Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Hour Report: Seastar in Bellevue

On a recent chilly evening, my wife, Michelle and I unexpectedly found our commutes home had us crisscrossing near downtown Bellevue. It was the perfect opportunity to check out Happy Hour at Bellevue's famed Seastar Restaurant and Oyster Bar.

Arriving at about 5:20, we had to quickly make our menu selections to get our order in as Happy Hour awkwardly ended at 5:30. Running from 3:30 to 5:30, this has to be one of the most non-customer friendly time frames, not giving most 9to5-ers the opportunity to get there in time to enjoy much of the happiest of hours.

We ordered two glasses of wine, one white and one red (missed the specifics, sorry) which turned out to be barely drinkable. I guess when you get a $3 glass, you can't have overly lofty expectations. For food, we ordered up a Spicy Tuna Roll ($3) for my spicy tuna connoisseur wife, Garlic Grilled Shrimp with Mashed Potatoes ($5), Putaportiwon's Calamari Poppers ($7.50) and the Seared Kal-Bi Pork Medallions ($7) to make it a Surf & Turf affair.

The Spicy Tuna Roll arrived first. As we dug in we were disappointed that the roll was ice cold and gummy, having obviously been pre-made and chilled. The disappointment continued on this menu item as any nuisances and flavor of the tuna were overpowered by red pepper flake and sriracha. Once again, it was only $3 but if you are a high-end seafood restaurant who chooses to serve sushi, you should provide better sushi than QFC.

Luckily, the Garlic Shrimp and Pork Medallions arrived and were much more appealing. The shrimp were cooked perfectly; nice and firm with a nice, subtle garlic flavor. The accompanying potatoes unfortunately were overpowered by the flood of melted butter they were topped with. Sure, who doesn't love a little butter on their mashed potatoes, but this took it a little far. The pork medallions were the highlight of the meal, perfectly cooked and accompanied by a nice, sweet sauce. They were exceptionally tender and had a nice sear. Great Dish!

Considering our meal thus far had been pretty hit-or-miss, the most bizarre dish of the night was by far the Calamari Poppers. Presentation wise the poppers looked like bloated fingers after too much MSG; almost like bloated mini haggises. They were advertised as being "semi-fried," dipped into a watery beer batter and fried. The fried coating only seemed to accentuate the rubbery texture of the calamari and did not add any contrast to the gummy, chewy stuffing. They were oddly accompanied by sliced grapes and a zesty slaw. When our waitress returned we inquired about the dish and she informed us that the stuffing was the same spicy tuna mixture they used in the spicy tuna roll we had earlier. If anything they were consistent, as we didn't enjoy it in the sushi and didn't like it any better stuffed into the calamari.

At the end of the day, we got alot of food for our $40 and left relatively satisfied. The atmosphere in the bar was nice and we enjoyed the game on TV. Service was adequate, but nothing extraordinary. If happy hour is supposed to entice people to return for dinner, Seastar definitely failed in this endeavor. With all of the new offerings in downtown Bellevue, nothing about this experience begged for another.

Grade: C

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