Last night I visited the Tap House Grill. In particular, I was at the downtown Seattle location, where I sampled several items from the new food menu along with a few tasty beers. For those of you who don’t know, there is also a Tap House Grill in Bellevue. The two offer the same food menu and a similar beer menu.
I’ve always been impressed by the beer menu. Unlike most bars I’ve visited that offer 100-plus draft beers, the Tap House Grill does a good job of curating the list, offering a wide variety of regular selections along with a substantial list of rotating beers, which are hand-picked by the bar managers.
Alongside the always-admirable beer list, the food menu seemed a bit lackluster. Not bad, but not really interesting or outstanding. Maybe a bit tired. That’s what owner Paul Reder and his crew wanted to change when they conceptualized the new menu. Last night I sampled some of the new appetizers and some of the new entrées. Below, I talk about three of my favorites, along with some suggested beer pairings.
Other news from the Tap House
Paul Reder says he hopes to open Stout in January (see our previous story about this new eatery and drinkery coming to Capitol Hill). Stout will be beer-focused like the Tap House Grill locations, but will have fewer taps (about 20) to accompany a large and impressive bottle list.
My menu highlights
Recognize that I am a bit of a heat freak. The bacon-wrapped jalapenos ($10), stuffed with cream cheese were tasty, though a bit challenging to eat unless you are a fan of the spicy stuff, like me. They warned me that every now and again one jalapeno offers a little something special. I got one of those. Bonus! Ay carumba! Say hello to my little friend. Pair these fiery fellas with an IPA. Since your taste buds will be at full attention from the heat, they’ll be ready to explore the deeper character of a hop-forward IPA.
The ahi poke tower ($14) is a beautiful thing to admire but an even better thing to destroy. Bright, fresh flavors combine with just a touch of spicy heat (wasabi oil), served with crispy wontons. The poke is like a memorable song, combining notes from the sea with a chorus of earthly flavors (tomato and avocado), but the wontons sing on their own, at one moment crisp and at the next moment chewy. An IPA might help accentuate the subtle spiciness, but a crisp and light lager would also pair very nicely with these morsels of tasty goodness.
The pasilla chile and garlic-roasted cauliflower flatbread ($11) was the star of the show. When introducing the dish, Paul Reder admitted that flatbread is really just a fancy word for pizza, but this one needs no qualifiers or apologies. Although cauliflower made it into the dish’s name, the chipotle cream and the cilantro chimichurri is what really stands out. The subtle but rich heat from the cream blends perfectly with the lively green flavors of the chimichurri. Add to that, roasted corn, cherry tomatoes, green onions and queso fresco and you have a big, complex set of Mexican-inspired flavors on a pizza. This is what I will order next time I’m there. To accompany this one, I’d look for a non-smoky porter or perhaps a brown ale. Something with a fair bit of malty sweetness, but not too much complexity.
I enjoy the other dishes as well, and I look forward to returning to try more stuff of the new menu on my own dime. One particularly surprising side dish was the orzo salad that was served with the pancetta-wrapped wild prawns ($18). Sure, pancetta-wrapped prawns are always a good thing, but the warm orzo salad, which had a lovely hint of citrus, and the garlic-wilted spinach were seriously outstanding.
For the sake of disclosure, they did comp my food and beer, but I only write about stuff I really like.