You know that feeling when you and millions of other people discover a movie so good it becomes a cult classic? It’s so good that you almost want a sequel so the genius of the 1st one just keeps entertaining you? Without further adieu, that much anticipated sequel arrives…
Golden Beetle is Maria Hines’ newest venture following Tilth, a local, organic comfort food institution. Lady Hines even competed on Iron Chef and sliced everyone away. You do not wanna mess with these skills. Tilth is unlike any other New American restaurant in town. So what do you do when you are so well received; not only by your eaters and Iron Chef judges, but by The James Beard Foundation, The NY Times AND Food & Wine Magazine? Naturally, you come up with a sequel.
Tilth seems to always be bustling and humming, making it hard to reserve a seat less than a week in advance. Golden Beetle has been open for about a year and I am not convinced of its soul quite yet. I see tables filled but it still seems a little sterile. The food is good, but I think it’s a little too forced. By the way, “good” is probably one of the most frustrating descriptions you can give for “food.” What is good, exactly?
For happy hour, they have some reasonable small plates all under $5. I really can’t ask for a better value from such the highly revered chef. The good stuff to order is the Lamb Chickpea Stew. Its small but packs a filling punch with chickpeas bathing in Moroccan spices and little studs of lamb popping out behind preserved lemon notes. Another good item to order if you would like to be confused would be the Skagit River Ranch Sliders with tomato sauce and pickled cucumber. I’m a tad befuddled, how is a mini-burger (aka a pretentious “deconstruction” of a White Castle burghetto) Mediterranean? In Golden Beetle’s case, its cramming the patty with a confusing mix of Greek-Turkish-Italian spices and herbs then getting roasted pepper tomato soup poured on top of this constructed “slider.” I mean, at the end it was good. But not very impressive.
Another baffle was the service. Also ordered was a Hummus and Pita small plate ($4). This came with a generous ramiken-sized serving of decently garlicked chickpea mash, but it came with 6 tiny squares of fresh pita. Obviously, there was more dip than bread could handle. When asked to bring extra bread, considering the obvious underestimation of bread:dip ration, this came with an additional $3 cost. So the happy hour item turned out to be $7 and when I looked at the normal menu, the same hummus plate is priced at $3. Hmmmmm.
I was a little frustrated by the haphazard over-spicing and a little put off by the pretentious gloat of all the “handmade” goods like sumac bitters and harissa sauce. Ever been to Mediterranean Mix in Pioneer SQ? Well, it’s a little hole-in-the-wall that serves up steaming fresh gyros just glazing with homemade from scratch hummus, marinated juicy lamb, raw grassy gyro-friendly herbs and cradled by a pillowy soft slightly spotty charred pita. For probably $6 bucks. And made by the Mediterranean-sourced owner themselves who isn’t afraid to look you in the eye, say hello and ask how many brothers and sisters you have. I feel like no matter how much one travels to these parts of the world, doing culinary research, and trying to merge the local ideologies they hold back home, you just can’t imitate Mediterranean culture, food is culture. I don’t care if its local and organic, the fact is you are trying to stick it to me for 6 cubes of bread. And you’re missing the warm personable spirit of the Romance cultures you are trying to impart into your sequel. And that just won’t fly with me, lady. No matter how fancy your bitters are.