Chef John Howie has always had the Bellevue dining culture in his blood. According to Seattle magazine, he started bussing tables at a local restaurant at age 15 and hasn't looked back since, building up a culinary empire with four venerated Washington restaurants bearing his creations.
At John Howie Steak, Chef Howie works with executive chef Mark Hipkiss, grilling USDA Prime steaks aged up to 42 days, American Wagyu steaks from Snake River Farms in Boise, Idaho, Pure Blood Wagyu beef from Victoria, Australia, and Japanese A5 Wagyu beef from the Kagoshima and Miyazaki Perfectures. The meats sizzle over an open-flame mesquite, charcoal grill, holding onto a mineral-smoke flavor far superior to other restaurants' Twinkie-smoke-flavored steaks. The imported cuts mingle with local organic produce and dairy as well as wild mushrooms and truffles culled from throughout the Pacific Northwest. John Howie Steak's robust wine menu complements the meaty textures and full, smoky flavors with more than 600 selections from California and Washington, as well as far off lands such as Spain, France, and New Zealand.
When night falls over southern Brazil, groups of gauchos gather around flickering fire pits and celebrate the end of another day by slowly grilling meat over the open flames. Novilhos Brazilian Steakhouse aims to capture the spirit of these traditional meals by hosting all-you-can-eat churrasco feasts that Zagat scored as "very good to excellent."
The chefs roast up more than a dozen cuts of meat, including filet mignon, bacon-wrapped chicken, lamb chops, and pork sausages. Servers dressed as gauchos parade these freshly grilled skewers throughout the dining room, stopping at diners' seats and offering to carve them slices tableside. In between these protein-laden servings, guests can visit the salad bar and load their plates up with more than 60 different side dishes, such as fresh-cut vegetables and imported cheeses.
Cellars' dining room is an elegant, softly lit space set against the backdrop of a cocktail lounge. Glistening white lights stretch across the tops of booths, and exposed brick adds a rustic charm. The simple, yet modish decor complements such dishes as the filet mignon, presented atop a mound of asiago mashed potatoes. That prime cut of meat anchors a dinner menu that includes seafood creations, as well as six different gourmet burgers.
As the tango dancers that perform inside Buenos Aires Grill strut and twirl, they enact a wide range of dance influences—traditional polka, Cuban habanera, candombe rhythms from Africa—that reflect the same melting-pot culture that shaped the country’s food and, thus, the restaurant’s menu. Authentic asado—or grilled beef—cooks over a mesquite charcoal fire to ensure that fillets, rib eyes, skirt steaks, and porterhouses retain their natural juices. Chefs also stuff ravioli with ricotta cheese and crown angel-hair pasta with Pacific prawns, an option that most guests prefer to gnawing on a halo. Diners pair their entrees with pours from an extensive wine list that includes options from Argentina as well as France, Chile, Portugal, Spain, and California.
Piranha Joe's shelters hungry stomach-sailors in a relaxed atmosphere filled with the savory, salt-watered scents of grilled steaks and freshly-caught Northwestern seafood. Adventurous eaters can chart their course through the menu map starting with a plate of roasted alligator fritters ($8.95) or a crisp salad of mixed greens topped with savory blue cheese, sweet blueberries, and the clashing colors of house-smoked salmon ($12.95). With daily deliveries of fresh seafood via secret underground maglev train straight from Puget Sound, Piranha Joe's creates a culinary confluence of aqua and terra in entrees such as oven-baked or charbroiled local Coho salmon ($16.95) or stuffed prawns wrapped with bacon and swelling with sweet crabmeat and scallops ($16.95). Meat-minded diners will salivate at the thought of hearty cuts such as The Baseball eight-ounce top sirloin ($18.95). An amphibious pairing of six-ounce rancher steak with sautéed or tempura-style shrimp ($22.95) is as fun to eat as it is to assemble into a face-hugger, while the bar menu provides simpler options for exotic eats such as the alfredo gator or Louisiana gator pizzas ($9.95 each). Patrons also can refuel after daring mid-afternoon office escapes with lunch selections such as blackened fish tacos with balsamic tomato relish ($7.95). Otherwise, flex fingers in anticipation of the sundry sandwich and hamburger options, ranging from the Surfer Sam (turkey and ham dressed with avocado and jack cheese in the grainy embrace of grilled sourdough bread; $9.45) to the fiery Crock burger’s ground sirloin and Portuguese sausage served with red-pepper aioli on a crisp ciabatta bun ($11.95).
Like a shape-shifter with ADD, executive chef and Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute graduate Matt Colony's menu changes constantly, taking inspiration from legendary steakhouses while drawing from a rich array of local ingredients. Maxwell's most recent board of fare opened with delicacies such as smoked eggplant and white bean puree ($7), a selection of house-pickled vegetables ($5), and seared yellow fin ahi tuna ($14) with warm red-lentil puree. The curtain the raised on signature steaks of 16-ounce rib eye ($29), 7-ounce filet mignon ($30), and 10-ounce flat iron ($23)—all cooked to order and side-kicked with horseradish-infused whipped potatoes, sautéed vegetables, sherry mushroom sauce, and fried onion rings. If ordering the cider-brined pork chop ($19) has you worried that the pig's relatives will hunt you down and seek vengeance, Maxwell's features a slew of seafaring sea fare such as pan-seared weathervane scallops ($26), sautéed Alaskan halibut ($25), and Maxwell's chioppino ($25)—which hosts a pool party of steamed clams, mussels, shrimp, roasted sockeye salmon, and half grilled lobster tail in spicy fennel-tomato broth amid grilled sourdough bread. All dishes can find a leggy tango partner on Maxwell's wine list, but bring a back-up stomach for a decadent dessert of custard-soaked cinnamon-roll bread pudding ($7) or the crème brûlée of the day ($5).