Martine is my usual partner in crime for dining out or new restaurants, and so tonight after watching the Doctor Who Christmas special we made our way to Barrio—which had just opened in the ground floor at Trace Lofts over on 12th and Madison (a Bellevue location to come later this year). It’s from the same people who run Purple (which has three locations), so it’s not like they’re new at this business.
I went in skeptical, upscale Northwest / Mexican fusion? We generally can’t do actual Mexican food very well up here, let alone trying to make it upscale etc. And my experiences at Purple (where I’ve only eaten lunch), have been fine but not anything to write home about either. I’d seen some good buzz out there for Barrio though, so when talking about food for tonight it was one of the places I suggested we try.
Problem number 1 for the night was that they asked if they could reseat us shortly after we’d sat down. I’m generally pretty agreeable, and going along meant we were comped some guacamole—so a win there. We started with that, a duo of salsas (tomatillo and ancho chile), and their ahi tuna crudo. All served with yucca, plantain and traditional tortilla chips. All was very tasty.
Then came problem number 2 for the night, which would continue to be a pattern—we waited an unreasonably long time for the entrees we were sharing. What we’d ordered was simple, taquitos with shredded pork (which were quite tasty) and a duck confit tamale (which really didn’t need to be duck with the way it was spiced and prepared). After finishing up our entrees once they finally arrived we ordered desserts, which also took far too long. I must say though, that Martine’s dulce de leche creme brulee was amazingly delicious (and makes me want to try making butterscotch pudding from scratch again), and my churros with Xocalatl chocolate wasn’t too shabby either. Though the runner must not be terribly familiar with Mexican food, as I swear he called them “chorizo” when he set them down.
Our final issue of the night came when, after waiting a fair bit after we’d finished dessert, and both of us having explored their strange bathroom arrangement, they finally came with the check. They took our cards, and after a fairly long wait came to tell us there was a problem that had meant that while they’d run our cards they didn’t have anything for us to sign. I still don’t quite understand what they were on about, but it meant our server ultimately going to his manager for a solution apparently.
What does all this mean in the end really? The food was great, and reasonably priced for the quality of the food—but they showed an amazing lack of cohesion between service and kitchen for people who are experienced restauranteurs. I’m always willing to cut some slack for new restaurants, but this was astonishingly disappointing.