John Howie Steak Restaurant

John Howie Steak Restaurant in Bellevue – Get your Steak on. 41   Warning: the following may offend vegetarians!! Yes, yes…We’re going to be reviewing a steakhouse and a good one for that matter. Now I’m not saying John Howie Steak isn’t going to have vegetarian friendly dishes but come on, you’re going to be reading about a place that has the word steak embedded in its name!!   DSC_0231 Photos by: Sean D.  John Howie Steak is located in the shopping area of the Braven Towers in downtown Bellevue. The restaurant itself may be a little hard to find among the high-end boutiques like Gucci or Louis Vuitton but it is not overlooked by any means.

Before we get started on the food, lets talk about the drinks. We tried two fantastic drinks; they were both served in large glasses with scotch ice cubes and mixed in front of us which I thought added a bit of theatrics to the whole experience. Our first drink was the Cuba Libre, a classic rum and coke made a little different with spicy rum, Mexican coke and finished with cinnamon sticks and slices of lime. We also had the Woodford Reserve Sour 18 comprised of  bourbon, simple syrup, cherries, orange wheel and was topped off with Fever Tree club soda. They were both delicious.

Our meal began with an amuse-bouche of creamy Lobster bisque and caviar which was perfectly balanced and seasoned. There’s not much I can say about this except for I definitely recommend it. It set the bar for the rest of the meal. Next was the Beef Tar-Tar topped with quail egg. Although I was somewhat hesitant about the combination of the raw items I was pleasantly surprised. The egg acts as a binder that holds the Tar-Tar (fresh American Wagyu beef ), the capers, and other ingredients together. The dish was accompanied by Guinness and Stone in-house mustard with toasted bread. Our next appetizer was the Scallops with Crispy Bacon swimming in a creamy leak sauce. The perfectly cooked scallops were seared on top with a slight off white center that gave it a nice bite without being chewy ( it shows the skills of the chef); combined with the morel mushrooms and the smokiness of the bacon, it created a flavor masterpiece. One question that we always get asked is: “Which steak should I order from a particular restaurant”? In order for us to answer this question, we had to try four different types of steak (the sacrifices we make for our readers). The 42 day aged, 16 oz, 50/50 wet and dry, USDA Prime beef had more of a bite compared to the others and was cooked medium rare and packed with flavors. This steak is custom dry-aged by the restaurant. From there we ordered a trio of their 6 oz USDA Prime (regular), American Wagyu,and Australian Wagyu filet mignonBeing a steak lover, it was incredible to taste the difference in the 4 steaks. Each cut had distinct similarities and differences from the previous, and therefore, it would be up to an individual’s personal preference that determines what the best steak would be. All in all, the flavor profiles and textures were delicious and unique. Having said that, our favorites were the USDA Prime and the Australian Wagyu; both had great taste that were unique to each other while the Australian had a softer bite compared to the USDA. As for the side dishes we tried the Maine Lobster Mashed Potatoes that were super creamy, rich with fresh Maine lobster and blended smoothly in flavor. In addition, we also tried the Creamed Spinach with Kurobuta bacon and a sunny side up egg. This had a rich spinach flavor, smoked bacon accent and the egg added a creamy texture that held it all together. We felt that the two were perfect compliments to the steaks. Despite the fact that we were completely stuffed, we ended up trying the Bread Pudding with Makers Mark Bourbon infused ice cream. Fresh out of the oven and topped with the bourbon ice cream, it was fantastic. The infused bourbon ice cream would be delicious alone but added to the bread pudding it melted in your mouth. The flavor was so spot on that it left a reminiscing bourbon taste on your tongue. Seriously, this is the best way to end a great meal. In summary, if you are serious about steak and are looking for a hidden treasure with a family-friendly atmosphere, John Howie Steak Restaurant is definitely a place to get your cravings on. John Howie Steak Restaurant | 11111 NE 8th St #125 Bellevue, Wa 98004 | Open 7 days a week

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El Gaucho Bellevue

El Gaucho Bellevue –  Brunch Brunch Bunch

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The weekend starts on Sunday morning for me. That’s mostly because I work during the week, Friday and Saturday I hang out with my friends at some bar downtown, so I don’t really start to relax until Sunday morning. And if your life is as hectic as mine, then I am sure you agree that nothing hits the spot like a Sunday brunch. El Gaucho is known for their food (especially their steaks) and so when I heard they’ll be offering brunch, I knew I had to check it out.

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Photo’s by: Kacie C.   El Gaucho’s Hunts Brunch is a delicious spin off from the historically late night brunch (1-4am, who eats that late!?) that’s tailored to fit Bellevue’s schedule with a dash of El Gaucho’s secret spice. The buffet includes everything from succulent pork belly to beautifully decorated chocolate mousse to a vast selection of different types of cheese.

 

One of the musts of every brunch is a good cocktail or in El Gaucho’s brunch case, a sampler trio of mixed drinks (which included the Wicked Bloody Mary) that gives you that small little buzz everyone needs on a Sunday morning. Barrel-Aged Tequila Rita is an absolute must try (Gooooooood morning. ). Our tasting began with beignets. These deep fried, bite-size clouds of heaven, were paired with the light and fruity, in-house wine cream cheese. Sweet start to a delicious beginning. Next we moved on to the cheese filled croissant and the Egg Benedict tarts with Canadian bacon and spinach artichoke. Trust me you can’t just have one.

Another winner item was the Banana Foster French Toast with Carmel sauce and maple candied pecans. I am not fan of overly sweet things but the French toast was just right. The candied pecans added that perfect crunch and much needed nutty flavor. As if I didn’t have enough to eat, I decided to order one of their steaks which are available to order during brunch. My 8 oz, 28 day, dry aged filet mignon was prepared medium rare on El Gaucho’s charcoal grill which seared in a nice smoky wood flavor. The steak was accompanied by a Garlic and Rosemary sauce that made the steak that much more enjoyable. All in all my brunch experience at El Gaucho was more than satisfying. Adding to the experience was the beautifully designed and decorated space with live music. It made for a truly relaxed and comfortable setting.

El Gaucho Bellevue  |  450 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004,  |   Open 7 days a week

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Pearl Bar Restaurant

Pearl Restaurant – Sweet food and Sweeter drinks

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Our visit to Pearl Bar and Restaurant was one with more highs than lows. The Bar/Restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Bellevue and although somewhat hidden and hard to find, it’s worth trying out. Pearl is a modern American restaurant with tasty drinks that would hit the spot on a Friday after work.

 

Pearl

We started our tasting with Pearl’s Shiso Wild Drop. This green drink was light, refreshing and fruity. The Acai berry vodka and the Shiso leafs were a perfect compliment to the lemon sour taste. Great Start.. Our appetizer included Egg-less Caesar salad with house-made croutons and vinaigrette as well as a Roasted Beet salad. The Caesar salad was an ‘interesting’ one in the sense that it had long pieces of lettuce leafs which made it very hard to eat. In addition the Caesar vinaigrette was too tart and lemony and we felt that it would’ve been more balanced if it had some eggs. On a positive note, the house-made croutons added great crunch and  flavor to the salad. The Roasted Beat Salad had a bright vibrant color and looked very appetizing. The dill, toasted pistachio (yum) added a nice contrast to the light and cool citrus flavor. Having said that, the canned oranges were the down note on this otherwise perfect salad. Regardless, if you’re looking for a light start to your meal, give this one a try.

 

Photo’s by: Kacie C.

As our tasting continued we noticed that most of the dishes had a very sweet flavor profile starting with the Roasted Pork Belly; the belly itself had a nice crispy crust (we think it was due to the brown sugar), a tender meat that was covered with a honey bourbon glaze.  The dish was complemented with pickled  cauliflower and carrots. We thought, what would make the dish memorable, would have been a nice smokiness; still, a great dish for $11.

Last we tried the Sablefish;  the $29 dish was somewhat confusing as it consisted of a moist, tender piece of fish that sat in the middle of an orange-colored curry sauce and was surrounded by two crab dumplings in wanton skins (very little crab and mostly wanton). The fish was marinated in honey-miso and had great flavors but unfortunately the delicate taste was immediately lost as it mixed with the spicy curry. Perhaps the sauce would’ve been better served with something less delicate (chicken perhaps?).

The other noteworthy dish was the Merlot Braised boneless Short Ribs (yet again somewhat sweet due to the Merlot) with the house-made gnocchi’s. The short ribs were tender and very flavorful. We really enjoyed this dish.

All together, Pearl’s modern decor and ambiance  paired with its food and drink creates a satisfying experience for hungry customers.

Pearl Bar and Restuarant  |  700 Bellevue Way NE, Suite 50 Bellevue,  |   Open 7 days a week

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American Pie Bakery & Cafe

NOT VERY IMPRESSIVE 3.14 

Rating: 15

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It’s hard to describe this place. If you’ve been to Georgetown, you know what the neighborhood is like — it’s kind of grungy, it’s kind of up and coming, it’s kind of artsy, and mostly, it’s industrial. American Pie is eclectic. There is day of the dead artwork, some guitars on the wall, and chairs stacked above the entrance. It’s simple, but unique. And it’s tiny!

The Chicken Pot Pie is filled with dark meat, celery, carrots, onion, leeks, and garlic in a classic bechamel sauce. The filling was gray, dry, and congealed together. When you cut into chicken pot pie, the center should be gooey and soft. They make both vegetarian and meat-filled Empanadas ranging from beef, glazed yams, chickpea and quinoa, onion and bleu cheese, and sausage, apple and fennel to name a few. We had a one with a braised beef. The beef was flavorful, but the crust to filling ratio was off. It needed more filling. Plus, it was heated for us in the microwave and still cold in the center. Microwaves in restaurants should generally be a no-no.

For dessert, their sweet pies range from classic pies like strawberry rhubarb and pecan pie to lemongrass cream with crystallized ginger and Jasmine coconut cream. The Strawberry Rhubarb Pie was pretty good. The filling was just the right balance of tart and sweet. The filling was substantial, not mushy, and the crust was perfect.

Photos by Sean. 

Summary: It’s just OK. Stick to the sweet pies, skip the savory. Call ahead of go early for the best selection.
Recommendation: Learn to make pie at home yourself.

American Pie Bakery & Cafe     |     5633 Airport Way S., Seattle   |    (206) 708 – 7813

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Lucia in Kirkland

A GEM ON THE EASTSIDE. 

Rating: 3

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We’re constantly complaining that the Eastside is full of cookie cutter restaurants and all-around unimpressive fare. However, there are a few gems on the Eastside. Honestly, I think Kirkland has better dining options than Bellevue… and a better view! Lucia has amassed quite the following and is busy every night of the week. We came to eat on a Thursday night and the restaurant was almost at capacity by the time we left at 7:00pm. The people dining ranged from families with kids to young professionals. Everyone in the restaurant was dressed well. You won’t see any flip flops, baseball caps, and ripped jeans here. It’s a hot spot and the place to be seen in Kirkland.

Their signature dish, Truffle Spaghetti and Meatballs was unimpressive. While the meatballs were actually quite tasty — they were moist and soft, had great flavor, and weren’t too heavy. My only problem was that there were only two! Then I was left with a whole mess of pasta-from-the-box, prompting me to nickname it a “Bertolli” dish. So the good and bad of this dish averaged to just so-so. Next, we had Potato Gnocchi with Braised Short Rib. The potato gnocchi was soft, creamy, and light, but we were suspicious they were also pre-bought and not freshly made. (We are becoming quite the pasta snobs, aren’t we?) The short ribs were not quite braised enough and the chopped celery in the dish was not a pleasant texture in our mouths. We would be chewing on some soft gnocchi and then all of a sudden there’s a crunchy intrusion in our mouths. WHAT.

Photos by Sean. 

The Seared Sea Bass Piccata with a lemon caper white wine sauce, pepperonata, and roasted potatoes was another OK dish. The fish was cooked well, but it was battered and deep fried. It was nearly impossible to identify what kind of fish it was. Deep fried fish only has a place in fish tacos. Not on a composed plate of food. The potatoes were bland and the sauce was too thick and oily. The Pancetta Carbonara was ULTRA rich. Topped with a fried egg, sauteed pancetta, peas, carbonara sauce, this dish is heart-attack-worthy. It tasted delicious, but it made me want to stand up and do jumping jacks to work off the 2000+ calories in the dish. A couple bites and you’re done.

If we had just ended the meal there, we might have given Lucia a 3.5 star rating. However, we decided to order dessert. As stated in earlier posts, we are both quite the tiramisu connoisseur, so when we see it on a menu, we must order it. We ordered the Tiramisu and the Chocolate “Souffle”. Their menu doesn’t have souffle in quotation marks, but when we received it, we knew it definitely wasn’t a souffle. It was merely a molten lava cake that was probably zapped in the microwave and definitely not housemade. It was burnt around the edges and totally caved in in the middle. The tiramisu cake was dry and crumbly. This is usually a sign that the cake is old and has been sitting out. The cream was tasty, but didn’t have enough coffee flavor. A solid fail all around.

Summary: The meal isn’t too bad, and they seem to have great specials throughout the week. 2 for 1 Pasta Mondays, 50% off Wine Tuesdays, and $5 House Martinis Wednesday.
Recommendation: Go for their entrees rather than their spaghettis, as you’ll get bored will the mountain of store bought noodles and skip dessert.

Lucia              |           222 Parkplace, Kirkland         |         (425) 889 – 0200

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