Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Moses and Krishna versus Mohammed

Renton has two Indian restaurants.
Pabla, located in the downtown Renton Fred Meyer Center, is vegetarian, and kosher certified.
What this means is that they have a Rabbi come to inspect the place to see if it's clean and that there aren't any non kosher things going on, like the mixing of meat and dairy, or serving pork or shellfish. A place serving cheeseburgers cannot get kosher certified. These Hindu owners then pay the Rabbi some money and they get a certificate stating their kosherness, and word travels fast. Pabla serves a lunch buffet that is so frequented by religious Jews that at times one is mystified by what looks like a synogogue meeting about to start inside a Hindu Indian restaurant. It's not that unusual for non Jewish restaurants to get Kosher certified. There are a couple of Chinese vegetarian places in Seattle that are also kosher. Pabla is pretty good and pretty popular, but almost always leaves me with some gastrointestinal symptoms.
The other Indian restaurant in Renton is Naan -N- Curry, 709 3rd Street , Renton, 425-271-6226,
Naan -N- Curry is strictly halal, the Muslim cousin of kosher. This place is not vegetarian but has a lot of vegetarian entrees on the menu. Unlike kosher, Halal does not forbid the mixing of dairy and meat nor the shellfish, but like kosher forbids pork.
So unlike most Indian restaurants which do not serve beef because the cow is holy to Hindus, Naan-N-Curry serves beef shank and filet mignon.
As this place is halal, they attract religious Muslims, and at times you'd think an Al Qaeda meeting was about to start.
Naan -N-Curry is very good. Zeera Saag is a spinach and mustard greens dish seasoned with cumin that is divine. Prawns tandoori are giant and a combination of crispy and tender, and well seasoned.
The Naan is done just right and is highly addictive. The eggplant is also highly recommended.
Chicken Tikka Masala is one of my faves at any Indian place, and Naan-N-Curry does it very well, boneless chicken marinated in yogurt and cooked in a creamy curry sauce.
The place is pretty and pleasant, walls are purple and orange, and it's a combination of exotic and welcoming.
The negative? There are daily specials for 19.99, far more expensive than anything on the menu, and they try to push them. Just say no, unless you're feeling particularly flush.
In the Renton battle for Indian food, Naan-N-Curry is my preference.

Friday, June 09, 2006

All Thai'd Up

About five years ago I had some cousins visiting and we arranged to bring home Thai food for everbody.
As it happened, Diane and I both had to work later than expected that day, and a communication mix up occured. I called in a large to go order from Royal Orchid, which Diane was going to pick up. But she thought I'd called in the order to JapanThai (now Bella Napoli), and stopped there to pick up the order. They quickly put the order togethe.r Diane called me to tell me that JapanThai didn't have the food ready when she got there but put it together quickly. At that point I told her the order was from Royal Orchid, so she picked that up too and we had a "Betty Crocker Thai Cook Off."
The orders were identical, so we had direct comparisons, and both were extremely good.
We had four entrees and a soup from each place. In each of the four entrees it was unanimously decided that JapanThai was slightly better, but that Royal Orchid's soup was superior,and both places were very,very good.
JapanThai is now gone, and Renton doesn't have a lot of other great Thai places.
Skyway has a mediocre Thai place, "The Best Pho and Thai" is near Wal-Mart and pretty good, there's a pretty good place near Ikea, but none come close to matching Royal Orchid or the late Japan Thai.
Except for Thai onHighlands, 2808 NE Sunset Blvd, 425-793-6278.
They've been around at least five years, and would've been part of the contest back then if they were a little closer.
The place is a well kept up, charming , artsy Thai place.
They tend to incorporate more vegetables into entrees than other Thai places, and service is always friendly and prompt. Prices are low, and they have curry salmon on the menu. A lot of Thai places don't serve curry salmon. I don't think salmon exists in Thailand, nonetheless that marriage of Northwest and Thai is a particularly tasty one.
Tonight we had a seafood curry, which had prawns, scallops, fish, and squid, with a coconut curry and broccoli, cabbage, basil, etc.
We also had the spinach dish with peanut sauce, something Rama?, and it was served atop fried tofu. Yum!
Over the years I've eaten at Thai on Highlands numerous times. It's always good. It's a little farther than the always good and very close by Royal Orchid. But it's also a little bit less expensive. I'm not sure which one is better, but Thai on Highlands is a place where you just go gaga over the deliciousness of the food.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Bust Next Door

News flash!
At about 8 PM tonight the King County Sheriff's Office staged a raid on my next door neighbor's house on 130th Street. The neighbors have "lived" next door for about a year, but I'd never met them or spoken to them and barely saw them...It seemed awfully quiet not to ever hear the neighbors, but who's complaining?
About a year ago the nice old lady next door sold her house to a Vietnamese family, after rejecting a prospective buyer because they were an unmarried couple.
Tonight I'm in the kitchen eating ice cream when I hear loud banging and crashing from next door and hear a yell "King County Sheriff's Office-Search Warrant!" and they bust in.
I try not to seem like the nosy neighbor that I am, but I see there's a sheriff employee talking to some other neighbors on the corner and I join them and ask what's up.
...To make a long story short, the neighbors got busted for, according to the Sheriff dude "A very large marijuana grow operation."
No wonder they were so quiet. They didn't live there!
As of this moment the sheriffs folks are still next door hauling stuff away and complaining about doing this on straight time.
One of the elderly neighbors was asking the sheriff dude about the price of marijuana and he reported it to be around 5500 dollars a pound, and about a pound an a quarter per plant. He didn't reveal how much they confiscated. I actually kind of wish it was something a little more exciting like stolen art masterpieces, but it certainly was the excitement of the year.
If I'd only known.....

Friday, June 02, 2006

Renton and Italian Food

I'm a native of New Jersey. People from New Jersey can't help but have a knowledge and appreciation of Italian food, as there is an abundance of it there. New Jersey has a lot of good, small, family owned, unpretentious and inexpensive Italian restaurants.
The Seattle area also has good Italian food, but it tends to be a bit more elegant and a bit more expensive.
Renton has some of both the upscale and the unpretencious.
In the slightly upscale department are Bella Napoli, Vino, and Armando's...
Vino is in the same location as Gene's Italian restaurant, which was the epitome of a fantastic restaurant when Gene owned it a few years back. Now he and his wife own the Red House.
He still owns the building where Vino is, and developed the menu for the Dog and Pony.
I've eaten at Vino a couple of times, and while good, I was just missing Gene's when I ate there, and everything pales in comparison with Gene's.
Bella Napoli has previously been reviewed here and is a good restaurant, but it also occupies the space of one of my formerly favorite spots, JapanThai.
Armando's is a very popular and very good place with wood fired pizza. Armando also owns the Melrose Grill...
Then there are less expensive pizza and pasta houses. These include Vince's and Angelo's.
Vince's is a small chain that's been around for about fifty years, and makes a very respectable pizza.
Angelo's, on NE 4th Street, in my opinion makes the best pizza in Renton. Spicy pizza sauce with a tender yet crisp crust; it's the crust that most resembles my New Jersey crusts of yore.
Then there is Amante, on Sunset NE in Renton,part of a small local chain, and closer to the "Vince's" model of unpretentious and cheap, but Amante is a nice place, both attractive in appearance and unusual in a couple of ways.
It's Bulgarian owned, so even though it's "Italian", it has a Balkan flavor, not a bad thing.
Their "white spaghetti" has roasted garlic and myzithra cheese, "Feta Fetish" has kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers, feta , and fried eggs, served on pasta,pizza, or as a low carb entree.
They have artichoke hearts in several entrees and salads, and other entrees and pastas include fresh basil andsun dried tomatoes.Salads are huge and include a wonderful Greek salad and delightful home made dressings.
Desserts include home made baklava.
The only wines served are Bulgarian.
The marinara sauce is thick, very homemade looking, slightly sweet, and delicious.
Pizza choices are numerous and include one with goat cheese, pine nuts, fresh basil and roasted garlic.
All in all, the place offers interesting choices, serves delicious food in enormous portions,
and is a friendly, nice looking place with consitantly good service.
Not as bohemian as Bella Napoli, not as kitschy as Vince's, not as popular as Armando's.
....but worthy in it's own right .