Okay, we admit it, gray is not usually a color we associate with fine dining. But we are struggling to find some way to connect restaurants to gray other than suggesting where to eat when the skies are gray. But, when we started looking, we noticed gray is all the rage for new (or remodeled) restaurant décor, and we sampled a few with that theme.
We found that gray is the new "in" color at Monsoon (615 19th Ave. E., Seattle; 325-2111; monsoonrestaurants.com/seattle/). This longtime neighborhood favorite has recently remodeled, doubling its space and replacing the blond wood motif with gray wood and a gray motif throughout the restaurant. The food is still excellent and now there is twice as much space for patrons to enjoy it.
We experimented and discovered that with a car we could be there in just about 10 minutes from downtown for lunch, with adequate, free on-street parking. We sampled some of our longtime favorites, including the green papaya salad and the drunken chicken. The green papaya salad with pineapple and mixed herbs is full of varied flavors and can include either chicken or shrimp for those seeking some protein in a lunch salad. The drunken chicken - deep-fried pieces of chicken with a very flavorful sauce - is an old standby favorite for this and other Vietnamese restaurants. The lunch version comes with a fried egg over rice as well.
If you go for dinner, many of our favorites are offered, notably the pork spareribs and spicy green beans, and what may be the best catfish preparation in town, even if you do not like catfish. Justifiable pride is taken in the carefully selected wine list. Of course, one should always save room for Monsoon's signature dessert - banana cake with crème anglaise. This not-too-sweet and somewhat salty dessert is, by itself, worth making the trip to east Capitol Hill.
Next with the logic that zinc is, at least sometimes, grayish in color, we took that as a good enough excuse to try Le Zinc (1449 E. Pine St., Seattle; 257-151; le-zn.com). Le Zinc is a "gastropub" brought to you by the owners of Maximilien in the Market and is a well-reputed, relatively new restaurant on the corner of 15th and Pine.
We had heard that this restaurant specialized in mussels, offering at least three different preparations. We tried the straightforward steamed mussels ("Moules Meuniere") and they were excellent, although we liked them better once we had bread to dip in the sauce, which does not come with the mussels.
We also decided on three small plates instead of two entrées, and ended up with more than enough food for two people. We tried the foie gras (seared with a cherry reduction and local Bing cherries on brioche), the rillettes de porc, and the cheese plate "les fromages." We would order each of these again and would return to try other items on the menu.
We discovered while there that Le Zinc offers "free mussels" every Wednesday. The "free" is restricted only by the requirement that you buy something else on the menu, at least bread ($4). The restaurant offers a reasonable selection of wines by the glass or bottle and some very intriguing cocktails: we tried the "Créole Cocktail," a rye-based concoction that was aromatic and flavorful.
If you prefer to dine closer to downtown, Miller's Guild (620 Stewart St., Seattle; 443-3663; millersguild.com) is a great choice for carnivores (the website boasts its devotion to something called a "nose-to-tail butchery"). Miller's Guild opened in December in the Hotel Max.
The open interior space has an industrial feel, with an enormous grill in the back hissing and smoking, like a Dickensian satanic mill. The tall ceiling, high walls and molding are all painted a battleship gray. This is the man-cave of restaurants.
We went for lunch on a weekday, ordering the grilled, half jidori chicken served over a bed of potato salad, and a crispy beef sandwich served with beef-fat fries. Everything was cooked perfectly. The chicken was moist, smoky and flavorful and thankfully the chef salted the chicken only slightly, preferring to let the chicken speak for itself. The real star of the table however was the sandwich, featuring shredded beef with a bold, spicy, aromatic flavor, perfectly paired with oily, crispy fries. Absurdly delicious. Other than the potatoes, there was hardly anything on either plate that could be called a vegetable. Service was pleasant.
Overall, this is the perfect restaurant for the unapologetic meat eater. We can't wait to go back to try the happy hour.
And for Dessert ...
Well, how does one combine gray and chocolate? Gray sea salt, chocolate-covered caramels of course. The box of caramels we bought from Fran's had two different kinds of salt, which prompted our taste-test comparison: Is there is a discernable difference between Fran's gray sea salt and smoked sea salt caramels?
We compared the dark chocolate, gray sea salt caramel with the light chocolate, smoked sea salt caramel and challenged ourselves to concentrate on the salt flavor. While it was difficult for some to get past the light chocolate/dark chocolate difference (admittedly, a mistake on our part to include another variable in this highly scientific endeavor), all testers tasted a discernable difference in the salt. Most preferred the slightly sweet, smoked sea salt over the gray, and all requested another caramel.
We had fun finding gray ideas for food, but we did not exhaust the topic. We certainly plan to come back to check out the Earl Grey ice cream offered by Molly Moon and the various concoctions possible with Grey Goose. All of that we will pick up in a future "gray" article.
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law firm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, contact Christopher Howard at 206-407-1524 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx. Follow us on Twitter @schwabedinesout.