I admit that I’m completely Seattle-centric when it comes to my dining choices, but recently I was lured to Kirkland for dinner at Café Juanita. It’s one of those restaurants I’ve been meaning to try, given that it has been so successful for so long (nearly ten years now) and given chef and owner Holly Smith’s reputation and impressive local pedigree (Dahlia Lounge and Brasa). I just hadn’t made the time to venture out there, so good thing I had a friend who insisted it was worth the venturing.
Café Juanita is big in that low-ceilinged, cozy way. From our corner spot I was surprised to look to my left and see a long line of tables stretching down the wall, but the fireplace and emphasis on candlelight do the job of bringing the space closer. In all of this lovely dim light, the clearly very carefully presented food showed beautifully. I thought that the construction of each plate, both from a visual perspective and from a flavor perspective, was very impressive.
We started with the foie gras huckleberry brik, one of the “apertivi” designed to pair an amuse-bouche-sized bite with a cocktail. From there it was the housemade pork fritto with huckleberries pickled then finished in a tempura batter, served with frisee and topped with a fried hen’s egg (pictured above). On to the pasta, the rabbit agnolotti dal plin with sage butter, and finally the entrée, Oregon saddle of lamb with semolina gnocchi, taggiasca olive tapenade and Grand Marnier.
Hard to believe that after this feast we had room for dessert, but it was tough to resist when presented with butternut squash bread pudding with pepitas toffee, persimmon squash compote with butter gelato; and dark chocolate rosemary ganache with pine nut praline and Limoncello foam. Although we chose just the former (and it was extraordinary), the latter is on my list for the next visit to Café Juanita. And the top notch service, by the way, is a big reason for there to be a next visit. Kudos to a fantastic staff.
Speaking of the eastside, I’m ready and waiting to hear your favorite bars and restaurants. Convince me of a dining destination and I’ll go -- really, I will.