Lunch at Revel (Seattle, WA)


At around lunchtime, we were enjoying the Fremont neighborhood sights along Phinney Ave N. The question of where to eat was settled when we knew that Revel was just up the street. It is one of two restaurants operated by chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi whose mission it is to fuse Asian and Western foods, with a particular emphasis on Korean. Their other restaurant is Joule, also in Fremont but on the other side of the Aurora Bridge and next door neighbor to The Whale Wins. We were seated immediately and chose to sit outside on the covered deck to enjoy the warm though overcast weather. The restaurant interior is decorated in minimalist colors of black and gray, suggestive of the modernization of traditional Asian offerings.

The lunch menu was divided into salads, pancakes, dumplings, rice and noodles with a limited selection in each category. What caught our eye immediately were a bibimbop and dan dan noodles.

Though not labeled as bibimbop, Rice with Albacore Tuna, Fennel Kimchi and Escarole (☆☆½) clearly was. Here was an example of classic fusion food where non-traditional ingredients were used to make a Korean preparation. Thinly shaved fennel was an interesting choice of material for kimchi. It was very sour from vinegar with no sweetness, garlickiness or spice normally associated with the most traditional Korean condiment. Was the kitchen afraid of offending or turning off some customers? A proper sear was applied to the tuna, which otherwise was not as fresh as it should have been, displaying a slight fishiness but coated with an interesting and tasty rub of fennel and coriander. Outstanding was the roasted escarole, charred and sweet, that gave me encouragement to try it on my own. The dish was topped by a raw egg yolk.

Bibimbop of seared tuna, fennel kimchi and escarole

Bibimbop of seared tuna, fennel kimchi and escarole

Dan dan noodles are served in almost every Szechuan restaurant. Revel’s version, Dandan Noodles with Smoky Pulled Pork and Peanut Crackling (☆☆☆), another excursion into fusion territory, was distinguished by fork-tender, delicious pork that the waiter revealed was smoked in their kitchen for over four hours. Another big plus were freshly made noodles, wide and thin, that had an eggy consistency. The dish was sprinkled with ground peanuts that had kochujang paste flavors, a nice touch, and sautéed chard. The only drawback was a more than subtle sweetness overall that did not appeal to me.

Dandan noodles, smoked pulled pork, peanuts

Dandan noodles, smoked pulled pork, peanut crackling

Revel
403 N 36th St
Seattle, WA 98103
206.547.2040

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Lunch at Kalbi Grill Express


A good review in the Seattle Times early this year was enough for three of us to drop in on Kalbi Grill Express for lunch in the Greenwood neighborhood. Could we get good Korean food closer to Seattle than Lynnwood? We were surprised that we were the only lunchtime patrons until a lone customer came in later. Although its name suggests an emphasis on Korean BBQ, the menu said otherwise. Two of us decided on beef soon dubu, another on beef bibimbop, which the Times praised.

Let’s start off with the banchan, the appetizers that every Korean restaurant serves. No other cuisine that I can think of pays this much attention to making little side dishes to accompany a meal, doubtless taking time and effort to make. I’ve often only wanted banchan and rice. Which leads up to Kalbi Grill’s unorthodox approach to offering it, namely, with certain dishes you select only three appetizers, all displayed behind a glass counter, per individual order. Oddly, the bibimbop didn’t qualify. For variety, the obvious strategy was for the rest of us to pick three different ones. Whether these were refillable as at any Korean restaurant, we never determined, though there was no reason to suspect otherwise.

Banchan

Banchan

The beef soon dubu (☆☆½) was adequate, though the broth was overly salty and lacked the depth of flavor I enjoy at Seoul Hot Pot. The beef was cut into little pieces, more tender than I would have expected in a stew that arrived at the table bubbling (literally) hot. Also in the broth were zucchini, enoki and regular mushrooms and green onions. The silken tofu, rather than cut into chunks, were cylindrical in shape, as if cut with a tube. In summary, the stew was adequate but not likely to make me forget Seoul Hot Pot’s.

Beef soon dubu

Beef soon dubu

An oversight when we received the bibimbop (☆☆) was not having been provided with the kochuchang sauce. We had to ask for it, whereupon the owner apologized and agreed that bibimbop would not be bibimbop without it. Innocent enough mistake. But, even when served with beef, zucchini, bean sprouts, spinach, shredded carrots, cucumber, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms and an over-easy egg, the rice bowl failed to generate much excitement, bland and inadequately seasoned. Adding sauce did little to liven up flavor. What’s more, as reported in the Times review, rather than being served in an earthenware bowl that when heated up characteristically crusts up the rice at the bottom, it was some sort of heavy plastic material (which would never be subjected to high heat), making us wonder whether the reviewer and we ordered the same thing, or if the management has cut corners.

Beef bibimbop

Beef bibimbop

We’re not likely to return. For now, our favorite Korean restaurant reasonably close to home remains Seoul Hot Pot in Redmond.

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Kalbi Grill Express
8202 Greenwood Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
206.457.5930