Golden Beetle is Maria Hines’ newest restaurant down in Seattle's Ballard, squeezed in amongst many of the other shops. If you haven’t been there, or aren’t paying attention, it is easy to miss the light blue front with the copper sign. Inside, the walls are painted various shades of blue, and adorned with pictures of her trip to the Middle East to learn about the cuisine (I learned about this by following her on Twitter).
All of the tables are dark wood with a single candle in the middle. When you walk in, there is a narrow walkway that leads up to the host station at which you see the dining area on the right and the bar to the left. There was almost as much seating at the bar as in the dining area. We checked in with the host for our 8 p.m. reservation, and ended up waiting about 10 to 15 minutes before we were shown to a seat at the bar (apparently people enjoyed lingering after their meal).
Tilth, Maria Hines’ first restaurant, is really known for it’s clean, simple flavors — allowing ingredients to shine. And there was definitely that underlying theme with the carrot soup. The flavors were clean, sweet, and light. But the difference is that at Golden Beetle, spices are ramped up and flavors are a little more complex. There was a spice blend added to the soup that added a bit of “woodiness,” that left a little heat dancing on the back of my tongue that was nicely cooled by the little swirl of cream. It was different than I had expected, but it was definitely a good start to the meal.
Shortly after we finished our first courses and the first bottle of water, the entrées arrived. It was a very simple presentation that highlighted the tuna, cucumber and sauce. And like the soup, the simple clean flavors were there, but then brought up a notch or two. The albacore was beautifully cooked, just lightly seared all the way around and raw in the middle. There was a light spice crust that added a lot of flavor, and the sauce reminded me a little of a tzatziki in its cool creaminess (though it was more lemony and acidic which really complemented the fish). The cucumber was light and fresh, and the rice was nice and earthy. This didn’t have the heat that the soup had in the back of the throat, but the combination was unique and pleasant.
While it would have been nice to try the tasting menu, I still had a very nice dinner. I may have gone a little over on my condiment and fat allotment, but it was well worth it. The flavors were definitely more complex than I remember at Tilth, but there was still the foundation there in every bite. It was a little different than anything that I’ve had… most of my Middle Eastern cuisine has been Greek influenced… but it was definitely very enjoyable. I will confess that I had been there once before after a basketball game last year, and tried a lot of the bar menu happy hour dishes (which were excellent), so I had an idea of what to expect.
We are both obviously big fans of Maria Hines (double bonus to see her back in the kitchen). At Golden Beetle, she delivered another winner.