Comida Reimagined: Greenbridge Cafe


I don’t usually go to White Center, a Seattle neighborhood, to get a bite to eat. That’s because the drive over there from the Eastside can charitably be described as convoluted. There is no easy freeway access, toward the tail end a series of twists and turns through a light industrial area before finally arriving at White Center. Fortunately, friends of ours were willing to drive. We went to have a late lunch at Greenbridge Cafe, located in what is currently a mixed-income neighborhood (called Greenbridge) of relatively new apartments and townhomes. The cafe oddly sits alone in the neighborhood with no other apparent shops or restaurants nearby.

At 2:30pm, we were the only patrons. I don’t know what the normal lunch and dinner patronage is like, but I get the feeling that the area doesn’t get a whole lot of foot traffic. The four of us ordered from both the brunch and regular menu.

greenbridge-cafe

Chorizo hash, from the brunch menu, typifies what the kitchen is aiming for, bistro-style dishes many of which use ingredients of Mexican cooking. Instead of corned or roast beef and bell peppers, chopped chorizo and roasted chiles combined with nicely browned homes fries for a very good south-of-the-border interpretation (☆☆☆½). These weren’t typical Mexican-style ground pork chorizos either, but chunks of roasted beef and pork with a lively chili powder and vinegar flavor. On top was an easy-over fried egg.

Chorizo hash

Chorizo hash

The remaining three entrées were ordered from the regular menu. Flatbreads here are shaped like rectangular planks, on the thicker side, more like pizza than, say, a cracker-like, unleavened bread. One is topped with grilled vegetables, another more Mediterranean in execution. The third, most interesting-sounding one, is called chicken poblano (☆☆☆). It was top-heavy but very flavorful with smoked bacon, jack cheese and poblano purée and drizzled with crema.

Chicken poblano

Chicken poblano

Instead of Cuban bread roll, telera bread holds the Cuban pork sandwich (☆☆☆) together. There was no Swiss cheese in an otherwise standard filling of ham, lightly smoked pork and dill pickles, mixed with a Dijon mustard aioli. The sandwich comes with soup-of-the-day, which happened to be a French onion (☆☆½).

Cuban pork sandwich

Cuban pork sandwich

Less successful were the enchiladas suizas (☆☆½), whose overly creamy sauce muted the tomatillo and chile flavors—more Swiss than Mexican. Still, a good sauce. Maybe a little more chicken filling would have helped, too, the enchiladas appearing flattened, seeming more like a happy hour order than a main plate. Furthermore, the chicken pieces were dry. But the whole dish didn’t lack for presentation—a slice of jack cheese jacketed the tortillas, drizzled with crema. A nice lettuce and strawberry salad came on the side.

Enchiladas Suizas

Enchiladas Suizas

The chocolate brownie (☆☆☆½) that I brought home was excellent, deeply chocolate-y. While I prefer my brownies to be dense than fudgey, as this was, this double-chocolate cookie was still darn good.

Kudos to chef Blanca Rodriguez for offering such upscale and tasty fare with great attention given to presentation and detail. There’s no lack of quality ingredients here. But, you have to wonder if the place can make a go of it when there are no other enterprises around to create a vibrant commercial core, a thought shared by our concerned friends who brought us here. Greenbridge Cafe, at the moment at least, seems like a place that needs a more supportive environment.

Greenbridge Cafe
9901 8th Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98106
(206) 762-3447
 
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Black Cat Cantina (Portland, OR)—CLOSED


“What are your favorite things on the menu?” my wife asked. The waitress quickly glanced at her, then me, as if gauging what might appeal to us. “I would recommend the ceviché de camaron, shrimp mixed with mango and strawberry, chile and chopped cilantro. There are also lemon and lime juices in it. You will love it. Can I start you off with one?”

The statement was confidently made, my retelling not quite verbatim but accurate in style and delivery. She then went on in detail how each of the menu items we asked about (and some we didn’t) was prepared, down to the spices, herbs and seasonings. We were hooked by her explanations, given patiently and willingly. Was it possible that we had never had any better wait person who knew everything about the menu?

By herself, she was taking care of the entire dining area, at least when we arrived close to 6pm, of the Black Cat Cantina which a friend of ours (who knew we were in Portland) alerted us to by email just yesterday. We told him we would check it out. Located in east Portland (Gresham), the restaurant features food from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, mostly Argentina. Several of the menu items listed “Latin America” as the place of origin, not knowing if this meant that they were prepared beyond any single national border or the chef, who was trained in Mexico and Spain, was simply being creative with indigenous ingredients. It didn’t matter to us.

We started things off with cocktails. My Caipirinha del Norte (☆☆½) is a riff on the popular Brazilian drink, using limes, vodka instead of cachaça and muddled grapes instead of refined sugar. My wife’s El Paseo (☆☆½) margarita combined Gran Centenario tequila, lime juice, agave nectar and Grand Marnier, quite a tart and relatively weak version. To their credit, these drinks were not cloyingly sweet.

So, what about the ceviché mentioned at the beginning of the post? The waitress was right; we loved it (☆☆☆½). A little spicy from serrano chilés, the Mexican white shrimp were nicely “cooked” by the citrus juices, which themselves were wonderfully contrasted by the diced fruits. This was a very refreshing appetizer/salad.

Ceviché de camaron

Ceviché de camaron

I was swayed by the waitress’ description of the Argentine churrasco, a steak served with chimichurri sauce. According to her, the cut is an Argentine one called bife de chorizo, which she described as being just as flavorful as ribeye but not as marbled with fat. Similar to a New York steak, it is cut and trimmed differently, enough that Black Cat Cantina has to special-order them. It arrived as a 12-oz portion, about ¾-inch thick, with nice grill marks, some untrimmed (and tasty) exterior fat, and bursting with intense beef flavor. The tangy and assertive chimichurri, though flavorful, masked the steak’s flavor, so I wound up dipping cut meat pieces just slightly so as to engage in an authentic Argentine experience. As if sliced from polyhedrons of potatoes, papas bravas were flawless, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and wonderfully seasoned. Like the chimichurri, the accompanying catsup seemed superfluous. I loved this entire dish (☆☆☆☆), with or without the sauces.

Churrasco

Churrasco

Remembering the superb version she had at Señor Moose in Seattle, my wife picked the Pescado a la Veracruzana. Though the waitress called out the fish as petrale sole, it was actually tilapia, mingled in a robust sauce of tomatoes, black (instead of green) olives and plenty of capers (which made the dish salty), all served on a bed of perfectly cooked, flavorful Mexican rice. With a slight deduction for tilapia’s mildly muddy taste, my wife really enjoyed this otherwise perfect dish (☆☆☆½).

Pescado a la Veracruzana

Pescado a la Veracruzana

When the waitress asked if we enjoyed our meals, we were quick to answer in the affirmative.

“Is your name Liz?” I asked.

“Yes! How did you know?”

“I read about you on Yelp.” Yes, Liz (which she pronounces with a long “i”, like Leez) has impressed more customers than just us and the diners in the next booth.

“I love my job,” she beamed. Indeed she does, and her customers are just as glad.

Black Cat Bistro (** CLOSED **)
18901 E Burnside
Portland, OR 97233
503.912.3228

Dinner at Sabroso (Rotorua, NZ)


For diners wanting a taste of food from across the ocean, Sabroso offers Latin American cuisine, which not only includes Mexican food but entrées from South America, too. An American ex-pat and his Venezuelan wife own the place. It gets consistently great reviews on the standard NZ food/travel sites. Inside, the space is modest with Latin decoration. For sale, there are bottles of their own homemade hot sauces on each table, a green and two reds.

Our Mexican food craving was satisfied by pork verde, succulent shreds of slow roasted pork, served with black beans, white rice, and a small salad, the verde sauce tasting of tomatillos, onions and garlic.

Pork verde

Perfectly cooked shrimp highlighted Brazilian shrimp stew combined with a tomato sauce tempered by coconut milk, accompanied by white rice and flour tortilla. A tasty dish.

Brazilian shrimp stew

Homemade hot sauces

Sabroso
1184 Haupapa Street
Rotorua, New Zealand
07 349 0591
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