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06 December 2018

South Seattle Spotlight: Wicked Chopstix

Today I want to launch a new feature, one that I have been contemplating since moving to our current home in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle. South Seattle Spotlight will feature the dishes from the restaurants on the south side of the city that really speak to my heart. So much is written about the restaurants of Ballard, Fremont, Capital Hill, and the Downtown core, but head just a bit south and you find a bounty of diverse restaurants fully deserving of acclaim.

First up is a relative newcomer to the Othello neighborhood, Wicked Chopstix. Located on MLK Blvd in the heart of one of America's most diverse zip codes, this modern minimalist restaurant is a bastion for the cuisine of the northern Vietnamese port city of Hai Phong. The single sheet menu is packed with tasty classics such as Bánh Bao Bà Chi (classic pork steam buns), Com Gà Thap Cám (Chicken clay pot), and the dish that won the heart of a President, Bún Chà Obama (Obama Noodles).

Now all of these are amazing and should be enough for a stop, but they aren't what I keep coming back for. For me it's all about the Phó, and specifically the Phó Tai. I know, how boring, everyone has a good Phó...but trust me this one finds a way to elevate above the rest. To most people Phó Tai is the entry level. Sliced rare tenderloin beef is considered the least exotic meat option for this Vietnamese staple. To me, however, it's the perfect protein vehicle to move the stunningly deep and complex broth from the bowl to my mouth. The abundant delicate slices of meat cook quickly in the broth, and the aromatic punch is mouthwatering. The broth itself has a beautiful earthy bottom with strong notes of star anise and charred onion, and a light sweetness that rounds it out. There is a familiarity to the taste, something I can't put my finger on, that seems so comforting and safe. As the days get darker and wetter, nothing in Seattle warms me up or soothes my cold better. And that is why I keep coming back.

04 October 2018

Tonight's Episode: A Shuckin' Good Time

So just before the start of the summer season we took a road trip out toward Long Beach, as one does in Washington. Passing through tiny South Bend we saw a little shack looking out on the Willapa River with the magic word OYSTER. Well, of course we stopped in! Boy was that a good decision. Perfectly located near the Washington summer hotspot (or the Oregon coast if you are planning to spend a week there and write about it in an upcoming post), we popped a couple of local craft beers, took in the view, and enjoyed a lazy lunch in a town most people don't even realize they drove through.

Only open for three days at this point, Oyster Bay Seafood Restaurant has the benefit of being located in the heart of the best oyster beds in America. Owners Dan 'The Man' Lindt and Shane Moncy aim to wow with stunning views, a relaxed setting, and the freshest local ingredients.

Now if you don't know about Willapa oysters, you should realize these are hands down the best you've probably never had. They don't ship well, which is sad considering their sweet light brine flavor. Make sure you grab a dozen or so to tide you over until your sandwich arrives.

The sandwiches (or Po Boys) may not be the initial draw of this oyster shack but they are the reason you will be back. Starting with the chipotle-lime chicken ($9) and the similarly spiced shrimp ($12), you have wonderfully cooked, bright and beautiful sandwiches stuffed to almost excess. That may be the only complaint I have with the po'boys, that they might actually be TOO big. If value is your biggest concern then rest assured you get your money's with these massive sandwiches.

The heftiest two po'boys are the super stuffed Tsunami crab melt ($14) and the 3 day marinated pulled pork ($10). The crab melt is big on flavor, and big on crab meat. If this sandwich was on the menu in Portland or Seattle it would top $20 easily, and frankly I would order this to share. The pulled pork has a beautiful flavor and is topped with a crisp and bright slaw that enhances the house made bbq sauce flavor.

The large outdoor dining space overlooking the Willapa River is a communal space that encourages you to get to know your fellow dinners. This relaxed neighborly atmosphere really drives home a sense of authenticity in a seafood shack that feels like it has always been there. Amazing food, treated simply and with respect, in an amazing setting, by good people should alway be a win. Especially when your only complaint is "the sandwiches are too big." 


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