So my chef friend Daniel and I spent some time last month trying out restaurants around town. We’re both adventurous about food, and have a whole lot of culinary experience, and both had huge lists of restaurants we wanted to try out, so it made sense to head out in our Car2Go together to start crossing some spots off the list.
One of the ones we went out to was the quirky little Trove in Capitol Hill, which we followed with a walking tour of all the cool foodie spots in the district, and a quick beer at Optimism brewery.
Trove is an adventurous “culinary fourplex” of almost 4,000 square feet opened in 2014 by chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi. They own Relay Restaurant Group and operate two other Seattle restaurants, Joule and Revel, and Revelry in Portland, Oregon. They are some serious chefs, with three James Beard Award nominations.
The four separate dining spaces at Trove are Bar, Noodle, Parfait, and BBQ, and each have distinct menus and operating hours. Parfait, the ice cream station, is off to the right and features an indoor food truck and walk-up window. BBQ and Bar are open in the evenings, and Noodle is open for lunch and dinner.
All four concepts are pretty exciting and adventurous. I tried to pick out a favorite dish from each menu to list here, but it was really just impossible to choose. Look at this:
BBQ’s design features communal tables, grill tables where you get to grill your own Korean barbeque, and tables at the kitchen counter like at Noodle. The chefs at BBQ will also dish out things like smoked brisket, curried squash, and a wide assortment of sides.
But Daniel and I went to Noodle for lunch. Noodle is on the left as you come inside, Parfait’s serving window is to the right outside, and I assume BBQ and Bar are in the back. We asked if we could take our food and eat back there, since the tiny dining room at Noodle was nearly full, but they told us we couldn’t that early in the day (probably something with the liquor license). But Trove has big windows facing Pike Street, and it was a rare unclouded winter day, so the bright white decor and stainless steel of the open kitchen were cheery and sunny. There are two huge woks along the wall, under the menu board, with massive gas flames beneath them that the chefs use to crank out the really delicious food. We sat at the bar, which is just a few stools right up at the kitchen, with an excellent view of the chefs as they work. I promise you I took pictures of all of this, my phone’s pictures somehow all got deleted. Luckily, Daniel got some and I had emailed one to myself already.
Daniel got the Pad Thai with chipotle, pork belly, yu choy, and chili peanuts and a side of the charred kohlrabi pickle with preserved lemon and Fresno chili. They were both full of flavor and acidity and spice, well-balanced, with a lot of textural interest. The Pad Thai had chunks of soft pork belly, crispy on the outside, with spicy and crunchy peanuts, acid from the lime, and heat and smoke from the chipotle. Just…so good. The best version of Pad Thai I think I’ve ever had, and Daniel’s go-to order at Trove.
I wanted to try more than one thing too, so I got a starter of the kimchi pork dumpling with caraway chili oil for $9. And I had been craving lamb, so I ordered the rice cake with northern Thai lamb curry and kale for $14.
This kimchi pork dumpling was just amazing. The chili oil was sweet, acidic and light, with that spicy kick, the pork was savory and played well off the oil’s sweetness, and the dumplings were perfectly cooked. They were, however, impossible to eat. I will admit that my chopstick skills are far inferior to a lot of people’s, and I will blame it on being left-handed, and never having used chopsticks around another lefty who could help me figure out these brainteasers. I do ok, but I feel like it’s mostly just luck. Daniel, however, is pretty proficient with chopsticks, and even he had a hard time picking up the slippery little dumplings. We may or may not have just stabbed one or two to pick them up. The world may never know…
But I won’t fault the dumplings for being hard to eat, because they were worth it when you finally did get one into your mouth.
I love lamb and I love curry, so I really wanted to love this dish. In this one, the rice cakes were a much different texture from what I was picturing, but not in a bad way. I guess I was picturing those bagged rice cakes from the grocery store, dry and stale and liable to break your tooth, they’re so crunchy. These were lightly crisped outside, but soft and almost gummy inside. The lamb was ground, and formed into sort of patties, also crisped in the wok on the outside. And the kale was perfectly cooked, too. It was just…very salty.
I spend all day at work adding salt to things and tasting them for salt levels, and not to brag or anything, but I have a pretty good palate. But it got too be too much for me to even finish, and I was so disappointed after how amazing the kimchi dumplings were. Maybe there just needed to be some more acid to balance out the salt a bit, I’m not sure. Maybe it was just a simple mistake of overseasoning, because Daniel’s Pad Thai was also pretty amazing.
I’d definitely be willing to head back up to Trove and give the lamb another try, because everything else we tried was spot-on. And if you go, make sure you order those pork dumplings.
Also, if you’re in the area on a nice day, do what we did and walk the four blocks down to Broadway and follow-up your meal with a beer in Optimism Brewing Company’s big, spacious hall, with huge communal tables topped with games like Foursquare and Scrabble so you can challenge your friends.
Founded in 2013 by husband and wife Troy Hakala and Gay Gilmore to make beer. They don’t mess around with cooking, but they do have a rotation of foodtrucks scheduled to stop by if you’re still hungry after Trove. Their beers have fun names like “Hello, World!”, “Unicorn”, and “Afraid of the Dark”. I got one called “Partly Sunny” that was light and actually really refreshing. (It helped after all that extra salt.) It’s described as a classic wheat beer “with banana aromas and a bit tart”.
They have a gender neutral bathroom and a kids’ play area, both of which seem to me like weird things to have in a place where people go to create and consume alcoholic beverages, but the space is really cool nonetheless. And it’s Capitol Hill, so quirky is kinda the name of the game. Optimism is huge–it’s 16,000 square feet of big tables, big windows, big beer vats, and big flavors. It made for a really nice afternoon outing following lunch at Trove.
500 East Pike Street
Bar: open daily 4PM-Close (that’s what it says)
Parfait: open daily 12PM-Close (for real)
Noodle: open daily 12PM-Close (I don’t know)
BBQ: open Tues-Sun 5pm-Close (probably 2AM?)
open Tues-Thurs 4PM-11PM, Fri 3PM-12AM, Sat 12PM-12AM, Sun 12PM-9PM