June 15, 2024


World's finest Food

Notes from a food critic’s napkins: wining and dining trends and expectations

I’VE EATEN MORE restaurant meals outdoors than in dining rooms this year. I dined on back patios and along sidewalks, where the server had dragged out lawn chairs. I dined on curbs or on the lower rung of public stairs. And I spread takeout on the dashboard of my Camry, or on the hood, and ate in the parking lot.

In between bites, I scribbled notes on napkins about menus and issues chefs raised while I was waiting for my takeout. Here are some observations that came from those notes.

Could the Eastside become the new Richmond, B.C., one day? The thought that the Bellevue area could become an epicenter for Chinese cuisine seemed preposterous five years ago. Then famous Chinese chains such as Liuyishou and Haidilao expanded to Bellevue in the past two years. Investors from Los Angeles; Hong Kong; and Vancouver, B.C., also signed leases to set up noodle shops and Cantonese barbecue cafes in strip malls around the Eastside.

Dining in the rain: You don’t have to brave the elements. Unlike the early days of the pandemic, many restaurants and bars now have set up canopies and heaters outside along sidewalks and parking lanes. For Seattleites who pined for our al fresco dining scene to be as vibrant as Europe’s, here’s a good sign: The Seattle City Council this year unanimously voted to extend the free sidewalk cafe permits through Memorial Day 2022, and restaurants are lobbying city officials to make the patio permit permanent.

Don’t ignore the bottle list: Wine prices were slashed, with many restaurants even hawking half-off bottles to-go this year. The best deal I’ve seen: The new DeLille restaurant, The Lounge, in Woodinville, boasts a roster of outstanding Old and New World wines, many priced under $50. (I would splurge, though, for the $70 bottle of 2018 Clos Saint-Jean Chateauneuf du Pape, which usually would have been more than $100 pre-COVID at other restaurants.)

The return of the prix fixe and other tasting menus: Many restaurants now offer three-course or other set meals. Some, such as Tomo in White Center and the storied Canlis in Seattle, serve only tasting menus during dinner. Expect more restaurants to shift to tasting menus in the coming year.

My roundup of best meals in 2021 is a wrap. But I want to hear about your favorite meal or comfort food during this distressing time. What restaurant or dish do you think I missed out on? Operators are standing by.