christopher575 (christopher575) wrote,

Terracotta Red

I had to get the car's emissions tested in order to get the tabs renewed, and our nearest location for that is in Marysville, the next town North. I figured that was as good a reason as any to have my once-weekly lunch out, so I started looking at the map. Terracotta Red is a place that's been on my radar since almost immediately after we moved to Everett, and I decided today was the day to go.

It's in a cool older building in an older part of town that's got historic buildings, but isn't quite as dense as the same street is downtown to the West. Not that it's ever hard to park in Everett, but it's even easier around there. I got there well into the lunch service and still got to park almost right in front. There's a sushi place next door that also looks nice from the outside. They have a huge lobby with a nice sitting area, a bar up front, and a nice-sized dining room with a real palm tree in the middle. There are a good amount of tables, but they don't pack them in the way a lot of restaurants do.

The menu is pan-Asian and full of all kinds of awesome-looking things, but I wanted to try a Vietnamese standard since those are my favorite and I judge a restaurant by their interpretations of the standards. I chose grilled Kurobuta pork shoulder, which was served as a vermicelli salad bowl AKA bun. My favorite dish. This was the best Vietnamese food I've had in Everett, and was pretty damn close to being the best I've had.

I was surprised when I ordered to be asked if I wanted soup or salad with it. That's never happened in any Vietnamese restaurant I've been to. Ever. I always choose salad over soup, and wish I would have asked what the soup was, but I'm also glad I didn't. I've never had a salad so perfectly dressed. I couldn't even see any dressing, but it was somehow so flavorful even though it was tossed with little enough to be nearly invisible. The greens were a neat mix that included purple leaves I didn't recognize at all, and there were crunchy dried sweet potato curls on top. Amazing.

The main dish came and was the perfect size. I'm always getting bun and wishing I'd ordered it "less noodles", but everything was just perfect. Their nuoc cham sauce mixed perfectly with the pork drippings for a very unique taste. If I order again, though, I'll probably set aside half the pork to enjoy it on its own, it's just that good. And finally, there was a very nice touch. Most places serving this dish don't do much in the way of presentation, but this bowl was topped with a perfect disc of pickled red onions, popped into two perfect sections resting on each other. I can't even imagine how to slice, pickle, and use a slice of red onions without the rings coming apart.

Of course, I still have a few points against them to list. They don't keep any condiments on the table, and I feel that any restaurant that serves Vietnamese should have a few:
Required: sri racha, sambal oelek
Nice to have: soy sauce, salt, pepper
You are amazing if you have: vinegar

Of course, they might not be as concerned with having all that since they don't serve pho, which is my second criticism. I can only think of one other Vietnamese restaurant that doesn't have pho on the menu, and even they did on weekends. It's just weird not to. I get that they're trying to be more upscale, but that's no reason not to have oxtail pho, or even a vegetarian version with a really unique variety of veggies in it.

If I had to compare this place to another restaurant, it reminds me most of Seattle's great sister restaurants, Tamarind Tree and Long Provincial. The main differences are that those two are Vietnamese-only and Terracotta Red has other cuisines, and the size of the menus. TT/LP's menu is gigantic, and has a vegetarian version of just about everything on the menu, but TR has very few vegetarian options at all. I noticed this because I was thinking about ordering vegetarian today.

But I guess if I'm not given any vegetarian or vegan options that look very good, the best pork belly I could possibly ask for is a good second option.

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