Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rumblings #4: In the Barrio... of Bellevue?

I ventured out of Seattle for my restaurant week try #4 to the other side of the lake, trying out Barrio in Bellevue.  Not the barrio but Barrio, another offering from the Heavy Restaurant Group in the same vein as Purple Cafe and Wine Bar.

Like all of the Purples I've been to, my chief complaint is the noise. Barrio shares a bathroom with Purple in Bellevue, joined by a narrow hallway. The designers for the Heavy Restaurant Group must have a penchant for dark wood, dim lighting, medieval-heavy furniture, high ceilings, large spaces and not enough sound dampening.  It is dark but not recommended for a romantic date or first date, unless you are accustomed to yelling at each other. Imagine this:

First date dude: "I like the guacamole here!  I grew up in California and there were fresh avocados all of the time.  I'm a lucky SOB."

First date gal: "What? You grew up in Cali and there were fresh almost hot hos and you have a sucky STD?"

Jenny and I were lucky to be seated in the back of the restaurant which was a little less busy, further away from the raucous groups so we didn't need to shout at each other.  However, we were also seated a little too closely to our neighbors. One couple had ordered the fried hominy which looked delicious and I was incredibly tempted to reach over with my fork and spear a couple of the breaded, fried kernels while they were engaged in conversation. The food was completely within my reach, starting at me with sweet-smelling fried goodness.

Since our reservations were at 7:30pm, we were completely famished after a long day at work and ordered chips and guac on top of our three course restaurant week meal. The chips were fresh and the right balance of light, crispy and not too greasy although in my hungry state, I probably ate like Oliver going at his gruel.  Please sir, some more? 

We both started with a ceviche, served with plaintain chips. I am critical of ceviche which can often taste too flat like a boring salsa, too fishy or too much citrus/lime. In order to get a full, flavorful bite, you really needed to dish it up on the crispy plaintain chip for texture with a loaded bite of mahi mahi, pineapple, red onions, cilantro and chiles. The pineapple was really what balanced out the flavors and lent the right amount of sweetness and acid to balance out the heat of the chiles. A bite without it was too flat.

I will fully admit that I don't always read things thoroughly. Especially menus when I am gabbing with a girlfriend who hadn't yet told me about her vacation in Europe... so I didn't realize that the fish tacos that I ordered were beer battered and fried instead of grilled or otherwise. The pieces of cod were giant and a bit greasy but the tortilla held up to the taco-ful. However, come on - fried fish tacos served with slaw and salsa are a no-brainer and not exactly novel especially when you can get them at Baja Fresh. I should have read the menu a little bit more carefully. On the flipside, Jenny had the pork and thought it was tasty.

Let's just say that I didn't even need to read the dessert options. There was no choice. Fresh churros to dip in Xocatal chocolate?  Let me see, your options are something boring, something boring and fried sugar dough goodness to dip in some exotic sounding chocolate... what would you choose? My sentiments exactly. The churros were warm - bordering on hot so clearly right out of the fryer: soft, chewy with a crisp outside and covered in sugar.  A nice balance of sweet to dip in the bittersweet molten chocolate; not at all the cloyingly sweet, crunchy sugar covered mess that you get by the foot at Disneyland. After having savored Argentinian churros in London last fall, my suggestion for improvement for this would be an option to have the churros either filled with dulce de leche or for there to be dulce de leche on the side. But maybe that would that would be too sinfully good and the restaurant would turn into an Herbal Essences commercial... or something like that. You probably don't people ruining the atmosphere by screaming in ecstacy.

Barrio had some tasty dishes and I thought it was pretty good. However, not to belittle the genre (since I am pretty sure I want to worship at the altar of Rick Bayless) but it was just fancy Mexican. What I ate was solid and delicious but didn't exactly knock my socks off in terms of flavor but perhaps the mediocrity of the fish tacos ruined it for me. I will have to give it another try but I think I would prefer to dine at La Carta de Oaxaca for some authentic un-fancy fare - for less.

And for a bonus, here are my pictures of my Argentinian churro along the river Thames - filled with both chocolate and dulce de leche. Amazing!

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