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Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Travel Now & Then Sunday Punch

Dining Out 2002Cover Story
WRITTEN BY NANCY LESON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BARRY WONG

Leson's List | Our critic picks her personal best
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Saito's Japanese Café & Bar »
Throw me into a social situation, introduce me as a restaurant critic and quick on the heels of the inevitable exclamation — "Wow! You've got the greatest job in the world!" — comes the Most Frequently Asked Question: "So, what's your favorite restaurant?"

Uh. . .Um. . . Er. . .Ah. The trouble is, I don't have one favorite restaurant. That's why I always follow the FAQ with a question of my own: "My favorite restaurant for what?"

My favorite restaurant for a festive birthday celebration is different than the one I head to when I'm in need of something quick and easy. The one I dress up for on my wedding anniversary is not the one I dress down for when I'm looking to hang out with my gal pals. I have favorite restaurants for dining alone (something I love to do) and favorites for dining en famille (which includes a husband who'd rather stay home and cook, and a child with a delightfully broad palate and annoyingly short attention span).

Fess up: Could you name your "favorite" restaurant? Which deserves bigger billing, the fancy-pants place you go to once a year, the must-stop lunch spot near work, or the neighborhood joint where they know your name because you show up every other week?

Playing favorites is a tough game, but I'm willing to play: as long as I get to play by my rules. My rules being the tacit understanding that anyone's list of favorites — even a restaurant critic's — is weighted heavily by personal particulars.

Personally, I prefer Asian foods to any other, Chinese over Thai and sushi over all. I generally favor owner-operated restaurants over corporate chains, small restaurants over large and service over atmosphere. My list reflects where I live (north of Seattle), a weakness for seafood (which helps explain that sushi habit) and my love for wine (I don't drink a lot, but I do drink frequently). It also reflects a cultivated eye for bargain eats tempered by a willingness to surrender big bucks for a culinary high.

If there's a drawback to "the greatest job in the world," it's that dining out for a living means less time to frequent the places I love. You'll find those restaurants listed here, in no particular order. A word to the wise: Remember that many restaurants change menus frequently, so you may not find all the dishes I mention here.

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My Top Ten
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· Saito's Japanese Café & Bar »
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· Pecos Pit BBQ »
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· T & T Seafood Restaurant »
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· The Oceanaire Seafood Room »
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· Malay Satay Hut »
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· Le Pichet »
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· Swingside Café »
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· Blue Onion Bistro »
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· Lampreia »
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· Café Juanita »
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Other Favorites
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Twenty-five more restaurants to tempt your taste buds. »
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Share your favorites
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What are your favorite restaurants? Share them on Chowhound's Pacific Northwest message board.
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More from Leson
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Sushi 101: This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship (April 10, 2002)
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Sushi lovers share their favorite places to get a raw deal (April 17, 2002)
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What's the 'best' restaurant? Depends on who's asking (May 29, 2002)
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Oceanaire among chains to be lauded, not spurned (July 2, 2002)
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Star ratings send some readers into next galaxy (Sept. 24, 2002)
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Dining alone: This columnist savors it like a rich dessert (Sept. 26, 2001)
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More...

Nancy Leson is The Seattle Times' restaurant critic. She can be reached at 206-464-8838 or nleson@seattletimes.com. Barry Wong is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.


Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Travel Now & Then Sunday Punch

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