Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Reveling in Revel

An addendum...

Eating with groups is fun but it really sucks as well. It is hard getting reservations for 8 people at the last minute in Seattle at any good restaurant. We called around and it was incredibly difficult getting any traction an hour ahead of time. That is, until we remembered to call Revel. 8 people at 8:30pm?  Done.

Nick and I got to the restaurant early, going in the main entrance this time but heading straight to Quoin for some cocktails. I think Quoin will be my new neighborhood bar; it's a charcoal gray contrast to the stark white Revel, has sumptuous industrial-chic lightning and delicious cocktails. I sipped Nick's evo manhattan with its rich, complex rhubarb flavors complementing the bourbon and my light, refreshing Quoin 75 - a version of a French 75 with Cynar and Hendricks. Amidst the bottles behind the bar were these giant jars of marinating liquid; a quick glance at the drink menu told us that they were shojus infused with either hibiscus, meyer lemon, lemongrass or oranges. Try the lemongrass margarita - it is lighter, cleaner and crisper than the heaver than its sugary, fake-tasting sister often found at Azteca. But the best part was Brady - a man's man bartender who floated around making drinks quickly but with ease, all the while chatting us up. He had a very light touch, a sweet smile and amiable attitude that made you want to eat and hang out in the bar instead of the restaurant. When we left, he shook our hands and told us to hang out in the bar with him next time. Definitely, Brady.

The food was something else. We basically ordered one of everything on the menu but skipping the salads and added one of each ice cream sandwich desserts, plus on average, two or three drinks each. The bill for 8? Including tip, about $40 each. Bananas. Group dining is the way to go.

Shrimp pancake left, potato pancake right
We ate everything family style and dished out bites onto everyone's plates. We tried all three of the korean-style pancakes: pork belly, shrimp and edamame and chive and potato. All were crisply fried without being greasy but our favorites were the pork belly and potato; the shrimp and edamame one was too light on shrimp and heavy on the starchy edamame. Their steak special with bacon and broccoli rabe was a hit with a good balance of powerful flavors that allowed the food to sing. And the dumplings! Crispy pan-fried with house made wrappers had deep flavors; the short-rib filled dumplings were gone in 60 seconds. The earl gray ricotta ones were rich and perfumey with bergamot but balanced out with the sauce and pecans so it didn't stray too sweet. I prefer my dumplings to either be steamed or lightly pan-fried so you have a seared and chewy texture but Revel's were more on the crispy-side. Folks lapped up the duck meatball noodle soup which was nothing but a pile of garnish and soggy noodles all too soon. The clam and zucchini soup had those green house-made shaven noodles reminding me of Shanghai Garden; a thick chewy al dente noodle swimming in a delicate clam-juicey broth. One of my favorite dishes was the tuna rice bowl: a beep bim bap of seared tuna, kimchi, veggies and a perfectly cooked, runny egg in the middle to spread its yolky goodness around. My only complaint is because they are catering to the masses, their kimchi is not as pungent as I'd prefer. But I suppose that's good for everyone else and for the couple sitting next to us on a first date. A stinky kimchi kiss?  Not so much.

Dumplings ahoy!
Dessert was simple but elegant at the same time but our recommendation is to go for the pound cake. It was the most unassuming of the ice cream sandwich trio and I would have ignored it on the menu entirely if we had not ordered all three options. You can get pound cake from Sara Lee at safeway and put ice cream on it - boring, right?  *Alarm buzzing sound here* Wrong! The pound cake triangles were sandwiching a complex but subtle coffee ice cream made more sinfully delicious by the addition of milk jam on the side. The milk jam was this carmelly sweet dulce de leche that is sure to be my new crack at some point once I've figured out how to make it... We asked our awesome server Dale what it was and he assured us it was only cooked sweetened condensed milk that carmelized and cracked so it would form burnt sugar crystals within the milk caramel. Heavenly. The maracoon ice cream sandwiches had rich notes of the toasted coconut and kaffir lime but each mararoom was a bit thick and heavy compared to the ice cream it was sandwiching. The chocolate chip sandwiches packed a surprising afterburn with chili infused chocolate sauce. All of the ice cream sandwich desserts were lick-the-plate-clean good and we all had nibbled the last crumbs away as we continued to chat. After dinner, we were happy with happy little bellies. 

I've read those Yelp reviews on Revel. Many that start out stating why someone was qualified to make a real review and then proceed to rip on the restaurant, mostly about the service. But Nick and I can unequivocally tell you that both times we were here, we have had nothing but excellent service from people who seemed to want to ensure we had a wonderful experience. How else do we know the servers and bartenders and cook's names? There were people to greet us as we got there and ready to thank us as we left. Dale didn't bat an eye at splitting the check 8 ways by credit card and Brady didn't get flustered with a ton of drink orders came his way and he got behind; he apologized to the servers and spoke to folks at the bar to provide a status update - not sure what else I needed other than a, "Your drink will be right up in a moment."

My full plate of good stuff
As for the food: it wasn't cheap by any means but it wasn't expensive either since the priciest dish will set you back $14 or $15. I'm not sure why people get hung up on $9 dumplings when they would pay for $15 worth of calamari or $10 for a quesadilla as a starter... You can go to Chinatown for cheaper food but you don't get chorizo or earl gray ricotta in your dumplings or braised pork belly in your ramen washed down by a manhattan dotted with rhubarb.

Like we said, it's new and ironing out the kinks but we had an enjoyable experience. The only reason I wouldn't recommend it is if you will all crowd it too much and I won't be able to get a seat... In that case, please go away and check out the taco cart across the way...

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