Maria Hines is a celebrity chef around here. She was recognized with a James Beard award (Best Chef Northwest in 2009) and had beaten out Chef Morimoto on Iron Chef. Her restaurant that she opened in 2006, Tilth, is noteworthy not only for its fine cooking but its use of mostly organic and sustainable ingredients. In 2011, she opened Golden Beetle and, the following year, Agrodolce.
Golden Beetle is in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, on NW Market toward the eastern edge of Ballard’s commercial core. The food is described as Eastern Mediterranean, which includes the Middle East, Turkey, Greece and Egypt. Italy is apparently not represented; Agrodolce fills that bill.
It was the dinner hour when I was looking for places to have happy hour. As luck would have it, Golden Beetle offered one.
The happy hour menu has a good selection of Mediterranean items, including a serrano chile and orange zest hummus and mixed marinated olives. Chicken wings combined with harissa, ginger and peanuts, and pizzas also make an appearance, as does a stew of chickpeas, lemon, walnuts and yogurt. But two items struck me immediately: fried pistachios and spiced french fries. The latter includes among its ingredients sumac and harissa aioli. It is also fried in beef fat, which many of you may recall McDonald’s used to do before public concerns about cholesterol forced them to switch to vegetable oil. Whatever side you take on this debate, there is no argument that fries cooked in beef fat are tastier. While they can be ordered separately, I also noticed that the HH mini burger came with said fries, which would let me sample them. Done. I also got the raw winter greens salad.
At 3 ounces, the burger was small enough that I could manage the fries and salad at one sitting. It was a respectable one (☆☆½), garnished with pickled onions and tomato-garlic sauce. Somewhere was a hint of tarragon, which is not one of my favorite herbs. On the other hand, the fries were terrific (☆☆☆½). Looking overly browned, they nonetheless were wonderfully crispy and fluffy, sprinkled with flaky Mediterranean sea salt and, of course, savory from you-know-what. Accompanying the fries was an overly small dipping dish of excellent harissa aioli (I had to ask for another one), much more subdued than the equally first-rate harissa paste on every table.
The sole defect of the salad was its saltiness. Otherwise, the chard, pickled chard stems and feta, dressed in a cumin vinaigrette, was quite good (☆☆☆).
1744 NW Market St.
Seattle, WA 98107