The story goes that Jennifer was coming back from a tradeshow in Vegas and on the airplane got to talking to her seatmate, an outgoing woman named Heidi. Long story short, they hit it off and before I know it, we’ve got a double-date. Given that Heidi and her husband Lynn live closer to Snoqualmie Pass than Seattle, we decided that we would meet somewhere in the middle. That ended up being Bellevue. And since the Food Girl and I don’t go out there very often, we deferred to our new friends who suggested Pearl in Lincoln Square. Apparently Heidi’s company had done some consulting work with them.
We made our way out to Bellevue and somehow managed to show up less than 10 minutes late. For us that’s pretty good (and in Hawaii that’s on-time bordering on early). As we walked up from the garage and into the restaurant, Heidi and Lynn were finishing their aperitifs, and we were taken right to our table. We fell into conversation so quickly that we forgot to look at the drink menu so the poor waitress had to come back to the table a couple of times before we finally figured ourselves out (and we only ended up ordering a couple of glasses of wine).
Finally, I started scanning the dinner menu, and I was feeling nervous. Before leaving, I pulled up their Urbanspoon profile to grab the address and noticed that the rating was only 61% on 135 votes. But, I wanted dinner to be good, hoping that things were just based on a bad week, or a service issue, or something like that. The last thing I wanted to do is meet new friends, have them pick a restaurant, and then write a bad review. So, I kept looking and looking, trying to find something that should be easy, and taste good, and allow me to say “had a great dinner with new friends”. I finally settled on the scallops and risotto. It’s one of the dishes that I enjoy making myself and figured if I could pull it off, a new, hip restaurant should be able to nail it. For appetizers we all decided on the goat cheese tapanade, tuna tartare, and the truffle fries.
All three appetizers came out at the same time, and pretty quickly. Well, it at least seemed quick, but could have been that we were just engrossed in conversation and didn’t notice. Anyway, the first thing to wind up in front of me was the truffle fries which just happen to be one of my favorite things. I helped myself to a fry and popped it in my mouth. The fry itself was pretty good, a little crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Definitely a nice hand-cut fry. But I didn’t taste the truffle; lots of parmesan, but no truffle. Next I turned to the tartare. It was a nice, simple dish. The fish was diced and served on top of diced cucumber. Everything was simple and clean, but basic. Nothing super overwhelming. As far as the tapanade, it was ok, but I’m not a huge olive fan. Can’t really get past the brininess yet. Maybe I need to eat more olives…
After the appetizers, I was left wanting a little more, but not totally disappointed. I was hovering somewhere in the middle, looking forward to the main course. The hope and hovering quickly disappeared though as I took my first bite. The scallops were brutally overcooked. A properly cooked scallop should have a nice sear and a golden crust, but just barely cooked through; enough to be firm. These were cooked, and then tasted like they sat under a heat lamp or something. In fact, the Food Girl took one bite of my meal and immediately noticed that the scallops were overcooked. Then interestingly, the risotto was undercooked. Maybe it’s my preference, but I don’t like the risotto to have any type of crunch to it. And there was supposed to be butternut squash somewhere, but all I found was one piece toward the end. All told, everything was pretty bland and flavorless.
After we had finished our meals, we decided to take a look at the dessert menu. And while I was pretty disappointed to that point, I decided to give dessert a chance, see if we could end on a more positive note. We opted to split an apple crisp dessert, and I will say it brought the end of the meal up a little bit. It was unique in that the apple was a ring that served as the base, with a crumble on top and then a small amount of caramel and vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t overly sweet, which I appreciated, and the flavors were definitely nice, clean and simple.
When we finished eating and were waiting for the check Heidi asked me what I was going to say and what I thought. I hesitated briefly, but decided that if this is something I wanted to do, then I should do it right and tole her it wasn’t really that good. The dessert wasn’t bad, and the tartare while a little simple and bland, used good quality fish, so wasn’t terrible. But that scallops and risotto dish was surprisingly unappetizing…so much so that I went to the grocery store the next day and bought scallops and arborio rice to do it myself (I ended up doing a red pepper risotto, and I’m going to flat out say, it was far more flavorful and the scallops were much better cooked).
In the end though, we did have a good night. We had a nice evening out with some new friends; talked and learned about each other. And we found someone who we might be able to have more food adventures with; just hopefully ones that turn out a whole lot better. (And Heidi and Lynn, if I spelled your names wrong, I apologize…totally guessing)