Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cafe Juanita

Cafe Juanita
9702 NE 120th Place
Kirkland, WA 98034
Phone: (425) 823-1505

When Holly Smith took over the Cafe Juanita in 2000, Eastsiders gained one of the best restaurants in the United States, in our own back yard. Chef/Owner Holly had fine-tuned her culinary skills at Dahlia Lounge and Brasa (in Seattle) before opening this upscale restaurant that is a delightful working tribute to the great Osterias of Northern Italy. In a converted house tucked away in a corner of Juanita, the restaurant is warm and inviting. There is a amber glow of candles and a flaming fireplace, crisp white linens and a casual elegance that is very comfortable and relaxing. We have always found the service very professional and friendly as diners are clearly enjoying a gourmet experience.

I decided a nice Christmas gift, for Kate, was to take her for dinner to Cafe Juanita. As we eagerly studied the menu, we were happy to overhear a couple at a neighboring table ask their server for "two spoons" so they good lovingly "scoop-up" every last drop of the Rabbit Sauce which they proclaimed was "addictive"!

The menu is styled from the various regions of Northern Italy with an emphasis on fresh and organic ingredients. This is not a restaurant serving Spaghetti and Meatballs of Veal Parmigiano. Instead, you can dine on a large variety of upscale ingredients that are expertly crafted into delicious creations.

Kate started with an appetizer of Cipollini stuffed with Wagyu beef with Fonduta. She then moved on to a salad of Roasted Baby Beets with Almond Butter and a Gorgonzola Dulce Bambolino. For her entrée she enjoyed the Saddle of Oregon Lamb with Vivian's Jerusalem Artichokes in Bagna Cauda, Peperoncini Farciti.

My approach was slightly different. I started with Grilled Octopus with Fennel, Green Sauce and Chickpea Puré. After that I had pasta, the Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Lamb Sugo. For my entrée I enjoyed the Milk Braised Wild Boar with Black Kale. We shared some refreshing Lemon/Mint Sorbetto for dessert.

Their custom is to serve you some fine chocolate studded with sea salt, as a complimentary finale. If you are drinking a fine red wine, I recommend you save a few sips for this delightful "chocolate surprise". All the dishes we ordered were truly fantastic. The flavor combinations, outstanding ingredients and skilled preparations completely exceeded our expectations. Although we brought our own bottle of "special" wine, from our wine cellar, I should mention that they have a truly delightful wine list of great Italian wines (and other regions). It had been about a year since we had last dined at the Cafe Juanita, but we promised ourselves that we will return for another grand feast within the next few months!

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