October 25, 2014

One day, two polar opposite dining experiences: Paladar Cubano & John Howie Steak

The fun began with lunch at Paladar Cubano, the more stationary version of the mobile food trucks that I’m such a fan of. As much as I love Paseo, I had been reading lately on Nancy Leson’s blog and in Seattle Magazine that Paladar Cubano’s Cubano sandwich was the real deal, like tasting a little bit of Cuba here in Seattle. The Cubano didn’t disappoint and describing it as ham, cheese, roast pork, pickles and mustard on crispy Cuban bread doesn’t begin to do this sandwich justice, just suffice it to say: Go. Try. You’ll be back.

At the other end of the spectrum was happy hour at John Howie Steak, in the upscale new “shopping experience” in Bellevue, The Bravern. The restaurant is the newest offering from Seastar’s John Howie, this time focusing on steak rather than seafood. I understand that the personal wine lockers — perfect for storing your wine, even opened wine between visits — are designed to be a draw, but the happy hour was enough to keep me coming back.

The swanky bar area with a Chinese red wall, similarly-hued club chairs and a sort of marbleized bar lit from within hinted at the food to come. All from the happy hour menu, we ordered deviled eggs with truffled bacon; habenjero shrimp in the most fantastic spicy sweet broth; delicious little BLT sliders on perfect crustless rounds of white toast; and last but not least, tempura fried bacon with a maple ponzu sauce. I know, I can just hear it now… “You ate at John Howie Steak and sampled not a single bite of the namesake menu item??” Too many other choices caught my eye, but the prime tenderloin bites shall be ordered on my next visit, never fear.

That day I ran the gamut from informal to upscale, but it’s worth noting that sandwiches were a part of both dining experiences. Maybe it’s something about the comfort of a familiar form factor. Or maybe it’s a reflection of our current national financial state of affairs that the humble BLT — not to mention the potluck staple, the deviled egg — is appearing on menus outside of diners and dives. It would seem that we’re flocking to what is familiar and accessible, even when schmancied-up with truffled bacon and crustless toast rounds.

Paladar Cubano:
Paladar Cubano on Urbanspoon

John Howie Steak:
John Howie Steak on Urbanspoon

[Photo of the Cubano courtesy of Nancy Leson]

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