Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Great Food Day in Bellevue – The Bravern & Lunch at Barrio

Despite the horrible weather and plethora of football, this past Sunday turned out to be quite the exciting food day in Bellevue. My wife, Michelle and I took the opportunity to visit the Bravern for the first time to meet TV personality Ellie Krieger at Sur La Table. As expected she was very warm and friendly as we chatted with her for a few moments as she signed our cookbooks. Despite how much we rationalize that “they are just normal people,” it is always exciting to meet people who you see on TV. The staff at Sur La Table were particularly welcoming this visit as they offered espresso beverages and a sample of Ellie's Blueberry Coffee Cake from her new cookbook So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week.

After purchasing a new tart pan that we put to use that afternoon, we decided to walk around the mall and check out the new restaurants that we will invariably be checking out in the coming months. Michelle and I were both surprised at the sheer lack of customers that we came across on this chilly, drizzly Sunday afternoon. While just a few blocks away the Bellevue Square Mall was jammed with pre-holiday shoppers, the Bravern was a proverbial ghost town. Seemingly plucked right out of Southern California we couldn't help but think that this upscale shopping mecca with the likes of Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo was poorly conceived by its designers, who didn't take into account that it's cold and rainy here 8 months a year. As other outdoor malls including the Redmond Town Center have taken our weather into consideration, the Bravern has neglected to do so with their uncovered walkways and exposed seating areas. This makes for a very unpleasant shopping experience on a day like Sunday. Without question, I do not fall into the target demographic that this mall is seeking to attract.

To shake off the chill we got at the Bravern, we headed to Barrio a few blocks west in the newly completed Bellevue Towers to partake in their contemporary Mexican fare. Despite being nearly 1pm, we were the first and thus-far only customers in this beautifully appointed restaurant. Being fans of Barrio's sister restaurant Purple Wine Bar & Restauant (which happens to share bathrooms and a hallway at this location) we were excited to finally get a chance to see what all the buzz was about. Although we were unable to get the full ambient experience, we were afforded fantastic service by our attentive server Adam who was able to spend plenty of time with us to discuss Barrio's lunch offerings. He told us that the management is currently building a weekend Brunch menu that will hopefully help build traffic.

We started with the delightfully chunky Guacamole and house-made chips. The guac was nicely balanced and even appeased my guacamole-hater wife who typically has a hard time with the texture and blandness of most restaurants' offerings. Adam gave us a special treat with an accompaniment of two shot-glass sized shooters that he said are typically served alongside tequilla or vodka shots and that will eventually be the base for Barrio's signature Bloody Mary, which will eventually be on the aforementioned Brunch menu. One shooter was a take on Salsa Verde with a nice acidic backend , that would certainly pair well with a nice shot of Patron. The second shooter complemented the first nicely with its rich tomato base and smoky finish that is just begging for a splash of Worcestershire and a side of celery.

For our entrees, Michelle went with the #2 Combinacion that include two Shredded Chicken Taquitos with a bowl of Tortilla Soup. The taquitos were decent albeit pretty generic, leaving the vinegary slaw and spicy Mole Colorado accompaniments to steal the plate. The Tortilla soup was well constructed, although the sweetness of masa really overpowered the other flavors a bit. I went for a trio of Tacos; al Pastor topped with caramelized pineapple, Chicken en Adobo with toasted sesame seeds and cotija and Rock Shrimp with roasted tomato-habanero salsa and crema. They were satisfying and all complimented each other nicely.

Despite the lack of ambiance, we had a great meal. A previous review I had read describing Barrio as “an upscale taco truck moved inside” seemed to ring true. I will certainly be back to see how this restaurant evolves. I will make sure to go later in the day next time; when the restaurant will be fuller and hopefully the wall of candles lit, which I can imagine would really add some much needed warmth to the sleek, industrial feel of the main dining room.

** Being a food writer paired with the fact that it did occur on the Eastside, I would be remiss if I did not include this.

Despite the great meal we had at Barrio, my wife won the Best Meal of the Day Award with her superb Braised Short Ribs with Sun-Dried Tomato Gravy from October's Bon Appetit Magazine and Lemon Curd Tart (with her new tart pan) adapted from the Barefoot Contessa.

No comments:

Post a Comment