As our colder weather approaches, the prospect of a hot bowl of soup gradually becomes more enticing. This month we survey a few places to get some of our favorite versions of this steaming, salty favorite.
"B" Is for Borscht
Borscht, of course, is that hearty Eastern and Central European soup that is perfect for a wet day. Borscht may be best known for its color - often a velvet red - that stems from the soup's star vegetable - beetroot. Though the beetroot outshines its fellow vegetables on the color palette, when it comes to taste it shares the spotlight with carrot, potato, cabbage and celery.
Frankly, the downtown borscht options are rather scarce. What better place to find homey comfort food, though, than in Pike Place Market. Piroshky Piroshky (1908 Pike Place; 441-6068; piroshkybakery.com) is celebrated for its namesake pastries; some sweet and others savory. But the small kitchen also produces a fine borscht with a deep-red broth we have come to expect and love.
Piroshky's borscht features shredded (rather than chopped) beets, carrots and cabbage, and seems to pack more flavor into each spoonful. Don't forget to mix in the sour cream, which comes on the side. If you can stand the line, try the lunch special: a cup of borscht and a piroshky of your choice.
"H" Is for Hot and Sour Soup
Hot and sour soup is a traditional part of Sichuanese cuisine, so naturally our quest for the perfect bowl of hot and sour soup started with Sichuanese Cuisine Restaurant (1048 S. Jackson St., Seattle; 720-1690; sichuaneserestaurant.com), a hole in the wall that many Seattleites will claim serves the best Chinese food in the state.
We sat down on a soggy Sunday evening and ordered the hot and sour soup, inter alia, which is best described as "traditional." It has a thick texture full of only the basics: egg drops, lily buds, tree-ear fungus, bamboo shoots and tofu. Although slightly vinegary, it tastes smooth with enough fire as it hits the backs of our throats to warm the belly - definitely a winning combination.
Our next stop was at another establishment in the International District, King Noodle (615 S. King St.; 748-9168). King Noodle takes a different approach to its hot and sour soup, and embraces the "build your own bowl" restaurant model. The options are overwhelming, where the customer selects a soup base, a noodle, two toppings (meat and heavier vegetables), and two lighter vegetables.
Starting off with hot and sour soup as a base (which tasted more like a broth), we added udon noodles, beef brisket, sliced pork, leeks and mushrooms to complete the creation. The wonton as the noodle, along with pumpkin and barbecue duck as toppings, are also compelling options. With all of these substitutions, the hot and sour soup seemed unconventional, although tasty.
Our final stop on the hot and sour tour was an adventure. We travelled north of the border to Richmond, British Columbia, to eat at the Shanghai River (7831 Westminster Hwy., Richmond, B.C.; 604-233-8885), arguably the "fanciest" Chinese restaurant in Cascadia. The hot and sour soup there was decadent.
Instead of being comprised of just the basics, it seemed to be more of a stew, full of rich pork, shrimp, carrots, celery, mushrooms and onion, to supplement the traditional bamboo shoots, egg drops, fungus and tofu. Perhaps because this restaurant specializes in Shanghai cuisine, this heavy bowl of goodness lacked any taste of vinegar or spice, but nevertheless was still a memorable experience.
"M" Is for Matzoh Ball Soup
Choosing the letter in the middle of the alphabet, we sampled matzoh ball soup at two locations that we confirmed made their matzoh ball soup from scratch. The first and closest to downtown was The Buffalo Deli (2123 First Ave., Seattle; 728-8759; buffalodeli.com). The deli itself only has a few tables, but it takes orders for pick-up and delivers within two miles with a $30 minimum.
The matzoh ball soup was good, with carrots, celery and both dark- and white-meat chicken, making it an early favorite in this competition. Four of us enjoyed it and we all would have it again. We also tried the hickory-smoked chicken sandwich and the egg salad sandwich. There is a complete deli menu to pick from. But beware; we ordered a Dr. Brown's black cherry soda and received a different New York brand.
We next tried Goldberg's Deli (3924 Factoria Blvd. SE, Bellevue; 425-641-6622; goldbergsdeli.com) in Factoria and a second closer location, Goldbergs 2 Go (725 Pike St., Suite 13; 682-1626; goldbergs2go.com) at the Convention Center. Goldberg's - owned by a local attorney of the same name - has more than adequate seating for any number of people, if you can put up with the parking situation in the mall, and it has a wide selection of deli fare to choose from (more than 300 menu items). Goldberg's 2 Go has a more streamlined menu.
The matzoh ball soup was a clear broth with a huge matzoh ball (two in the "bowl" size). The broth was good and our panel let none go to waste, but we were missing having those extras like veggies and real meat.
"P" Is for Pho
Seattle nowadays has plenty of establishments to get your pho fix. And it's good pho you. Who doesn't like tasty broth with playfully slippery noodles, thin, tender beef, and herbs and sprouts? If you are downtown, you have many choices.
Our first recommendation is a clever rain-buster, because you can reach it through the underground tunnel. Located in the Rainier Tower, Origin Vietnamese Bistro (1333 Fifth Ave.; 257-0690; seattleorigin.com) has a vibrant feel and pretty quick service. The broth is tasty and not too salty. However, we have noticed that the soup is sometimes not hot enough - perhaps they could tell we were lawyers?
Pho Cyclo Cafe (phocyclocafe.com) has numerous locations around town. We are partial to the Broadway (406 Broadway E.; 329-9256) and the Second and Marion (999 Third Ave.; 623-3958) locations, where the wall murals entertain and delight. There are also locations in Sodo, Dexter and Bellevue.
Pho Cyclo keeps ingredients fresh. If you are going to pass on pho, we recommend the ginger chicken lettuce wrap for a low-carb, but scrumptious lunch. Simply wrap the sauteed minced chicken flavored with ginger in the crunchy lettuce wedges, dip in the yummy sweet-and-sour sauce, and you have a fantastic meal.
Heading back out to Factoria Mall, we recommend a visit to I Love Pho (3900 Factoria Blvd. SE, Bellevue; 425-401-6400; ilovepho.com). All of the pho variations are fresh and enticing, and portions are generous. We ordered ample "smalls" bursting with various additions, including extra vegetables and, for the bodybuilder with us, extra meat. We also were tempted by the curry dishes and were not disappointed.
We dropped in at Wild Ginger (1401 Third Ave., Seattle; 623-4450; wildginger.net) to see if pho improves with a sophisticated ambiance. Guess what? No pho. Instead we enjoyed the "Seven Element" soup ($7/$13). It satisfied our noodle craving with noodles thicker than your average pho noodle.
The noodles rest with chicken and a reasonable, but not overwhelming, amount of crispy noodles in a rich, coconut curry "broth." The bowl also melded scallions, shallots and coriander. The combination was flavorful with a sufficient kick - enough to keep you interested. We recommend this one as the best soup on the menu.
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 Michael Herbst at 206-407-1570 or at email@example.com; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx. Follow us on Twitter @schwabedinesout.