Marination

Overall: 3.5/5

Apologies for the extended hiatus. As much as I would like to say that my absence was due to a worthy cause, I am afraid that more trivial pursuits caught my attention. As part of our annual ritual of Spring cleaning, now is as good of time as any to clean out the camera cache and write some posts.

Speaking of absences, the food scene in Seattle has long lagged behind West Coast mate Los Angeles in terms of Asian-fusion eats. The folks at Marination capitalized on this opportunity approximately five years ago to introduce its interpretation of Hawaiian-Korean comfort food to Seattle. From its humble beginnings as a food truck, the Marination brand has expanded to three brick-and-mortar locations in the King County.

The team’s latest eponymous venture sits in Amazon’s Doppler complex (dubbed the Regrade). The interior is in the shape of a Tetris block, with just enough room for a single row of counter seating.

Tailored to serve the grab-and-go lunch crowd, the young and friendly staff fuss about rapidly to crank out orders. And you might as well take your order to go since the angular, 3-legged stools lining the counter are very uncomfortable. [Editor’s Note: the abstract stools have been replaced with more conventional, 4-legged ones]

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You should expect a crowd during lunch times on weekdays. You can also use Amazon’s Prime Now service to order in advance.

Tacos (Kalbi Beef (L), Sexy Tofu (R), $2.75 each) – with slaw, pickled jalapenos, sesame seeds, and Nunya Sauce.

First of all, what’s Nunya Sauce? The cashier told me that “nunya” means “none of ya business.” After a taking a good look at my puzzled expression, he said that it’s a spicy aioli/mayo, but the ingredients are kept secret. For what it’s worth, it tastes like tangy mayonnaise. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I will be taking home a jar of Nunya Sauce available for sale in the cold case anytime soon.

But, I digress. The tacos were good but had some flaws. The kalbi had a very nice salty-sweet flavor from the marinade, but the meat lacked tenderness and was jerky-like. The tofu was semi-firm. The lightly fried tofu was and had a light soy-sauce flavor. The slaw brought an appropriate crunch. The jalapeños were more briny than spicy. The tortillas were limp and soggy by the time I brought these home – experience may vary for those who eat these on the spot.

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Fish Tacos ($3.00 each) – Fresh cod in a miso-sake marinade, corn tortilla, cream, pickled onions, and cilantro.

The cod was moist and flaky. The miso flavor was subtle. Again, the acid from the pickled components unbalanced the flavors. And again, the tortillas leave a lot to be desired if you do not eat the tacos on the spot.

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Tater Tots ($4)

Complements the menu. Crispy on the outside, molten starchiness on the inside. Note that it comes with “special seasoning”. From what I can discern, it the seasoning is nori-based. Having ordered these on several occasions, the umami flavor comes through at times. Other times, not so much.

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Kimchi Quesadilla ($8) – with kimchi, cheese, Korean-style crema, slaw and pickled jalapeños.

If you like the concept of mixing kimchi and quesadillas together, you will probably like this. With the slaw and the pickled jalapeños, the quesadillas feel redundant to the tacos, so I recommend picking one or the other if you go in for a meal. In contrast to the tacos, the grilling prevents the tortilla from getting too soggy or limp. The kimchi was appropriate pungent and sour.

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Korean Cheesesteak ($9) – Kalbi beef, grilled onions, jalapenos, melted cheese, mayo, baguette.

The beef along with the onions suggested a traditional cheesesteak, but the cheese and mayo were not very noticeable. The unyielding baguette was also a poor choice for a cheesesteak sandwich.

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Pork Katsu Sandwich ($11) – Pork cutlet with panko crust, ciabatta, tonkatsu sauce, mayo, red onions, and tangy slaw.

The best thing on the menu. The pork katsu had a crunchy crust, giving away to a nice patty of tenderized pork. The tonkatsu sauce and the mayo brought some tangy moisture to the denser cutlet. The slaw brought some additional crunch. The use of the soft, giving ciabatta here works well here. It may be the most expensive thing on the menu, but it is undoubtedly the best.

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Kimchi Fried Rice ($7)

No explanation necessary. Loaded with a sunny side egg on top, breaking the yolk on top coats the rice with the viscous yolk. The furikake topping brought umami and fragrance. Note that you can pay extra to add protein to the fried rice, but you would be sacrificing the amount of kimchi that’s in the fried rice. I prefer to stick with no protein for this.

The experience at Marination can be a little uneven at times and a little redundant. Your degree of enjoyment will primarily depend on your receptiveness to fusion cuisine. The price is reasonable considering the location. Despite its flaws, those with a diverse palate will probably have a good meal at Marination.

 

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Marination

Great State Burger

Overall: 3.5/5

The latest addition to Amazon’s Doppler complex is Great State Burger, a new venture from the Huxley Wallace Collection restaurant group. Led by chef Josh Henderson, the group “owns and operates restaurants throughout the greater Northwest, providing handcrafted food, spaces, and experiences in beautiful Washington State.”

Common to other Huxley Wallace restaurants such as Westward and Quality Athletics, the Great State Burger offers a carefully curated dining experience. Emphasizing quality over variety, Great State Burger offers a limited menu focused on burgers. Aesthetically, the place pays homage to old school diners, like an indoor Dick’s Drive-In with a fresh coat of paint and high ceilings.

The menu entirely consists of beef burgers (either with single or double patty), veggie burgers, fries, shakes, soda (Jones instead of the Coke/Pepsi lines), and beer. You can opt for a “Top That” option on the burgers, which gets you grilled onions, picked, and extra sauce for an extra $1.50.

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Double Combo (burger, fries, soda $12)

About five to six dollars more than a McDonald’s combo meal, but there is a difference in quality. The beef patties were juicy, with a slight touch of pink in the center. The beef patties had some chew to it, suggesting beef that was not overly processed. The patties also had a strong black pepper taste, similar to Japanese pepper-steak. The State sauce felt like a creamier and blander version of thousand island dressing.

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On a separate visit, I ordered one with cheddar cheese and topped with the extra options. This was less preferable because the cheese and extra sauce undermined the pepper flavor from the patties. However, the briny pickles and the caramelized grilled onions were nice touches.

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Also, the crinkle-cut fries were excellent. Crispy and golden on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and seasoned with just a right amount of salt.

Veggie Burger ($8.5)

This was disappointing because the grain-and-vegetable patty was completely overwhelmed by the State sauce and the cheese. It would have been nice if they doubled the patty or limited the sauce for balance.

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Vanilla Shake (8oz, Vanilla, $3.5)

Shakes were made from Parfait organic soft serve. Thick with a very assertive vanilla flavor, this was also good except for being too sweet.

Great State Burger accomplishes the goal of serving burgers made from high quality ingredients at relatively reasonable prices. The place has the goods to grab your attention, even in the increasingly crowded Seattle burger-chain scene (along with Dick’s, Burgermaster, Blue Moon Burgers, Lil’ Woody’s, and Lunchbox Laboratory). Those craving for burgers in downtown Seattle could save a few bucks by going to the McDonald’s just a block away, but splurging for Great State Burger instead would be the wiser option.

 

Great State Burger