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Tuesday, July 5, 2005 - Page updated at 01:01 PM

Taste of the Town

Boat Street Cafe is coming back; readers share their raves, discoveries

Seattle Times restaurant critic

What's new? Plenty of tipsters — friends, readers and restaurateurs among them — have been writing, calling and offering info about places like Kasbah Moroccan Restaurant (1471 N.W. 85th St.; 206-788-0777). Open since February, Kasbah serves a la carte specialties and a five-course "D'Yaffa Feast" ($25) offering such Moroccan classics as harrira, tagines and b'stilla. "I've been to several Moroccan restaurants, and they're almost all the same," says my foodie-pal Kim, who dined there a few weeks back and e-mailed her report. "But the food here was much better than any I've had before." Her praise extended to the belly-dancer (Thursday through Saturday nights), the exotic cloistered atmosphere, the vegetable couscous and the lamb stewed with prunes. Kasbah serves dinner 5 till 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sundays.

A reader named Esther wrote in praise of Ha Roo (14411 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle 206-417-4729), a newish Japanese/Korean restaurant that opened just south of Shoreline. "Try their sashimi platter," she suggests. "With it comes a plethora of side dishes reminiscent of Korean banchan. Their fish is fresh and portions are huge. Plus, you can always get both sushi as well as Korean dishes — something I have trouble deciding between all the time!" Ha Roo is open 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays and 11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays.

From Anita, in West Seattle, comes this rave for Eats Market Café (Westwood Village, 2600 S.W. Barton St., Seattle, 206-933-1200). "The café is a collaboration between former Dahlia Bakery/Tom Douglas restaurants head-baker Toby Matasar and her husband, Evan, who has worked for [New York's] gourmet food stores Dean & Deluca, Zabar's and Metropolitan Market here in West Seattle. They have a sort of upscale deli/comfort food lunch menu including a delicious tuna melt, matzoh ball soup, hearty chopped salads and a vast array of homemade baked treats. The dinner menu is fabulous, with fresh meats and seafood simply but expertly prepared. They also have a modestly priced list of nice wines. I totally recommend you check it out, it's exactly the kind of place the neighborhood needs!" Bakery hours 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; dinner hours 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays.

Liz alerted me to the recent opening of Mira, a bar and lounge in the bowels of the Labor Temple (2800 First Ave., Seattle; 206-448-8833). "This is the infamous place formerly known as Gomper's [aka 'the Pit' to generations of laborers, who sometimes started drinking when the bar opened at 6 a.m.]," wrote that new fan, who calls this a great improvement over its earlier incarnations. She extends praise to new owners who've painted the place in "dramatic colors" and offer "great service and an honest-to-God chef" along with cocktails and a bar menu.

Another scout was less enamored of Mira's food and service, but was willing to cut the newbie some slack. "The place seems to have ambitions," she says, a suggestion I'd have divined given that Macrina breads and Beecher's cheeses punctuate the brief menu, whose highlights include brioche French toast (at breakfast, $5.95), a smoked salmon-schmeared Northwest BLT (lunch, $6.95) and prawn- and pancetta-tossed linguine (dinner, $14.95). Hours are 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays, 7 a.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Fridays and 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays.

Meng Ung phoned to announce the opening of his Cambodian bakery and café, Kirirom (19417 36th Ave. W., Lynnwood; 425-672-7560), across from the new Convention Center in Lynnwood. Kirirom specializes in French-style pastries and traditional Cambodian noodle dishes. "My father was a professional French-style baker in Cambodia for 40 years," says Ung, who owns the business with his sister, Davy Chea. Hours are 9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and till 10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays.

"Truth or idle gossip?" I asked Duke Moscrip, looking for confirmation regarding rumored expansion of Duke's Chowder House. Truth, he replied in an e-mail. "We are in the midst of expanding our second floor at Alki by extending our bar and adding a small dining area," wrote the Dukester, adding that the work at his West Seattle restaurant (2516 Alki Ave. S.W., Seattle; 206-937-6100) is expected to be done in a month or so. The rumored expansion goes beyond that, though, says Duke. Another Chowder House is slated to open this fall in downtown Kent as part of the new $100 million, 470,000-square-foot Kent Station development project. "[We're] looking to expand further and will have another announcement soon," he added.

Wandering chef Renee Erickson called with great news. She's finally leased a space to reestablish her darling Boat Street Cafe, forced to close nearly two years ago when the building that housed it was demolished for new construction. Boat Street's new venue, at 3131 Western Ave., "is in the big old gray building a block up from Elliott, where Western meets Denny," she explained.

Erickson's been keeping busy this past year with a box-lunch and catering business, Boat Street Kitchen (2238 Eastlake Ave. E., Seattle; 206-323-7132). That tiny strip-mall spot shares space with Sophie's Donuts — owned and run by her longtime business-associate, Susan Kaplan.

Kaplan expects to sell Sophie's when the pair merges Boat Street Café and Boat Street Kitchen into a dual entity, moving their operation to Western Avenue by late-June/early July, if all goes as planned. "The two [businesses] will function separately," notes Erickson, who will concentrate her energies on dinner at the French-accented café (Tuesdays through Saturdays), while Kaplan devotes hers to lunch and catering (Mondays through Saturdays). "The new cafe," like the original, "will have an outdoor patio and garden, big French-ish-looking doors and lots of rustic charm," Erickson says.

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"Apparently, something happened with Rippe's and they are closing," wrote a tipster named Steve. "Might be worth a story given how high profile the El Gaucho/Troiani/Rippe's/Waterfront chain is." Right you are, pal. It's R.I.P. Rippe's, which opened in 2001 as Chez Gus ("Seattle's neighborhood café"), was re-envisioned a year and a half ago as Rippe's (a casual steakhouse) and closed April 16 to be absorbed by Waterfront Seafood Grill, its adjacent Pier 70 sibling.

As for the "story" behind the closure, here it is in a nutshell, courtesy of Paul Mackay, owner of the aforementioned chain: "We've never put so much effort and energy into a restaurant and gotten so little out of it," Mackay says.

"We could never do enough business to beat the overhead. It's been a negative cash-drain all this time." Ties to a lease have prompted Mackay and company to use this sprawling streetfront venue as additional private-dining space for Waterfront. The smaller diner-styled section of Rippe's, housing an open kitchen with counter seats and a handful of tables, will re-open as a casual weekday lunch-spot serving soups and sandwiches — a concession to the landlord, Mackay says.

Note: Portland chef Vitaly Paley walked away with Best Chef Northwest/Hawaii at the James Beard Foundation Awards Monday night in New York City, beating out Seattle chefs Scott Carsberg, Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez, Holly Smith and John Sundstrom.

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or taste@seattletimes.com

More columns at seattletimes.com/nancyleson

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