Treats and Tragedies on the Road: Valentine's Weekend in Seattle, Day 2 (Harbor City, Tako Kyuuban, Ellenos, Fado, Starbucks Reserve, Beko)

My alarm went off at 7:00.  Normally I don't bother setting an alarm while on vacation, especially since I have this odd habit of waking up with the sunrise (albeit only on vacation), but I'll make an exception on certain occasions.  This was such an occasion.  A little later on, at a more sensible time, the roommate would be taking her youngest to do the usual touristy stuff she had done with the tween on our previous trip.  Since said tween had already done that stuff, today she would be coming with me.

Once I had gotten her upright and we had both made ourselves presentable, we hopped on the Light Rail again (I could SO get used to having access to something like that) and headed to MY kind of touristy spot: the International District.  The agenda?  Dim sum.  For breakfast!

I know dim sum is generally seen as a brunch kind of thing, and in Portland (the only city I'd been fortunate enough to have the traditional variety) the restaurants open late in the morning.  After a lot of research on the Seattle options I settled on Harbor City Barbecue, which opens at 8:30 a.m.  Last time I was in town, I missed out on dim sum because I got there too late and the lines were ridiculous.  Not this time!  Not only was there no line, but there was barely anybody in the restaurant at all.

My fellow addicts

We ordered a pot of tea and waited for cart service to begin.  Since there were only two of us, one being a skinny pre-teen girl, I didn't order anywhere near as much as I normally do.  Here's what we ended up with:

Shu Mai

Shu Mai:  These delightful dumplings of indeterminate origin...seriously, I've seen chicken, pork, shrimp, or any combination of those, and the menus rarely specify...seem to be everyone's favorite (or at least the favorite of everyone I've ever had dim sum with).

Bean Curd Rolls

Bean Curd Rolls; tofu used for the noblest possible purpose: stuffed with pork and doused in sauce.

Har Gow

Har Gow:  Another favorite, a deceptively simple shrimp dumpling that dim sum chefs are judged by.

Cha Siu Bao

Cha Siu Bao:  These are the steamed barbecue pork buns that actually are not that hard to find.  In fact, other than spring rolls and pot stickers, they're probably the easiest dim sum item to find at non-dim sum Chinese eateries.  The main difference?  They're actually GOOD if you get them from a dim sum joint.

I would have liked to try more things (because I'm me), but we were both already starting to get a little full.  I ordered one more basket of Shu Mai since it's my favorite, just to end on a high note.  My final thoughts?  For years I've heard the phrase "The Chinese food in Vancouver (B.C.) makes the Chinese food in Seattle look like the Chinese food in Portland".  Having fallen so in love with Wong's King in Portland, I couldn't wait to try dim sum in Seattle, but in the end I have to say that I prefer Wong's King.  I have to give Harbor City an edge for the dumplings still being so hot when they hit the table, but it's a much smaller dining room and we were sitting right next to the kitchen anyway.  In terms of variety, flavor, and atmosphere, Wong's King wins.  Perhaps next time I'm in town I'll try the other big dim sum place...

Or maybe I'll just get barbecue.  Mmm, rooster...

After settling our very reasonable bill we walked the streets for a while, scoping out shops and other eateries.  I'm always planning ahead for my next visit.  Oh, I also heard from the roommate.  She had decided to hit up Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt for breakfast.  What did she think of it?  I'll let her tell you.

She tends to be more succinct than I am.

Anyway, I was basically killing time waiting for Oasis Tea Zone to open. The ID's page for them describes them as a "tea, coffee, and bubble tea" spot.  Turns out that's just a category, not an actual description.  After killing an hour waiting for them to open, we got inside only to find that there is no coffee to speak of.  Since I had been wanting coffee, I was at a loss.  We sat down at an old tabletop video game (I don't recall what it was) to plan our next move, but the coin slot was broken.  I took this as a further sign that I wasn't supposed to be there, so we decided to go across the street and explore one of my happy places, Uwajimaya.  After going up and down every single aisle, including the bookstore, we strolled through the food court and found something that wasn't there on our previous visit.

Tako Kyuuban is, believe it or not, a takoyaki stand.  Normally I wouldn't give a damn because I hate octopus, but I was intrigued by the little sign saying they also had a cheese variety they called cheddar-yaki.  Since I love everything about the dish except for the octopus, I always try any alternatives I can find.  I ordered a few, and once I saw they also have chocolate taiyaki, I knew I had to get one of those for my dining buddy.

While we waited, I was approached by an elderly woman who said she was a dollar short of being able to afford a hamburger at the Herfy's Burgers across the hall.  After letting myself get hustled by those scumbags the previous day it would have been the easiest thing in the world to say no, but I obliged her and she immediately went back to settle her tab.  It was a good reminder right when I needed one that there are plenty of honest people out there who just need a little help from time to time.  Of course a junkie walked in off the street two minutes later asking for money and making some lame excuse for why they needed it, but that's another story.  It was about that time that our food was done.


My little fried cheese dumplings were awesome, once I got used to them.  It took my mind a bite or two to reconcile cheddar cheese with the other, decidedly Asian components, but it works.  These things were loaded with nori flakes, Japanese mayo, green onion, takoyaki sauce (natch), a little sriracha because why the hell not, and of course bonito flakes.  Lots and lots of bonito flakes.  Once the tween got over the weird way the thiner-than-paper flakes were dancing in the slight breeze and the steam coming off the dumplings, she actually tried one, and to my surprise she liked it as much as she had liked the dim sum.  She was really impressing me!

Chocolate-filled Taiyaki

Of course, she liked her treat even more.  The pastry part of a taiyaki is decidedly waffle-like, so imagine a thin, hot, fish-shaped waffle stuffed with creamy chocolate filling.  Yeah, it's as good as it sounds.

As much as I would love to just spend a weekend...or a week...exploring the ID, it was time to reconvene with our fellow travelers.  Back on the light rail to downtown, then a short ride on the Monorail to Seattle Center.  I had been pushing hard for us to go check out the Pompeii exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, but I had underestimated its popularity and the tickets were sold out for pretty much every showing for the rest of the day.  So, we walked around town instead.  Before long, everyone was starting to want lunch.  The roommate wanted to hit Fadó, and while I hadn't been as impressed with our previous visit as she had, I was willing to give them another try.

She and the tween basically carbon-copied their orders from last year, while the younger child and I opted for fish and chips.

Yup, it's Fish and Chips alright.

On last year's trip, I somehow managed to spend a weekend in Seattle without ordering any seafood.  Coming off the previous day's disappointing oyster experience, I decided to play it safe this time.  I mean Irish pub, fish and chips, duh...right?  Wrong.  If you set this in front of me along with plates of similar fare from any brewpub around here, I don't think I could tell them apart.  It wasn't bad, it just wasn't great, either.  And there's too much great seafood available in Seattle to settle for this.  Combine that with the roommate's meal not being as impressive this go-around and some service issues from the waitstaff, and the roommate has now pretty much given up on the place.  Me, I'd go back for booze.  And those lamb sliders that I've watched the tween order twice now.  Someday, I will have my own plate of those...

We sat for a while and stared at the water and the skyline when the Sun finally showed itself for the first time on the trip.  We had a hair-raising experience trying to locate a public restroom for the younger child.  We walked through Pike Place Market again (mainly because the kids wanted to see that disgusting gum wall), and finally ended up back at the hotel.  All the walking was beginning to take its toll.  Everyone enjoyed being off their feet for a while, but it was finally decided to tick another destination off the list while we still had a little time to kill.

So, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.  You can read Starbucks' description of it here.  Mine is a little shorter: Starbucks through the Willy Wonka prism.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

THIS is the view from the sinks where you wash your hands after using the restroom...

All of the usual suspects are represented.  If you want a mocha, you can have one.  A macchiato?  No sweat.  But there are a lot of other, more unique options (and if the reviews I'm reading on the aggregate sites are any indication, there are a lot more of them now than there was when I visited).  Since this was my second Starbucks run in two days, I decided to take advantage of the unique opportunities that only the Roasteries offer.

I'm a black coffee fan so I opted to try the Pantheon Blend, one that's only served at the Roastery locations.  I decided to make things more interesting by ordering it in what they call a brew comparison flight, which means you get one coffee brewed two very different ways.

The girls ordered the usual, plus pastries.

So the comparison flight gets you two 12 ounce servings of coffee, one brewed using the Clover system, the other via the pour over method.  Click the links for details, I'm not going to bother rehashing them in an already bloated post.  Coffee snobbery isn't really my thing, other than I don't like cheap, watery, bitter shit.  What I really wanted to know was this:  how different could two cups of the exact same coffee really be based just on the way they were brewed?

Quite a bit, as it turns out.  I was given a sturdy wooden tray, two clearly labeled metal carafes, and two clean black ceramic cups.  A place for everything, everything in its place, and no need for cross-contamination.

If I had just been randomly given these two cups of coffee, I wouldn't have guessed they were the same blend or roast.  The different brewing methods brought out different nuances of flavor.  The strength, smoothness, opacity...all completely different.  It was definitely an experience.  Was it worth twelve dollars for 24 ounces of black coffee?  Eh...

Back to the hotel to clean up, rest, and monitor the front of the venue, which we actually had a good view of from our window.

As more and more time passed without the barest hint of a line beginning to form, we started getting nervous.  What if the show was cancelled?  What if the line was down the alley along the side of the building?  We wanted to be sure we had decent seats so the kids could actually see the show.

It turns out the line was across the street, on the same side where our hotel was, making it hard to see from our vantage point.  By the time we worked this out and took our place in line...well, look at the picture.  That light all the way over on the right is above the doors of the venue.  All those little things along the sidewalk and bridge are people.  Then the line wraps around the corner and down the block, which is where I took the picture from.  I was honestly pretty bummed, but the venue turned out to be huge.  We ended up at the front of the second balcony section, so while we were pretty far from the stage at least there was a railing and a walkway in front of us, rather than some girl spending the entire show standing or a guy trying to record the whole thing on his phone.

If you're curious, Hozier puts on an awesome show (I'll be nice enough not to go into any depth regarding my thoughts towards the opening act), and the Paramount is a badass theater.  Eardrums rattled, overpriced t-shirts purchased, and everyone a little too keyed up to sleep, I suggested a late bite.  If there's one thing you can always count on finding in any decent city after a concert on a weekend evening, it's a hot dog vendor.  I'd sold my roommate on the idea of trying a Seattle-style hot dog, and I knew just the place to get it.

Cream cheese, onion and jalapeno.  Mustard is so last century.

Yeah, we ended up at Beko again.  Yeah, I walked us in that direction without being certain they'd be open.  But hey, I wanted another Yakisoba dog, damnit.  It was just as good as the one from the previous day.  The Seattle dog wasn't bad either, and the roommate seemed pretty happy with it as well.  After that it was back to the hotel yet again, this time to catch some honest to goodness sleep.  We'd need it if we wanted to make the most of our last half day in town.

Harbor City Barbecue on UrbanspoonEllenos Real Greek Yogurt on UrbanspoonTako Kyuuban on UrbanspoonFadó Irish Pub & Restaurant on UrbanspoonStarbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room on Urbanspoon

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