Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Where do the huddled masses eat?

Where the Red House is disputably Renton's hippest restaurant, King Buffet, 20 SW 7th St, Renton 228-3666 is disputably Renton's least hip place.
Let me state unequivocally that I don't require hipness to enjoy a restaurant (or even good food: I like Tommy's) but King Buffet leaves me with nausea and gastrointestinal distress every time I've eaten there.
My sister loves the place, says the food is really good.
And if I weren't so senile, I'd remember why I eat there so rarely.
The place is huge, and there is plenty of food to choose from, including sushi, Mongolian grill, salads, soups, meats, veggies, etc.
It's also an extremely popular place. Many places are closed on Mondays because it is a slow night for restaurants, but not King Buffet. They were quite busy last night, and the buffet fans were quite varied.
There were African- Americans, Honkies ( including Russian speaking honkies), Asians, Mexicans, Arabs, and Africans all fighting for their share of the buffet table, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. After eating there, breathing at all is difficult.
The place definitely has that "feeding trough" feel to it.
I'm not against buffet places, in fact I like the idea of eating mass quantities of food I like.
But the problem with King Buffet is not only the crowds, but the food.
Very uninspired greasy unidentifiable fried shit, vegetables swimming in grease, a Mongolian grill full of mystery meat...and a lot of the stuff, in different trays with different labels, all tastes alike.
Yes, I am guilty of eating too much there. I really ought to limit overeating to food I like.
Given the choice of eating there or one of these fake festive chain restaurants intent on "upselling", I'd have thought I'd died and gone to hell.
Is King Buffet my least favorite Renton restaurant?
I don't know, but it's at least a runner up.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Gene- ius: Red House Beer and Wine

Gene Sens and his wife Hoang are long time Renton restauranteurs.
25 years ago Gene had a pizza stand in the old Renton Food Circus, near where the downtown Fred Meyer store is. Later on he and Hoang owned and operated Gene's, which is now Vino on s. 3rd St, downtown Renton. Even when living in Seattle, we would come down to Gene's for dinner. The food was creative, the atmposphere always pleasant, and prices too low.
After running the place for 15+ years, Gene and Hoang were tired, and sold the place. They "retired", but not for too long. Gene also started and later sold Jubilante, and designed the menu at the Dog and Pony. He's one of those people who goes into the restaurant business to share good food and provide gathering places rather than to make money.
A few years ago, he and Hoang opened Red House Beer and Wine, 410 Burnett Ave S, 425-226-2666, redhousebeerandwine.com
...Doesn't matter what kind of restaurant Gene runs, it will have a distinctive Gene style, and I will like it. Music will always be eclectic, food will always be good, and the place will exhude a certain hipness and warmth. RedHouse has a huge selection of beer and wine, and you can buy a bottle or a six pack and take it home and drink it. Or you can stay and enjoy the wide variety of tapas, appetizers,salads and the like. Since opening, they have expanded the menu to include entrees.
We went on Friday night. The place was deservedly busy. The old Gene's, which was an Italian restaurant, had the the best antipasto in the entire world. Red House also has a very good antipasto, which includes olives, roasted peppers, smoked salmon pate, a variety of cheeses, and salumi, probably Pino Rogano locally made artisan cured meat.
A special on friday was Rib Eye Steak, and rivaled the Melrose in tenderness and flavor. (That's a big compliment.)
We all shared everything, including pasta with dungeness crab and cream sauce(YUM!), and spicy grilled shrimp, and steamed clams...An intriguing future order will include Hangar Steak and White King Salmon.
We didn't have dessert, because we were stuffed to the gills ( although at times that fact hasn't stopped me before.)
But if the desserts are anything at all like Gene's used to be, watch out! They're too good.
Hoang did a lot of the dessert baking, Gene baked the bread. The apple pie at Gene's years later remains to this day the best I've eaten.
Red House is a great place.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Skyway has a good restaurant

I reviewed Cocina Marina in July, and recently returned.
Once again, I'm astounded by the quality of the food.
Skyway is not the neighborhood for restaurants of quality, but Cocina Marina, 11839 Renton Avenue S, 206-772-3054, is actually a place of gourmet aspirations. And not especially Mexican, even though it is a Mexican restaurant. But then again, there are numerous restaurants in Mexico that are not especially Mexican.
Cocina Marina has a number of pasta dishes on the menu, including what I ordered, prawns scampi alfredo, and boy was it good! Jumbo prawns butterflied and garlicky, served atop a creamy parmesany fettucine.
A nightly special included a mixed seafood soup, which included crab, salmon, and shrimp, with a delicious broth.
Other menu items include a tuna sandwich made with fresh grilled yellowfin tuna, grilled salmon, and NY steak.
Many entrees and served with garlic toast rather than tortillas.
Latino karaoke is Friday and Saturday. Latin dancing on Sunday. And English karaoke on Thursday nights. The bar looks very inviting and friendly, the restaurant fairly unremodeled.
Food is close to excellent, service is friendly but slow, atmosphere is seedy but safe, and the food, while a little pricier than standard Mexican fare , is actually a good value considering the quality and taste of the food.
How long a gourmet restaurant in Skyway can last is anybody's guess. But they've lasted since July, and hopefully for many more years.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Renton Has Many Mediocre Restaurants

Most of Renton's restaurants fall into the mediocre category. There are a few exceptions:
The Melrose, The Red House, Aloha BBQ, Armando's and maybe a couple of others are quite good.
A few, like Mimosa and their limp yellow lettuce at the salad bar, only aspire to mediocrity.
Last night we dined at the Yankee Grill & Roaster, 1 Grady Way, 255-8543.
The Yankee's Ballard branch opened with much fanfare and acclaim about twenty years ago, and their Renton branch has been here about seven years. I believe they have seen a couple of ownership changes since then.
The Yankee Grill is the Holiday Inn's in- house restaurant. It, like most of it's Renton restaurnat brethren, falls into the mediocre category.
The menu is kind of upscale-ambitious, including salmon and a catch of the day, as well as rotisserie beef and turkey and smoked chicken.
Salads include a smoked salmon Caesar, a tossed Cobb salad, and a smoked chicken curry sald made with mandarin orange and walnut.
The place has a dark wood fancy restaurant feel, and lotss of historical Renton photos.
They're famous for large portions of classic American dishes like meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
So, foodwise, I'd say they're better than average..portions are large and everything is fairly fresh.
Service is friendly but somewhat slow and not especially competent.
I ordered a Diet Pepsi (2.49) and was never offered a refill. I don't mind paying 2.49 for a soda, if they're offering to refill my glass every ten minutes or so.
The atmosphere is pleasant..It's a good looking place with a gas fireplace and handsome wood.
Prices are way too high..they think they're all that.
It's not the worst restaurant in Renton by a long shot. The food is pretty good, just not worth their menu prices.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Applebee's now has a Renton location

Applebee's is not the kind of restaurant I generally go to or like. I tend to shun big national chains, and Applebee's, like some other big national chains, has this contrived festivity about it.
Nonetheless, almost next door to the Renton Village 8 movie theatre ( 375 Grady Way, 425-687-1200), Applebee's recently opened in Renton, and is not lacking in customers.
And...you know what? It's not that bad.

The menu is extensive, giving choices to all kinds of tastes, and the food is clearly a notch above a Sheri's or a Denny's.

They've teamed up with The Food Network's celebrity chef Tyler Florence to feature some of his recipes, and the "crispy brick chicken" is really quite good..crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and grilled with rosemary, lemon and olive oil.
Other Tyler Florence creations include a penne pasta with a tomato cream sauce, ripe tomatoes, peas, and sausage, a bruschetta burger, and an herb roasted chicken.

Items on the regular menu include good salads, like a steakhouse salad, apple walnut salad, and a Southwest Cobb.
Honey Grilled salmon looked good on an neighboring table's plate, but I didn't order it, nor ask the person at the next table for a bite.
Tuesdays and Thursdays feature all you can eat riblets.
Okay, what's a riblet? Even after ordering it, I can't tell you. It's not bad, not BBQ smoked as I prefer, but not bad, and the BBQ sauce is mediocre, but the meat's tasty, whatever it is...how does the saying go " If you have to ask, you don't really want to know the answer, as in "How do you make sausage?"

Service is fairly quick, friendly and efficient. Prices aren't bad, mostly 8.99-12.99, except for burgers, wraps, and sandwiches.

So really there is stuff to like about the place.
One clever thing Applebee's does is make each location "local."
The Renton location has historical Renton pictures, sports memorabilia from Renton high school teams, photos of Ichiro, etc.

So what don't I like about the place?
1. The fake festivity. I don't need to be fuc*ing happy to eat in a restaurant.
2. I know it's their job, but I've got a menu: Waitstaff don't need to "sell" certain items.."Can I start you out with some mozarella sticks?" or "How about dessert, how about some mud pie?"
3. The music. 80's rock. Feh.

Mud pie. Riblets. What the hell are these things, really?

All in all, I will continue to dine at Applebee's on occasion. The food is better than similarly priced restaurants, and it's a convenient location.
But is this ever going to be a restaurant I'm going to say I love?

Monday, October 02, 2006

A recipe? What's that got to do with Renton?

Pretty soon it will be dark and cold and wet in these parts, a condition that lasts for months.
Yes, Renton has many exciting activities to pass those dreary days, but sometimes there's nothing better than staying home and eating chocolate-coconut haystacks.

2 egg whites
1 cup sugar (I use splenda)
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp chocolate syrup ( I use a sugar free brand)
2 cups grated unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350'
Whip egg whites (with electric beater) on low for several minutes til medium stiff peaks form.
Beat in the sugar and cocoa powder a little at a time.
Gently fold in the choclate syrup and coconut.
Drop mixture by rounded teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet.
Shape into little pyramids with fingertips.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Makes about 25-30 very addictive little cookies.