Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into “other city” envy. What’s not to like about Portland’s utopian indie scene, Vancouver’s dim sum and Japanese food, Chicago’s thrilling modern cooking, New York’s delis, bagels—everything?
But when a restaurant like Revel comes along right here at home, it’s one more notch in our belt, and the competitive food nerd inside me can’t help herself: Eat your heart out, suckers! Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, the culinary geniuses behind Wallingford’s crazy-good Korean/French/worldwide emporium, Joule, are making wildly flavorful Korean-inspired food inside the silvery, metal-clad Fremont space they worked all last fall to refurbish (they opened Revel in December). The space has walls in shades of gray, wood banquettes and a butcher-block table so long and wide that it easily does double-duty: On one side are the best seats in the house, because on the other, the quick and efficient cooks plate skillet-browned dumplings (best of which is the chorizo with cilantro, $9), skillet pancakes (order the shrimp with edamame and mint, $9) and, well, everything else.
While I liked the dumplings and pancakes, they’re not even close to being as good as the rice bowls. On my two visits, I couldn’t believe how buttery delicious the local albacore tuna was—rubbed with fennel and coriander and served at the exact temperature that renders it lush beyond belief. Snug beside it in the bowl were house-made kimchi and escarole slightly charred from the grill, with a raw egg yolk in the center for mixing into the hot rice ($13). The short-rib rice bowl ($14) is equally scrumptious. And the salads: Wow! Still-snappy long beans and shrimp ($8) are tossed by hand in a sweet-tangy dressing the chefs call “tamarind ranch,” and, my goodness, arugula arrives in sharp-sweet nuoc cham (a fish sauce and lime mix) and jumbled up with corned lamb, mint and radish ($9). Corned lamb, people!
Four condiments are brought to the table, and do they make a difference. The duck meatballs with sticky, near-cloying noodles are transformed by a few drops of a chile-infused nuoc cham, as is the pork belly pancake, which, straight from the kitchen, is almost too fatty and decadent; a little of that bright acidity wakes the whole thing up. There’s even more to love: five-dollar desserts such as coconut cookies sandwiching kaffir lime ice cream and chocolate chip cookies with chile ice cream inside (it works, believe me). Like much of the menu, they’re a steal.
Brunch Sat.–Sun., lunch and dinner daily. Fremont, 403 N 36th St.; 206.547.2040; revelseattle.com. $$