It can be difficult to select only one course for lunch or dinner. When more than one menu option appeals to you, choose a restaurant with more selection. Tapas, small plates and dim sum are various ways to go. Why choose one when you can have many?
Harvest Vine (2701 E. Madison St., Seattle; 320-9771; www.harvestvine.com) presents a substantial and varied tapas menu. Nestled on a corner on the way into Madison Valley, the restaurant features a busy, jam-packed bar area on the first floor. Tall tables and chairs fill the floor space and bar seating overlooks the cooking and most plating — a feast for the eyes and a preview of what to order.
This is a high-energy and high-noise-level choice, although in the summer the area is open air and the din not as noticeable. If you’re in the mood for a pleasant but less boisterous ambience, downstairs reveals a comfortable dining area with daylight windows and old world charm: wine racks, brick and stone walls, wooden tables and chairs.
We settled in and started with the “Remolachas” —red and golden beet salad with sherry-vinegar olive oil and garlic. The beets were sliced thin and dappled with sea salt: delicious! The “Plato de Chacineria” contained four dry-cured meats of varying flavors and cuts. These were delicious popped into the mouth or folded into a morsel of bread.
A selection of three varieties of olives with intense and different flavors grew more and more compelling — not one was left. Our Mediterranean-loving palates were fully aroused by the carnes plate of delicate venison steak topped with licorice root sauce and pea vines; the steak was flavorful and tender.
Harvest Vine features a comprehensive wine list dominated by selections from Spain, with significant bottle prices. Grenache rosé was on the full-
colored side and robust — a good match with our plates.
You might worry that tapas may not satiate, but they do. Regrettably, our party of two had no room for dessert, although the Spanish-style, goat’s milk cheesecake tempted, as did the Spanish-
style vanilla custard. We must return and either bring more friends or order less, leaving room for dessert. With tapas, these accommodations are easy to make.
Tarsan I Jane opened on May 6 and focuses on choices such as small plates and a tasting menu option, with wine selected for that menu. Tarsan I Jane took over the location formerly occupied by Tray in Fremont (4012 Leary Way NW, Seattle; 557-7059; www.tarsani
jane.com) and features Spanish — particularly Valencian-Catalan — cuisine.
The décor is centered on an 11-foot, open wood fire on which virtually everything is cooked. All food preparation is done in the open — with flair if you are attentive.
The proprietors, Perfecto Rocher and Alia Zane, recently moved from Los Angeles, where they had successfully operated restaurants. We got there when the restaurant had been open for one week and, unfortunately, they had not yet selected a bartender so we could not try the craft cocktails on the menu. But, there were more than enough quality Spanish wines by the glass from which to choose.
We tried the carrots three ways and the prawn (with a glass of Spanish tempranillo). The carrot dish featured crispy kale topping three different carrot preparations. It was a great starter, both warm and cold, spicy and mild — a good variety in one small plate. The chef speaks proudly of the prawn (one very large prawn, served intact, shell, legs and all), properly eaten by hand (twist the head off and catch the natural juices — potentially as daunting as the first time one eats a raw oyster).
The only problem with the dessert — goat cheese ice cream with strawberry compote — was that we wanted more of it. Overall, the food was flavorful, but the portions would make sharing difficult. Tarsan I Jane is open Thursday through Sunday (brunch only). The brunch focuses on paella, for which we understand the owners’ prior restaurant in L.A. was well known.
Chinese food often is loaded with choices, but dim sum is a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Purple Dot Café (515 Maynard Ave. S., Seattle; 622-0288; www.purpledotseattle.com) is dim sum, Taiwanese style. In fact, the Chinese name of the restaurant literally means “the Green Island,” which is the name of a small volcanic island off the eastern coast of Taiwan.
Taiwanese food is a bit blander than traditional Chinese fare — less oily, less salty and less spicy. We ordered the classic shu mai, which were the biggest shu mai we had ever seen. Next, we ordered old standbys: pork and vegetable “bao” or buns, pan-fried eggplant stuffed with shrimp and xiao long bao — the broth-filled dumplings popularized in the U.S. by the Din Tai Fung chain. Nothing surprising here, although again, the portions were larger than usual.
We asked the waitress to recommend a house specialty and she brought us pan-fried dumplings (guo-tie), crispy on the outside and stuffed to bursting with shrimp and chives. These were good and quite unique. We also got a helping of steamed dumplings filled with vegetables and diced potatoes. We finished with a plate of taro buns, light and not too sweet. The food quality was good to very good and portions were large. We got what we came for, which was lots of choices.
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