Travel

Around the World, Bite by Bite

Satisfy your hunger for travel without leaving Seattle

By Natalie Compagno and Greg Freitas July 25, 2023

Lunch at Rasai in Fremont

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

Travelers make friends and create memories seated across a table, sharing exotic flavors and sensations, around the world or at home. Here are five local restaurants that capture the essential flavors of their host countries, and transport diners to these distant lands in one delicious bite. The chefs and owners strive for cultural authenticity, providing you with a feeling of being abroad right here in Seattle.

Rasai (Fremont)

India: Punjab, Rajasthan, and Delhi

Rasai’s summer lunch menu is a magic carpet ride through the street food stalls of India. Seasoned with an intoxicating variety of spices, each dish stimulates the metabolism to cool off the summer heat. Rasai’s décor is subtle with rich caramel wood and matte gold accents. Nataraja, the God of dance, greets customers inside the door.

Arriving late last year from the opulent Taj Rambagh Palace Jaipur, Chef Abhishek created this traditional lunch menu and brought progressive culinary concepts to the evening fare. He wants patrons to “revisit memories of their trip to India through the spice and flavor of Rasai’s street food.” He notes that when travelers go to India, they visit the monuments first, then indulge in the local street food.

Chef Abhishek hails from Rajasthan, the land of kings, where culinary traditions have been passed down throughout the dynasties. He uses the same authentic technique, so the taste is the same as in India. Even though it’s street food, the presentation will make you feel like you’re at a palace. The Pav Bhaji, a root vegetable mash, has flavors that heat up the tongue, while the decadent Paneer Khurchan Kathi will have you begging for the recipe for the sauce. (It’s secret!) It’s hard to choose between the Murgh Seekh Patha (chicken) and the Maas Seekh Barra (lamb), so don’t. Order both. End the journey with a colorful Kulfi Falooda Parfait, or any of the well-balanced cocktails.

Lunch at Rasai in Fremont

Photo by @adventureswithgi

 

Bongos (Green Lake)

Caribbean Islands

Surrounded by Aurora Avenue and glimpses of Green Lake, Bongos is an oasis offering island vibes and shelter from the urban jungle. Upon opening the gate, a courtyard greets with turquoise, yellow, and pink murals of palm trees, landscape, and people playing bongos. A corrugated tin and wood bar with smiling bartenders awaits your order. Grab a Caribbean Bloody Mary, Bongorita, or Caribbean Guava before kicking off your sandals to wiggle your toes in the corner beach sand pit.

After a proper chillaxing, get in line inside the restaurant to order dishes from all over the Caribbean. Sail through the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, and Belize just by reading the menu. Fully ripened plantains with crema, citrus-braised pork with caramelized onions, jerk-spiced chicken, spicy tomatillo sauce — are all meant to be savored and slurped with disregard to decorum. Rumors abound that the sandwiches, from shrimp po’ boy to Bongos’ version of the Cuban, rival those of Paseo. You’ll have to try for yourself.

Bongo’s citrus glazed pork

Photo courtesy of Bongos

 

Le Pichet (Belltown)

Paris

 If an excuse is needed for a midday glass of wine accompanied by rillettes de porc, a good book, and some people watching, Le Pichet is the place. “Le Pichet is as close as you’ll get to being in Paris,” confirms Seth Eisner, former Parisian and Seward Park resident. Perhaps it’s the cozy size with its small bar top, or the charming sidewalk tables with dogs and people enjoying passersby. It could be the ambiance with wine bottles lining the shelves and the smell of espresso wafting through the air. But most agree that the food is what gives guests that joie de vivre.

The Le Casse Croute menu offers such delights as pain au chocolat, tartines, fromage, charcuterie, and sorbet, all before 11:30 a.m. Then the menu turns into such plats delicieux as soupe aux pois avec crème de fromage bleu or salade d’artichaud avec figues pochés. Le diner serves up brandade de morue nîmoise or the famous bavette grillée et pommes frites (better known in the U.S. as steak frites). Whatever you choose, Le Pichet will inspire your next trip to France.

French bistrot Le Pichet is located on Seattle’s First Avenue

Photo courtesy of Le Pichet

 

Don Lucho’s (Roosevelt)

Peru

With the slogan “Bringing Peru to You,” guests might want to have their proverbial passports handy when arriving at Don Lucho’s. What started as the first Peruvian food truck in Seattle is now a permanent patio party and pisco bar. The fiesta spills into the menu and cocktail program. Owner Carlos Chalisea revisited Peru to check in with his aunts who cook the amazing dishes he remembered from growing up — and it shows.

“In Seattle, I really enjoy Don Lucho’s take on the Arroz con Mariscos (seafood stir-fried rice). They kill it for true Peruvian techniques,” says Seattleite Adam L. Weintraub, proprietor of the Museo del Pisco bars in Cusco, Arequipa, and Lima. “The moment I catch the scent of a well-prepared Lomo Saltado or snag the flavors of their Aji de Gallina, it transports me to Lima.” A Peruvian party isn’t complete without a legendary Pisco Sour. Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites, and a float of bitters complement any dish.

Don Lucho’s permanent location in the Roosevelt neighborhood

Photo courtesy of Don Lucho's

Exit 5 Korean BBQ (Renton)

South Korea

Wandering the streets and markets in Korea is a sensory experience. The mouth waters at every turn and each new corner reveals a different food to try. That’s the feeling guests have when entering Exit 5 Korean BBQ. Seoul market with street food stalls is the design directive, and the replica adds to this uniquely transporting experience.

The menu is extensive. One diner noted the need of a larger group to be able to get through the menu and taste all the different styles. Bibimbap, soft tofu soup, cold buckwheat noodles, kimchi pancakes — all give satisfying tastes of Korea — but the KBBQ is what really draws the crowds. The conundrum? Arrive hungry and you might not be able to resist stealing a bite from your neighbor; arrive full and you can’t enjoy the satisfaction of eating your way through the BBQ marinated combo. Either way, you will feel like you’ve experienced a bite of Seoul.

A selection of delictibles at Exit 5 Korean BBQ

Photo courtesy of Exit 5 Korean BBQ

 

Natalie and Greg have written for Travel + Leisure, Fathom, and Food52 in addition to Seattle magazine. They’ve been to 117 countries combined. In between trips they live in a houseboat on Seattle’s Lake Union.

Follow Us

Seattle Restaurant Week Starts Sunday

Seattle Restaurant Week Starts Sunday

Get some great deals while supporting favorite establishments

For two weeks, you can eat your heart out in Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods during Seattle Restaurant Week. From April 14-27, prepare for exclusive, budget-friendly menus at over 200 restaurants throughout the city.

The Region's Best Mexican Food is in a Snohomish County Parking Lot 

The Region’s Best Mexican Food is in a Snohomish County Parking Lot 

Hidden Gems Weekend Market is again open for business

Among the 20 aisles of some 300 vendors selling everything from Native American beadwork to the classic flea market assortments of knickknacks and hardware, sits the Northwest's biggest and best assortment of regional Mexican cuisine, street foods, and snacks.

Tastes of Oaxaca

Tastes of Oaxaca

Alebrijes Oaxaca Kitchen food truck rolls into White Center 

Colorful strands of papel picado flutter above the new turquoise Alebrijes Oaxacan Kitchen food truck in White Center, as if flagging down bystanders to stop in for memelas, tlayudas, and masa-thickened mushroom soup.

Kitchen Conversations With J. Kenji López-Alt

Kitchen Conversations With J. Kenji López-Alt

The Seattle chef discusses online feedback, appropriation, and his goals as a noted food writer

Currently, he's juggling projects for his YouTube channel, working on a new cookbook aimed at everyday cooking, writing another children's book, and launching a podcast with Deb Perlman of Smitten Kitchen.