Restaurant: Joule – Part 2/2
Last visited: July 19, 2013
Location: Seattle, WA (Wallingford)
Address: 3506 Stone Way N
Transit: N 35th St & Stone Way N
Phone: (206) 632-5685
Price Range: $20-30+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 4 (based on what I tried)
- Since 2007
- Modern Korean cuisine
- Family style dining
- Good for groups
- Casual/lively atmosphere
- Outdoor dining
- Good for drinks
- Cocktail/wine/beer program
- Reservations recommended
- Free parking at rear
- Dinner| 7days. 5pm
- Brunch| Weekends 10am – 2pm
- Joule Power Hour| Mon-Thu 5-6pm
- Twitter: @joulerestaurant
**Recommendations: Steaks, Smoked Tofu Salad, Kalbi Burger (but I didn’t get to try this), Joule Box, Sweet Roasted Corn Tea
Oh no. It’s “Asian fusion” – a trend from the 90’s we never want to see again simply because it was done so poorly. Chefs and cooks were experimenting with Asian flavours and ingredients they knew little about, and out came these dishes of over priced and bastardized versions of the real thing. The term still haunts us, but times have changed and even though some restaurants continue to give “Asian fusion” a bad rep, others are doing it right. Joule is an example.
It was Follow Me Foodie to 2 Days in Seattle and restaurant selection was precious with the limited time. Joule’s sister restaurant Revel has been on my bucket list since it opened in 2010, but Joule ended up overriding it and the owners called it the “mature sibling” to Revel. That wasn’t the convincing factor, but local recommendations made it more convincing. The restaurants specialize in different things, but the genes are more or less the same.
Joule opened in 2007 and re-located in 2012, and I’ve only had the opportunity to try its new location. The restaurant was large and spacious with a nice open kitchen and outdoor seating. It was casual and lively and as unpretentious as their food. It was rustic, but elegant and accommodating for large groups or individual diners, although the food is more enjoyable shared since it is served family style. It was approachable and affordable considering the ambiance and brand, but it didn’t always feel personal, however it might have been just due to the volume and size of the restaurant.
It is opened by husband and wife chef team Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi who are trained in classic French cooking. Joule is inspired by Yang’s Korean heritage but executed with American style and modern American-Asian flavours. The techniques are a mix of French and Korean and the menu looks like a hodgepodge of Asian flavours, but they make it work. It’s not a Korean restaurant and I don’t want to call it “Asian fusion” either, but it kind of is – just not the old definition of it.
It does not fall into the stereotype of Asian fusion restaurants from the 90’s and the interpretations for the dishes are modern. A strong backbone and understanding of Korean cuisine and Asian ingredients definitely helps with Joule’s success, so it does not come across as inexperienced. There are Asian flavours, but for the most part it is catered for a Western clientele and palate. I wouldn’t compare it to any traditional Asian restaurant because that’s not what the restaurant is about. The ingredients are local and exotic and the ideas fresh so the menu is inspiring, but just do not expect authentic Asian cuisine.
I mentioned “Korean as the new Japanese” in my Food Trends 2012 post and places like Joule give the “trend” substance. It isn’t the typical Korean tacos, but it does have a Korean inspired burger which is popular. This is probably as predictable as it gets. The style of the restaurant is supposed to be more like a casual steakhouse showcasing Korea’s love for beef with side dishes and tapas to accompany. I wouldn’t call it a steakhouse though since only a quarter of the menu features steak, but that reference point makes it easily understood and accepted by the masses. The menu does not read like a traditional American steakhouse and the cuts are different and executed with various European techniques. Their steaks are unique and well thought out, but also not the only star category on their diverse menu.
Although it is mostly Korean, Joule’s menu draws from various Asian cultures. Sometimes there was even Latin, Spanish and Italian influence which seemed a bit random, but in the end it’s about making good food and they were very capable of it. I was actually quite impressed with how well it catered to various tastes while still being original and sophisticated. The food wasn’t challenging and still recognizable with a good variety, and in the context of Seattle it brings flavours not easily found.
Since I had come from a previous dinner at Spur, I didn’t make as big of a dent in this menu as I normally would have. However based on what I tried I felt like I got an idea of what they were trying to do and the style of food. The space and vibe was great and the food was good too, but I prefer and recommend coming with a bigger group. The portions are not over the top, but they do get repetitive if they are not shared. It makes for a great pre or post dinner spot and I can see it being a good go-to as a local.
On the table:
- Blackberry basil $3
- Being a shrub based non-alcoholic cocktail (made with drinking vinegar syrup) it was going to be tart.
- It was tart, but not sour and I would have loved some real blackberry puree and muddled basil leaves, but it was still good.
- It was refreshing and not too sweet, but you can always request your desired level of sweetness.
- I really liked this and it is not easily found at restaurants so I would recommend ordering it here.
- It was a bit smoky and quite nutty and it was lightly sweetened with perhaps honey.
- It wasn’t too sweet or syrupy, tart or acidic, and I found it very refreshing.
- It was an Asian style iced tea with good aromatics and it was not simply Chinese black or green tea with ice. It was better.
- Honshimeji confit, soy truffle vinaigrette $9
- They were meaty slices of smoked and chilled tofu which were almost like cheese.
- Tofu being quite bland needs some strong flavours, so this was dressed with very savoury and acidic soy truffle vinaigrette.
- The vinaigrette was made with canola oil, olive oil, seasoned soy sauce, mirin (?) and truffle oil to finish.
- The bright tang of vinaigrette had good flavour, but the dressing was much too oily and I could taste the canola oil most.
- I liked the meaty mushrooms on top and the raw green onions to cut the richness of the confit Honshimeji mushrooms.
- It was well seasoned and even non-tofu eaters could appreciate this, although it caters well to vegetarians.
- I’m not even crazy about truffle oil, but it was okay here and I would order this again.
- Bok choy, hot bacon vinaigrette $17
- People love this dish and it’s a house favourite so it came highly recommended.
- If I’m at a Korean or Korean inspired restaurant I usually order the octopus. It’s one of the main proteins in Korean cuisine.
- I loved the wholeness of the octopus and the size of octopus they used.
- It was meaty like steak, braised and chargrilled with a smoky aroma.
- It wasn’t smoked, but just smoky from the grill.
- The thicker parts were a bit chewy, but for the most part it was tender and good.
- I’ve had more tender octopus (I prefer it sous vide and chargrilled to finish) but they still did a good job with it here.
- The hot bacon vinaigrette was smoky and mild-medium spicy.
- The hot chillies were fried right into the oil for intense aromatics and layered spice.
- There was also a squeeze of lemon juice to bring out all the flavours and I could taste some ginger and garlic.
- I could have used more bacon and garlic and perhaps one more component or just more bok choy because it seemed unfinished.
- Kalbi, grilled kimchi, 8oz, WA $19
- I thought it was appropriate to try at least one steak given the concept of Joule and it being a Korean inspired restaurant in general.
- This was a house favourite and I was curious to see how they would change it up.
- Kalbi refers to marinated and grilled Korean BBQ short ribs.
- This was a sous vide short rib which is a classic French technique often used at fine dining restaurants, but nowadays it is more common outside of fine dining too.
- Personally I prefer short ribs braised over sous vide, but sous vide short rib tastes almost like a rib eye.
- It was very fatty and rich, but not only fat either, and the quality of meat was good and also local.
- It was well seasoned and marinated in a sweet and savoury marinade of garlic, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce.
- It was medium rare, nicely chargrilled to finish and well rested before being cut so the juices were contained, yet the meat still served hot.
- There was some gochujang sauce underneath the steak too.
- Gochujang is basically a delicious sweet, salty, spicy and viscous Korean hot pepper and fermented soybean paste. Think Korean style “Tobasco”.
- The grilled kimchi wasn’t my favourite and I found it too sour so I missed a traditional kimchi, but I loved the chargrilled shishito pepper on top.
- I think the kimchi was extra sour to cut the richness of the beef though, so it could have been done intentionally.
- The side of kimchi could be more creative or plentiful because it came off as a condiment and I just wanted a bit more from it.
- Preserved tofu, crispy shallot, 8oz, NE $19
- I saw them making this, but I didn’t order it although I was debating between this or the short rib steak.
- This was the only steak from Nebraska and the other 3 steaks were local from Washington.
I wanted to try the Petit Tender because the “preserved tofu” sounded interesting. It was shaved on top of the steak and was basically the “blue cheese”. I asked if I could try the “preserved tofu” and they were kind enough to give me a sample.
The preserved tofu was actually what I know as “preserved bean curd”, “fermented bean curd”, or “fu yue”, often used to sautee veggies in Chinese cuisine. It is sold in jars and usually spicy and it can be melted into a sauce as well. I love it, but it is acquired although thinking of it as “blue cheese” is a good comparison. It is very salty and pungent and a bit creamy so a little goes a long way.
- Sweet red bean, fenugreek cream $7
- This was excellent value and although it sounded a bit random on the menu, it worked out and I enjoyed it.
- The hazelnut cake was a huge slice (enough for 2) and it was basically a coffee cake or breakfast cake with a layer of “hazelnut paste” in between.
- The cake was dense and moist, but I wasn’t keen on the hazelnut paste which tasted more like lotus seed paste meets chestnut puree.
- I had to double check with staff what it was, but they said it was hazelnut paste with black pepper. I really couldn’t get either of those flavours.
- The exterior of the cake was a bit crispy and it wasn’t too sweet, but very nutty in flavour.
- I think it was made with hazelnut crumbs and almond flour.
- I would have loved hazelnuts throughout the cake and on top, but instead there were crunchy hazelnut clusters on the side for texture.
- The clusters were almost like the topping on a crumble.
- The sweet red bean paste I found a bit unnecessary and it is not even because I’m not keen on red bean because I’ve actually learned to like it now.
- The beans were firm and not too sweet, but I didn’t find it complementary to the cake although it was the only Asian component to an American dessert.
- The house made fenugreek cream was very aromatic and it smelled like Indian spice shops.
- It was almost like a Chai flavoured whipped cream, but there was no cardamom and I wish it had some.
- All together it was a bit odd but it tasted fine and I could have eaten the cake alone or had it for breakfast.
- Fenugreek ice cream and a warm hazelnut cake would be my ideal in this case.
- Pearl tapioca, ruby grapefruit brûlée, coconut $7
- This is the house favourite dessert and “must try” dessert at Joule.
- I would come back just for this and it is not because it was mind blowing, but it was a solid dessert I could enjoy on a daily basis.
- I loved the idea and coconut so I had high hopes for this.
- It was a creamy dessert, but also light and not too rich or sweet.
- The coconut and kaffir leaf tapioca was a bit thick and clumpy so I wouldn’t mind a bit thinner, but the pearls were very soft (perhaps too soft).
- The coconut panna cotta was creamy without much gelatin which I like and it wasn’t too sweet either.
- I loved the idea of the ruby grapefruit brûlée for contrast in texture, colour and flavour.
- The grapefruit could have been a bit crispier, but I wasn’t complaining.
- Pineapple or mango would be nice instead of grapefruit since they’re more Asian, but I liked the grapefruit for colour.
- I also find tropical fruits a better match for coconut, but I think the citrus fruit was chosen intentionally to contrast the creamy coconut.
- It was finished with lime zest and crispy toasted coconut ribbons for more texture.
- It was very unusual to have the panna cotta on top of the pearl tapioca because I would expect one or the other, but it turned out okay.