Bamboo Garden

tl;dr: Yeah, yeah, I get it. Vegan food isn’t good. This place is. Get the tofu vegetable rolls, sweet and sour chicken, almond fried chicken, and chicken chow mein. Don’t get the fish.

It’s hard to get people to join me for vegan food, no matter what I say. I can explain and explain and explain, I can offer to pay, I can beg and plead, but I can never make any headway. I think what my friends don’t understand is that I’m not digging on raw tofu or kale smoothies. I will never stand for food that doesn’t taste good, even if it is good for me.

Though I’m very interested in nutrition and how food affects the body, I am always more interested in how food affects my mouth. Taste is of utmost importance to me, because I am a fat through and through. So when I’m saying, hey, this vegan place is spectacular, I mean it. This vegan place is a haven of greasy Chinese food for people who normally care about their health.

You might wonder, what’s the point of eating vegan greasy Chinese food when Seattle is chock full of great meat-filled greasy Chinese? The point is that Bamboo Garden has some magical stand-in for meat that somehow tastes better than meat. It doesn’t taste like meat, it tastes better than it. The texture has just the right amount of give, and whether it’s covered in fried batter or stirfried in strips with chow mein, it tastes like a chicken nugget had a beautiful vegan baby.

So, a disclaimer before we go forward. Don’t even go anywhere near the fish. Vegan fish is a bad idea, even when you have somehow concocted a meat substitute that is better than meat. There is no fish substitute and I am not advocating for one. Now that that’s out of the way, there are four things you should order. They are the four things I order every time I go to Bamboo Garden, and they are unreal.

The four things are the tofu vegetable rolls, sweet and sour chicken, almond fried chicken, and chicken chow mein. If you are unable to order all four, do it anyway. I can’t pick the best one.

The tofu vegetable rolls are a bunch of sauteed vegetables wrapped in a sheet of crispy tofu. This tofu is as thin as paper, eliminating the squishy factor that most people find unappetizing. The vegetables inside are crisp, but the raw edge has been taken off by a couple minutes of heat.

The sweet and sour chicken and almond fried chicken are exact replicas of the dishes you’ve had at every other greasy Chinese place, except they’re made with vegan chicken nugget perfection.

The chow mein, oh sweet vegan mother of god, this is actually my favorite. I lied earlier. This is my favorite. Everything, the noodles, the vegetables, the awesome vegan chicken, is salty and dry fried. The noodles are thin, but still chewy. The vegetables are the same level of crispiness as the tofu vegetable rolls, and the vegan chicken is there in all of it’s nuggety glory.

Anything on the menu that has that chicken in it is worth ordering. Order your favorites, order some weird stuff, order anything but the fish, and you’ll be golden.

Il Corvo

tl;dr: Get there at 10:45 am with at least one friend, maybe two. Order all three pastas and the focaccia. If there’s more than two of you and you’re hungry, order one of the starters too. Never, ever skip the focaccia.

I have a thing for restaurants with seemingly crappy business models. I love a place that takes the customer’s wants and just shoves them in the garbage because they know you’re coming in regardless of whether or not you’re comfortable.

Il Corvo is one of those places, and I love it.

First of all, they’re open Monday through Friday, 11-3. The owner, Mike Easton, wanted a job that would allow him to be with his kids as much as possible, so he apparently decided bitchin’ pasta was it. Second, they have their etiquette listed on the door, which is just about my favorite thing in the world. As a customer, the only thing has ever been a consistent meal-ruiner for me is other customers and their crap manners. A restaurant that takes your experience seriously while showing you that other people will easily take your spot is just what I’m looking for. They care about you enjoying the food, and that’s it. That’s all I want from my restaurants, so Il Corvo and I get along swimmingly.

Now the reason why I’m telling you to go to the place: the pasta. Pasta is my jam. There’s something about chewing through a noodle with the perfect amount of give, teeth bouncing back slightly as they push through the flour and water. Most of the time, it isn’t even about the sauce for me, and that’s what Il Corvo understands.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The sauces are the tops. When I went with my dad, we split the three daily specials and an order of focaccia (more on that later). Each of the sauces was perfectly balanced, the bolognese being especially fantastic. It was like a deeply flavorful meat paste, which sounds horrible, but is actually exactly what you want from a bolognese. Imagine a pot roast made by a grandma slathered all over super wide pappardelle, and that’s what Il Corvo is putting out everyday, along with two other pastas.

The other two pastas that day were a percatelli with basil, parsley, and mint pesto, and a pasta misti with proscuitto, romano beans, and a tomato-duck broth. Both were absolutely unnngh-worthy, but it’s doubtful they will appear on the menu again at the same time because Il Corvo does another thing I love, and that’s using seasonal ingredients! It’s not even about the hipster local food movement for me, but rather that making food out of raw materials that already taste awesome is key to a superior meal.

The underdog of our lunch was the housemade focaccia. My dad is almost as bonkers as I am about eating, so we were waiting at the door around 10:45, first in line when the door opened. This meant that our focaccia was steamy hot, and I honestly have no clue what it’s like near the end of the day. I probably never will, because I will always be first in line when I’m at Il Corvo. Okay, so the focaccia. It was one of those breads that isn’t just pillowy, but also dense. It had some serious heft to it, and was just utterly fantastic to sink into. It was topped with parmesan that was cooked just long enough to get to the edge between cheesy and burny, i.e. perfect. I can’t be positive that the focaccia is always topped with parmesan, but it wasn’t even the best part. THE BURNY CHEESE WASN’T EVEN THE BEST PART, GUYS.

Putting Out the Fat Call

To me, there are few things in life more satisfying than sharing a great meal with loved ones. In the same vein, there are few things I find more dissatisfying than plunking down cash on a bad meal. Because of this, I spend a lot of time poring over restaurant reviews, openings and closures, and eating a whole lot of food in restaurants all over Seattle and the North end.

I love eating good food, and I know a lot of you do too. But I also know that most people don’t put in the kind of research I do, which is where Calling All Fats comes in.

To be a fat means to deeply care about food, in a variety of ways. To understand food and why something is good in a way that is almost impossible to explain to a non-fat. To enjoy meals to their fullest, appreciating a plate of beautifully cooked food in a way that feels almost obscene. To read a menu like a vulture, scrutinizing each syllable until a choice has been made, feeling a pang of regret that the whole menu couldn’t be ordered. To talk about food in sounds, rather than words, using gratuitous hand gestures to try to evoke the feeling of a fantastic meal to a person unfortunate enough to not enjoy it with you.

Being a fat means that I want to talk about food with all of you, explaining exactly what I love about the restaurants I visit in Seattle in (sometimes excruciating) detail. It also means that I really want to try everything the city has to offer. Please hit me up with suggestions for future Calling All Fats posts, I’d love to hear what I should try next or what I haven’t thought to talk about yet.

Calling All Fats is something I should have done long ago, and I’m excited to share it with you.