Sherman's Food Adventures

Shaburina

Okay, this is the third time I'm blogging about Shaburina...  I guess I really love the place right?  Well yes, but my kids love it even more so, therefore, I really have no choice but to pay them a visit every time I'm in the Seattle area.  Other people have the same thoughts because the place is usually quite busy and they have many accolades from local media.  This time around, I was with Jackie and she'd never been to Shaburina before.  Also, we were here to try their Wagyu & Kurobuta Course, which I've never had before!

So Shaburina is an AYCE Japanese Shabu Shabu.  There are elements that are "extras" to the meal that are more akin to other versions of hot pot, but for variety's sake, it is very welcomed.  You have the choice between a House Course and a Waygu Course that cost $39.00 and $55.00 (for dinner) per person respectively.  In addition, you have a choice of one from 5 different soup bases (one of which is a daily feature).  We had the 3 standard options including the Sukiyaki, Spicy Miso and Kombu as well as the featured broth being Tomato..  For me, I love the spicy miso and tomato.  They have more impact in my opinion with the tomato having concentrated sweetness and tanginess.  The spicy miso has that fermented depth and an appealing saltiness.  It isn't as if the sukiyaki and kombu aren't good either.  The sukiyaki has that salty sweet thing going on while the kombu is more subtle with definite umaminess.

So before we get to the meats, we have to talk about the Sauce Bar, where you have many options to create your perfect dip.  You have the usual soy, fish sauce, chili oil, vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha etc.. on the side in bottles while the main section has things like fresh garlic, cilantro, green onion, red chilis, peanuts, sesame seeds, fried shallots and onions.  In the large tubs, we found a sesame sauce, ponzu and a chef's sauce.

Adjacent to the sauce bar are 2 other sections of items you can grab for your shabu shabu.  The first one is mostly focused on Veggies with things like Shanghainese bak choy, crown daisy, Napa cabbage, spinach, tomato, onion, quail eggs, tofu, mochi, squash, corn on the cob, tofu skins, potato, mushrooms, wood ear, wonton and konjac noodles.  Things were vibrant and fresh as well as always replenished consistently.

The other section consisted mainly of Seafood and Noodles.  We found beef meatballs, Spam, fish tofu, fish meatballs, chikuwa, imitation crab stick, sliced wieners, fish cake, shrimp, baby octopus, bay scallops and clams.  As for the noodles, we had instant ramen, wide vermicelli, udon and fresh egg noodles.  Next to it, there was also house pickled vegetables and kimchi.  These were all good in appearance and also great in the hot pot.  The clams were buttery while the egg noodles were great a soaking up all of the delicious broth.


Now we get to the meat of the meal, literally.  For the House Course, you have Beef Shortplate, Beef Chuck, Pork Belly and Pork Shoulder.  As you can see, these were sliced razor thin, so cooking them took literally seconds.  That also meant that they were super tender and easy to eat.  So easy that you can down quite a few of these.  Fortunately it is AYCE!  For the Premium Course, we found Wagyu Shortplate, Wagyu Brisket, Kurobuta Pork Belly and Kurobuta Pork Butt.  Now with both courses at the table, it was not hard to figure out which one was better.  The meats were just that much more buttery and that much more flavorful.  However, I've been super satisfied with the house course in the past.  Therefore, it really depends what you want.  I would say if you want the full experience though, go for the Premium!

Always, to end the meal at Shaburina, you get Soft-Serve Ice Cream to finish. Creamy and almost melty, the soft-serve is purposefully sweet, aromatic and cold.  The last point is important as it helps soothe the tongue and mouth after a hot pot experience.  Oh and what an experience it is!  I've never been disappointed with Shaburina and this time was no different.  In fact, getting the chance to finally try the Premium Course, I came away even more happy!  I can guarantee that I will be right back here in the near future!

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Quality food
- Love their soup bases, especially the spicy miso and tomato
- Meats are tender, whether it be House or Premium

The Bad:
- Tables are a bit tight on space with 4 or more burners going 

Gen Korean BBQ House

You'd think after dining on AYCE Korean BBQ for dinner the night before, we wouldn't be doing that again for lunch right?  If you know Jackie and I, then you would have guessed wrong!  LOL, we visited Gen Korean BBQ House less than 24 hours later for more grilled meats.  Hey we still had the hotel breaky before we made our way to Southcenter for some AYCE action!  Conveniently located on the North side of the mall, we parked and then entered the restaurant from their exterior doors.  Once inside, we were greeted to a modern and hip space.

To begin, we ordered some drinks in the form of Itaewon Punch Party Bowl, Royal Hawaiian and Miami Heat.  We had the electric blue version of the party bowl with a mix of sprite and a whole bottle of soju.  The Royal Hawaiian consisted of gin, agave syrup and pineapple.  Definitely tropical, sweet and light due to the use of gin.  With tequila, mango, pineapple and tajin, the Miami Heat was also fruity and tropical, but also had some kick.

Onto the food, we got the usual Banchan with some cucumbers, kimchi, potato salad, kimchi radish and pickled daikon & onions.  The grill was pretty even where all the meats got their grill marks and caramelization.  There was also good ventilation where we didn't smell like Korean BBQ afterwards.  Supplied sauces included sesame oil, gochujang and salt & pepper.  We ended up getting some of the cooked items to begin including the Cheese Katsu (bottom left) which was aggressively breaded (with panko) where it was super crunchy.  The meat itself was decently moist while the whole thing was filled with melty cheese.


Other cooked options included the Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) and the Japchae.  I thought the chicken was decent with a crispy batter, but the chicken itself could've been juicier.  It was sauced with a sweet and slightly spicy glaze.  Honestly, for a basic japchae with no meat and no veggies actually cooked with the potato starch noodles, I didn't mind it.  The noodles were chewy, not clumpy and well-seasoned.  I mean, it would've been even better if they had cooked it with the veggies instead of them being strewn on top though.


We got both of the available soups including the Dwenjang and Soondooboo.  The first one was fermented soybean paste with tofu and veggies.  Giving off miso vibes (due to the main ingredient), this was actually rather mild and slightly sweet.  The second soup was spicy with soft tofu and dried shrimp.  Naturally, this had more impact and was my choice of the 2.  We also ordered the Cheese Kimchi Fried Rice.  With melty cheese on top, the rice was decently flavorful with some spice and tang.  I found it a bit too soft though.


Starting with the beef options, we got the Premium Marinated Long Bone Short Rib, Premium Marbling Center Cut Short Rib and Premium Wagyu. These items belong to the Premium AYCE which costs $20.00 extra per person and everyone at the table must participate.  As grand as the long bone short rib looked, it was a bit hard to eat.  Don't get me wrong, when I cut the meat off the bone, it was plenty tasty and fatty.  It just required some effort.  Now that wasn't an issue with the center cut short rib.  Each piece was buttery with the unmistakable texture of short rib (meaty with some bite).  Nice flavor on those in terms of meatiness, but also a sweet savoriness due to the marinade.  Sliced thin, the Wagyu seared up nicely and were soft and fatty.

Also included in the Premium AYCE is the Premium Taco Sampler.  Yes, this is not a typo, they really do have Mexican fusion at Gen!  From left to right, we have Carne Asada, Pollo Asada, Al Pastor and Cajun Shrimp.  You know what?  This was rather tasty.  After grilling up the tender meats, we warmed up the tortillas on the grill as well, added the sauces, cilantro, onion and lime.  I found the beef particularly good being meaty, yet soft.

The Premium Ribeye is also available for the AYCE Premium, yet it is only limited to 1 per person.  With all of the other options on the menu, I would personally only order one anyways.  This was a good size, roughly 10 - 12 ounces and nicely marbled.  It seared up beautifully on the grill and obviously, you can cook it to your desired doneness.  We went for somewhere in between medium-rare and medium.  That turned out to be great as the meat was delicious albeit a touch chewy.


Onto the regular menu, we had the Spicy Pork Bulgogi where the slices were super thin, much like the Wagyu.  These were topped with a spicy and slightly sweet gochujang.  When cooked on the grill, this had some good caramelization and charring.  Being fatty, the meat was super tender.  Back to beef, we had the Beef Bulgogi which was on the leaner side, but it was still succulent after being BBQ'd.  It also charred well due to the sweet marinade.


For me, I do love Pork Belly, but really, I don't like it when it is all fat.  I prefer it to be well-marbled but predominantly meat.  This particular piece was exactly that.  It seared up crispy but still moist and juicy on the inside.  Now that slab of Humboldt Squid didn't look like much, but really, it was one of the best things I ate.  Cooking a slab like this ensured that it kept its moisture.  Hence, when I cut it up with the scissors, it was indeed moist and super tender with a light chew.

So they don't really have a selection of desserts on the AYCE menu, but they do have Hotteok, which are sweet pancakes.  Really enjoyed the glutinous rice on the outside as it was warm and pliable.  It was lightly crisp on the outside while the inside was pleasantly sweet.  In general, the meal as a whole was pleasant and there were many options.  Place is definitely modern with an energetic vibe.  Some good cocktails and interesting Mexican thing going on too.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Nice energetic vibe
- A decent amount of choice
- That taco thing shockingly worked

The Bad:

- The premium meats are good, but the steak could've been more marbled
- Some of the cooked dishes were average

Our Place Dessert Cafe

So after a delicious and filling AYCE at Bellwether BBQ, we certainly didn't need anymore food right?  Wrong.  We were scheduled to head up to Our Place Dessert Cafe in Edmonds for some sweets.  Upon arriving to the place, we were greeted with a cute and somewhat eclectic space with definitely IGable elements (if you are into that kind of thing...).  We ordered a bunch of goodies and made our way to one of the many tables available (the space is relatively big).  During our visit, we noticed it was constantly busy though, so most of the tables were occupied.

First up, we tried their Sesame Bingsu with a healthy dose of red bean on the top.  Beyond the black sesame found on top of the mound of snow, there were streaks of it throughout.  Therefore, the nuttiness of the black sesame really came through.  I did find this on the sweeter side, but being a dessert, it was expected.  As for the ice, it was light and almost creamy in spots.  I'm not sure if the red bean was necessary in my opinion, but I'm sure some people would enjoy it.

In a beautiful shade of violet, the Ube Croffle was quite good.  Once again, things were pretty sweet, but then again, we could regulate that by the amount of ice cream and sauce we used with each bite.  The croffle itself stood up to these other components quite well.  It was crispy while still flaky and buttery inside.  There was a nutty caramelization on the outside.  I thought the ube cream was light in flavor but plenty sweet (as mentioned).

We got a trio of beverages next including the Black Sesame Einspänner, Pink Matcha with house-made dragon fruit base and a Strawberry Smoothie.  I enjoyed the contrast between cold black sesame cream and the hot espresso in the einspänner .  It was aromatic on both fronts.  The pink matcha was very sweet in my opinion.  I think it was the dragon fruit portion.  After I mixed it with the matcha, it seemed to be much more balanced.  The matcha was predictably more impactful than the dragonfruit with a slight bitterness.  As for the smoothie, it was creamy and easily drinkable.  I found it sweet as well, but also fruity too.

Our last 2 items were of the cake variety including the Pistachio Cake.  I thought the pistachio cake was nicely layered and appealing in appearance.  The sponge was light while the pistachio mousse was aromatic, sweet and nutty.  I felt the textures in this was on point and the overall flavor profile was balanced. The pistachio flavor wasn't overly strong, but then again, I don't think that was the intention.  This was one of the least sweet items we had.

After a relatively long wait, we were presented with the Chocolate Cake with strawberries and cream.  This was apparently made fresh where the cream was light and the strawberries were ripe and sweet.  The cake itself was a little on the denser side with a mild chocolate flavor.  This was also not as sweet like the pistachio cake.  Overall, the desserts and drinks at Our Place were colorful with real thought put into their creation.  I personally found most things rather sweet, but I have a bias with that.  I'm sure those who have a sweet tooth would disagree with me.  The place is really cute and if you like to IG things, then this is your place!

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Very cute spot
- Thought was put into their items
- Things are colorful

The Bad:

- I thought things were rather sweet, but it is a dessert spot
- They get busy, so the staff are stretched

 

Bellwether BBQ & Grill

I'm sure many of you have tried an AYCE Korean BBQ before.  It isn't like there is a shortage of them as we find many chains across the country.  Furthermore, if you travel lots, you will notice that SoCal has an inordinate amount of them and there are good ones to be found in NYC as well.  Our latest food adventure has brought us to Bellwether in the Chinatown-International District in Seattle.  Across the street and half a block down from Uwajimaya, Bellwether shares a space with Happy Lamb Hot Pot as well as free parking underground (which is a huge plus).

One thing that sets Bellwether apart from other AYCE Korean BBQ joints is their self-service bar that includes soft drinks (if you paid extra for that), corn cheese, veggies (including romaine to wrap your meats), small dishes, dessert and rice.  So really, other than the raw meats, you have all of the other items you need at your disposal (and as much as you want).  I find this a very efficient way of doing things where you don't have to wait for the simple things.

Onto the meats, we had a combination of the regular menu (which is $39.98 per person) and 3 premium meats that adds $6.00 per person.  In this picture, there is one of the items in the Gold Grade American Wagyu in addition to the Black Angus Ribeye and Premium Beef Tongue.  Seeing how fatty the Wagyu looks in the picture, it ate like what you would expect.  It was buttery and soft while charring up beautifully.  The ribeye was great too being soft and moist with plenty of marbling.  Sliced super thin, the beef tongue was chewy, but in a good way.  Lots of meaty flavor from the fat.

The 2 other options for the premium meats are the Hand Cut Short Rib and Marinated Hand Cut Short Rib. If you look at the first picture, it is quite obvious how fresh the meat was.  It cooked up well with nice charring and plenty of natural meat flavor.  It was tender with the classic short rib chew.  As for the marinated version, it was obviously more impactful and didn't really need any sauce.  It seared up even easier due to the marinade and seemed a bit more tender due to the marination.

Sticking with short ribs, we got the Marinated LA Galbi as well.  Also known as Maui-style, these are cut across the bones.  This way, you get much more of the meat around the bones and the connective tissues.  This was tender and also quite good.  Looking at the picture of the Pork Belly, it is pretty obvious that it was more meat than fat.  I personally prefer that ant there was enough fat to keep things moist and have an impact.  It still crisped up well on the grill.


We had 2 more meats including the Sweet & Spicy Marinated Chicken and Premium Pork Jowl.  There is also an option to get the chicken with garlic instead of it being spicy.  I thought the chicken was tender since it was dark meat.  It was somewhat spicy.  The pork jowl was predictably flavorful from the fat and also had that unmistakable rebound texture.  Due to the fat, it crisped up well on the BBQ as well as sporting a nice char.


Possibly something that I wouldn't have guessed that would blow us away was the Squid.  It was so good!  Nice chewiness that gave way to tender pieces that were also naturally sweet.  Even without dipping it into any sauce, it was flavorful, but yah, we used the sesame oil and salt for this anyways.  Should've ordered more of this!    One of the meat items that didn't require us to cook it was the Lamb Shank.  It was tender and gelatinous as lamb should be.  The outside was nicely spiced and crispy.  Good option if you like lamb!

As mentioned, there were several dishes available at the self-service station and the best of the bunch was the chicken wings and spicy tofu.  Soups were good too including the gamjatang.  Naturally, we had some Banchan included and that was served to us.  The grill itself was well-ventilated and was powerful enough to create some serious sear.  Overall, for $39.98, we felt the quality of the food, service and layout of the restaurant made for a good value and delicious meal.  This is a place that I will be bringing the fam next time we are in Seattle (which might be quite soon!).

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Fair pricing
- Good quality meats
- Free parking downstairs

The Bad:
- Service can be stretched as they place gets busy

Skalka

When we were organizing our schedule around The Locks Cruise by Argosy Cruises, it seemed that Skalka was the best place to start our day.  If you haven't heard about the place, it dishes up a Georgian bread called Khachapuri.  They put all sorts of things in the middle such as cheese, eggs, meat and/or veggies.  Hence, this makes for a great brunch and since it was literally a block away from Pier 54 (where our cruise was scheduled to leave at Noon), it was bliss that this all worked out!

Now, the place is really busy and you must order from the kiosk and you get a number.  However, there is no system for the tables.  It is everyone out for themselves!  Luckily we did get one and got our order of 4 different Khachapuri starting with the Adjaruli.  This consisted of melted fresh cheese, grass-fed butter and soft runny egg yolk.  So the method here is to rip off pieces of bread and dip into the cheesy mix.  Naturally combining the egg yolk and butter was optimal and it was truly delicious.

Now if you wanted something more than cheese (but still wanted cheese, butter and egg), you could go for the buttery Chicken Ragu on the other half of the Khachapuri.  Naturally, the best thing to do here is still to combine everything together with the cheese and egg.  So every bite is just as good as the Adjuruli except with the addition of the savory chicken.  Honestly, I didn't even notice it was chicken because the dominant texture and flavor was still the cheese.

On the other hand, the Veggie was surprisingly the most flavorful due to the combination of tomato, eggplant and onions.  This tanginess with some sweetness was the perfect foil for the creamy and rich cheese and yolk mixture.  It broke up the heaviness and added brightness.  With no meat involved, you'd think this would be my least favorite, but alas, this was probably the one I would order over everything else!

Now the meatiest of them all was the Stroganoff with shredded beef, mushrooms and sour cream.  This was the heaviest version, especially combined with the cheese, egg and butter.  They smartly added pickles to lighten things up and to add a crunch.  I thought the stroganoff was quite good with tender meat and a sweet creaminess.  In the end, we didn't finish all of this because it was a lot.  I think one person would find it hard to eat it all by themselves.  Hence this is reasonably-priced for around $17.00.  This is something I would come back for when I'm in Seattle next!

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Something different
- Super cheesy!
- Quite large

The Bad:
- It takes time to make since it is made-to-order, so be patient
- No real system for tables, it is everyone for themselves

Ginger & Scallion

Onto our next food adventure, Jackie and I made our way to Phinney Ridge where we would find Ginger & Scallion.  If you are familiar with the Asian condiment of grated ginger and scallion, then you would have guessed that this place dishes up chicken rice.  Known as Hainanese Chicken in Chinese cuinse, Ginger & Scallion is actually Thai and serves up Khao Man Gai.  There are a few differences namely the main condiment, which is a bit ironic with the name of the place.  Ginger and scallion is usually associated with the Chinese version while the Thai version has as soybean paste sauce with thick soy sauce, chilli, ginger, garlic and vinegar.  Well, they have all the sauces here, so they cover all of the variations in terms of condiments.


Before we got to the chicken, we had some appies to start including the Cucumber Salad and Spicy Shishitos.  Lightly pickled and then topped with some goji berries, the cucumbers were fresh, crunchy and juicy.  The mild brine ensured there was some impact without being being overpowering.  As for the shishitos, they were beautifully charred and salted.  Hence, there was a noticeable smokiness before we got into the mildest hit of spice (as shishitos are typically not spicy).

Before I talk about the chicken, we got to acknowledge that they offer up all the necessary Sauces to make things tasty.  Amalgamating different sauces for various versions of this dish, we find the usual ginger & scallion (name of this place!) and sweet chili that we associate with the Chinese and Singaporean dishes.  Then we have the sweet and spicy ginger & garlic sauce for Khao Man Gai.  Finally, we have the Kecap Manis from Indonesia.  Yes, they had it all!

To start things off, we had the standard in the deboned Chicken Thigh.  This was a healthy portion of tender dark meat that was mild-tasting.  It wasn't exactly juicy, but it wasn't dry either.  I felt this went best with the ginger & garlic sauce that have Nong's vibes but spicier and less sweet.  Naturally, this also came with chicken oil rice and soup.  I found the rice to be well-seasoned, gingery and definitely tasting like chicken.  It was firm, but not dry.  Soup was sweet and gingery.

Then we had the White Meat, but served cold with a wine sauce.  Since this was not kept warm, such as the previous dish, the meat was more moist.  This was true even though this was chicken breast meat.  Once again, the chicken was mild-tasting, but really benefited from wine.  There was also a bit of gelatin underneath the skin, which was tasty.  I felt that this went well with the ginger & scallion condiment as it allowed the wine to stand out.

Sticking with cold chicken, but this time with the dark meat, we had the Spicy version.  This cold dark meat was truly succulent and had even more chicken gelatin between the skin and meat.  Therefore, the chicken itself was pretty flavorful even without sauces.  This could've been partially attributed that it was dark meat since it has more fat.  With that being said, the spicy soy did taste really good and adding even more spice with the garlic and ginger condiment was the way to go here.

Moving away from chicken for just one dish, we had the Braised Duck.  This duck breast was sliced thin and topped with the braising liquid.  The duck was pretty tender and took on all of the flavor of the braise including a salty-sweetness from the soy and some elements of five spice.  I felt that the only condiment that worked for me was the kecap manis where it reminded me of eating Chinese smoked duck with a similar thick sweetened soy.

My favourite dish was the Coconut Curry Chicken with breast meat (that was hand shredded to order) and then served with chicken rice and a cukes.  To amp things up, a big dollap of chili sauce was added to the plate.  When combined, there was enormous impact with heat, smokiness, spice, sweetness and coconut.  In addition to the already gingery sweet chicken oil rice, this was super addictive and I'm still thinking about it as I'm writing this blog post!

At the end, we were presented with 3 desserts including a Matcha Cake, Thai Tea Tres Leches and Key Lime Pie.  The pick of the bunch had to be the tres leches.  It was soaked beautifully with sweet Thai tea that was also fragrant.  The cake itself was super moist but not mushy.  We really enjoyed that!  The other 2 were good too with proper textures and flavors, but go get the tres leches!  In the end, we were quite impressed with the overall execution of the humble chicken rice.  Loved that they had different variations and all the sauces.  You will find something that suits your fancy and at a reasonable price.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- They have all the condiments!
- Choice of chicken meat, temperature and flavor
- That coconut curry chicken!

The Bad:
- Due to having to keep the warm chicken at temperature, the meat can be a little over (so get the cold version if you want consistency)

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