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GSS: The Bookstore & Jasmine

13-May-2005

Last night R and I visited two more Great Seattle Shake (GSS) participants.  One, The Bookstore, was an old-time favorite and the other, Jasmine, was a newcomer.  In February, we had tried to check out Jasmine after our Cocktail Club meeting at The W but the place was closed – at 9:00 pm.  Since the GSS hours are 7 pm – 10 pm, we figured they’d have to be open this time, wouldn’t they?

So we started at The Bookstore, a place R used to frequent for lunch on when she worked in a nearby office.  It’s located in the lobby of the Alexis Hotel and has remained a constant, even while other dining establishments in the hotel have come and gone. One of the things I like best about it is the little nook in the back.  It’s cozy and discreet and the perfect place to park yourself on a gray Seattle day. 

I arrived a couple minutes before R, took a little table near the bar and was promptly greeted by my server.  Since it was still a few minutes prior to 7, I told her I was here for the GSS menu but understood I was early. To which she replied, "It’s close enough!", and brought over a menu.  I ordered a "Pulp Fiction" (Finlandia cran vodka served on the rocks with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice) and then perused the clientele. 

There were the normal groups of local business people, a young man writing fast and furiously in a notebook at the table next to me, a mature couple on a date and three bikers sitting at the bar.  Interesting….. Not the type of place I normally associate with massive tattoos, leathers, and skull and cross-bone head scarves!  Of course, this is Seattle. 

My drink arrived and I took a sip – of heaven.  I just wish it had felt a bit more like summer outside.  The fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice was phenomenal.  Really.  This was the freshest, cleanest, most bracing drink I’ve had in a long time.  I had to make myself sip it – no gulping allowed!  I’d had just a couple sips when R arrived.  She ordered the Cosmopolitan.  I had seen a couple passing by while waiting for her and they were really beautiful drinks and, when R’s arrived, it was clear that the taste matched the beauty – it was a very well-crafted cocktail! 

We had ordered the mussels as our appetizer.  I was expecting a sort of mini-dish, as mostly happens with Happy Hours or "specials" but the bowl arrived and it was a full pound, or close to it, of steaming mussels!  Oh, my, these mussels were excellent! 

They were steamed in beer and loaded with bite-size pieces of bacon.  At the time I thought the broth was really lemony but in reviewing the description I noticed they had been drizzled in orange oil, so that was actually the citrus I was tasting.  The mussels themselves, from our local Penn Cove, were plump and tender, not too big and full of salty sea flavor.  Our server had also brought us a plate of bread to go along with them and as we paid our bill I was thinking about how full I was.  We’ve liked a lot of places but I think, to date, this was the best deal.  Both cocktails and food were excellent and the food portion was very generous! 

We then walked the three, uphill blocks to Jasmine (I couldn’t find a web reference – sorry!) .  Well, it was open but painfully quiet.  Not so much for us, as for the restaurateurs.  Here it was about 8:00 on a Thursday night and there were three groups in the large bar – four when we arrived and no one in the dining room. 

We walked past the hostess and into the bar, the hostess chasing us with menus in hand.  We sat at the (very beautiful) bar and she placed menus in front of us.  A quick glance showed that one was a dinner menu and one had wines and cocktails, but neither had the GSS menu. 

While waiting for the bartender to greet us (she was dealing with another group, she wasn’t ignoring us) we took in the surroundings.  This location used to be a Red Robin.  For years it did a booming lunchtime business and had a decent after-work crowd.  I’m not sure why they closed this location, probably a rent issue or maybe the owners wanted something more upscale to match the nearby Earth and Ocean and Sazerac.  The long bar is made from a beautiful wood of some sort; the bars stools are comfortable with their white faux leather seats and white fabric backs; the alcohol sits on a back-lit shelf with various colors of glass in the red/orange range; there are U-shaped seating areas in the lounge that were unnervingly reminiscent of Ibiza, although to be fair I think Jasmine opened first; and there were various Asian influenced elements like dragon statues.  The one remaining element from the Red Robin days were the iridescent tile-covered pillars that run the length of the space.  All in all, it was a pleasant effect.  There was just one thing that was a bit unsettling.  There were three Siamese Fighting Fish, also called Bettas, on a shelf to the left of the bar.  These fish were being kept in small containers – the type you often see in pet stores, that are not meant to be permanent housing – and they appeared extremely listless.  Okay, actually they looked dead but on further examination turned out to be listless.  They are beautiful fish and I understand the idea but the implementation was just wrong. 

When the bartender came to take our order we asked for the GSS menu and she got a couple for us from the hostess station!  Now, don’t you think the hostess might have thought to bring them to us as we were obviously sitting in the bar?  While looking over the menu I heard the bartender telling the women next to us, that the GSS packages could not be split between two people; each person had to do two drinks and an appetizer.  The women mentioned that the place they had just been to didn’t require that and the bartender offered to check with the manager but the women declined.  So when the bartender came back to get our order I asked for clarification and was told the same thing.  I mentioned that this was our tenth (woo-hoo we’re making a pretty good dent in these places!) stop and the first time we’d heard that, she again said she’d check with the manager.  The manager said he’d offer that option for just one night.  Now I understand that many of these promotions have "rules" but if you were the manager of a place that had no business on a Thursday night, wouldn’t you be breaking as many rules as possible to get people in?  Especially since The W next door and the Sazerac across the street are also part of the promotion and I’m sure they’d be happy to have the business instead.  Maybe that is one of the reasons the place is still empty after being open for about five months. 

R and I had both ordered the Jasmine Martini which was a ginger-based concoction.  Our bartender was really good and warned us that it was a bit on the sweet side and then gave us a bit of info about all the cocktails.  We decided to stick with it anyway – the allure of ginger was too strong. :-)  We also ordered Chicken Tikka as our appetizer.  The martini was a little sweet but it had that nice little ginger-bite and I found it to be very pleasant.  It went especially well with the slightly spicy tikka.  The tikka was actually pretty bad.  The chicken was both tough and fatty; the flavor was okay but was not very assertive.  It actually gave me a bit of an upset stomach.  :-(

Our decision on Jasmine?  We wouldn’t go back.  As R said, "There are so many good places in town, why would I waste time here?"  I think that says it all.  As a little side note:  The bartender was very nice and the service she provided was great.  But it’s not enough to carry the whole place. 

Other GSS entries: 

The Bookstore, a Bar
1007 First Ave
Seattle
(206) 382-1506  

 

Jasmine
1102 Fourth Ave
Seattle
(206) 382-2161

 

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