December 11, 2009

The Pork Shank Redemption

Candle%20wall%20at%20Barrio.JPG Golden%20beet%20salad.JPG Braised%20pork%20shank%20on%20polenta.JPG

There are now four shades of Purple (Woodinville, Kirkland, Bellevue, Seattle), all part of Larry Kurovsky's Heavy Restaurant Group. Really, really heavy. The wispy waitresses need a brawny bracero just to move a chair. The interior, at the new Bellevue store, is all shades of gunmetal gray and continues the weighty design of heavy wrought iron seen downtown. It's as if Richard Sera's "Wake" were only slightly reduced in scale and deposited at Purple's hostess station. Yet there seems to be more space, more separation between diners & drinkers in Bellevue than Belltown.

Should you arrive from the NE 4th side and enter through the unmarked double doors, you'll find yourself at the top of a staircase, confronting Barrio's wailing wall of flickering candles, where a helpful barman is all too willing to pour you a double-digit shot of brand-name tequila. Not saying Don Camilo Respoda with a taster of housemade sangrita isn't worth it, but (with tax & tip), there goes your first $20 of the night.

The Purple side of the establishment is primarily a wine bar, a café rather than formal dinner house.The wine list (loose leaf sheets enclosed in a handsome hard-cover binder designed and manufactured by Seattle's Taste Envy); it runs some 60 pages, and it's broad and inclusive. As always, the bargains come from southern Italy (Falco Nero from Salice Salentino is $38). There's also a lengthy, playful glossary of wine terms that skates from brix to brunello, from meursault to microclimate. By the glass, serious wines (Vouvray, Montepulciano) at reasonable prices ($8 or so).

Still, dinner did not begin well. A golden beet salad, its root vegetables severly undercooked, were suffocated by a shower (nay deluge) of deconstructed brusseld sprouts, a few candied pistacchios and a sprinkling of "roasted" grapes. (No, they were just grapes; don't go all fancy on us pretending they're "roasted.") The problem was a woeful lack of salt. Only in Bellevue, one feels, is a ban on salt written into the Municipal Code. Just requesting a salt shaker is akin to asking (aloud, in public) for kiddie porn.

And then, just when you think it's unsafe to continue, an entrée of braised pork shank arrives. Deliverance! No more underdone or undersalted ingredients; the saucier's apprentice has conjured up a refined, balanced dish, the heavenly meat, topped with crispy shallots, lying atop a soft blanket of rosemary-scented polenta. (Dare we say it? Dukastic!)

And let me tell you, the folks dining at the Purple wine bars on the eastside, speaking French, speaking Japanese, they should strike terror into the hearts of downtown Seattle operators. With Barrio and Purple, with Pearl and Maggiano, Blue C Sushi and Boom Noodle, those eastide yuppies are valet-parking their BMWs in downtown Bellevue, close to home. Mamma, you can kiss the bridge & tunnel crowd goodbye forever.

Purple Wine Bar, 430 106th NE, Bellevue, 425-502-6292  Purple Cafe and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon
Barrio, 10650 NE 4th, Bellevue, 425-502-5021  Barrio Bellevue on Urbanspoon

Aspinal of London Ltd.

Posted by Ronald Holden at December 11, 2009 10:10 AM | TrackBack

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