I might add. Natalie and sushi don't mix. My parents love the crap though and they ordered all sorts of beautiful, interesting looking dishes including a dish called fire and ice where they light rum and ginger on fire for the garnish and brought out strips of raw fish on ice. It was quite visually stunning and they really liked it, but the smell alone made me want to vomit. I ordered their green apple phad thai. It was NOT good. The highlight of the whole dish was the green apple croutons and other than that the dish had zero flavor. I know I am spoiled living in Seattle with the large Asian american population and the wonderful food they produce, but I expect better from a fancy, expensive Asian bistro. That being said, the drinks and the dessert were amazing. I ordered a cucumber chill martini (midori, vodka and muddled cucumbers-- wow!) and a banana brulee (ginger creme brulee topped with carmalized, crispy bananas-- amazing!). If you like sushi, I would say Lotus is a great bet, but otherwise only go there for drinks and dessert.

Here are some pictures of me and my parents frolicking on the beaches of St. Thomas and the British Virgin Islands for your viewing pleasure: