Saturday, August 22, 2009

FoodTrek: STIR-red, Not Shaken

Yeah, yeah, I know -- couldn't think of a better pun, eh Ms. W? Well, let's see you come up with something better after a few strong pulls of vodka from the icy taps of Stir Martini + Raw Bar. Amid the impressive growth rate of downtown Bellevue's food and drink wonderland, Stir is the latest to set down its flag in the massive landgrab of the Eastside. I went with a few stalwart members of the Happy Hour Martini Mafia to investigate this post-work cocktail wonderland, and see what was stirring. Heh, heh.

Vodka on the rocks, freshly squeezed from an icy tap - Photo by Wasabi Prime

When I first heard the announcement that a vodka-favored martini and raw bar would be opening in Bellevue, I thought, you had me at vodka. I know it's not the most flavorful of hard liquors, but I do like a clean, crisp and refreshing kick in the pants at the end of a long day, so usually a Grey Goose or Belvedere on the rocks with a twist is the tipsy bee's knees for me. Stir had the good sense to put in a tap of top shelf vodkas, including Belvedere, as well as Bombay Sapphire gin. They may change these out periodically, but to my mind, what they had on tap was good as-is.

Create your own drink -- no fancy bottle juggling required. Calamari is squiddly-delicious - Photos by Wasabi Prime

One of Stir's specialties is their "deconstructed martinis," where you are presented with a chilled vial of vodka and a choice of sweet, herbal or savory ingredients to mix your own custom cocktail. We tried the herbal selection, where a few wedges of fresh lime and a chilled, sweetened cucumber puree were paired with the vodka. I think it's a nice, tactile thing to do if you're on a date, interacting with the drink and making the experience more about the preparation of the cocktail, and it allows the individual to flavor their drink to their choosing.

In terms of the food pairings they offer, we nibbled on a few different items, both cooked and raw. The appetizer menu has what's becoming familiar nouvelle bar cuisine, befitting of a sleek, urbane cocktail lounge. Gone are the days of greasy potato skins and chicken strips, as they are being traded out for more delicate items like lightly fried calamari, steak tartare, and poke tuna. These items in particular I would order again, as they were nicely prepared, not too heavily seasoned, and they let the flavor of the ingredients shine through.

Cooked food is *so* five years ago - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Seeing that Stir is a place that emphasizes its attention to beverages, I think it could benefit from presenting itself as a connoisseur of libations, similar to Seattle locales like Tini Bigs or Marcus' Martini Heaven. Vodka is one of those buzzworthy liquors that has been getting a lot of attention from spirit makers, as -- for better or worse -- they turn out more flavored variations into the market. Patrons have gotten used to watering their liquors down with sweet, syrupy mixers and sticking a "tini" at the end of the drink, when I think they would instead glean insight from a willing teacher who could shine light upon the finer points of nuance and flavor behind the mixed drink, much like the way wine drinkers appreciate their food and drink playing nice together. I think if Stir wants to be that Cocktail-Fu master offering barhoppers everywhere to take the rock from their hand, they could have the opportunity to distinguish themselves as something truly boutique. I will keep my eye on this martini hotspot, and look forward to seeing how they continue to present themselves to Bellevue's Brave New Food/Drink World.

* Post Script - Big boozy thanks to Liqurious for posting the photo of the icy Belvedere on the rocks with a twist. Cheers to you!

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  1. What a cool place! I love the deconstructed martini idea. What a fun way to enjoy a little happy hour! Great post!

    For some reason my wordpress account wouldn't let me comment, so I used my google account.

    Rachael (from Tokyo Terrace)

  2. Apologies for commenting difficulties; not sure it's just a Blogger bug as I've got settings pretty wide open. Swapped the comment popup with embedding comments below, so maybe that will help things? Sometimes I have to submit my comments twice on others' blogs, so maybe it's a common issue??

  3. I love the pictures, I looks so yummy! Thanks for visiting my blog today and leaving a comment! As for the Christmas tree muffin cups, I think the puppies would love it! It will get them in the holiday spirit!


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