Coastal Kitchen Casanova

“What time is it?”I check my watch and outside the car, the wind curls between the spaces in the buildings and surges down 17th, tussling with the trees.

“It’s 2:48.” I say. My dad puts his face in his hands and runs them down into the scruff on his chin like a penitent man washing his face in holy water. He has that blinky look in his eyes like a little kid, fresh out of bed on Christmas morning. Barely tethered. Hanging by a thread.

“Hmmmmm…” he groans. “ No.We’ll wait 5 more minutes.”

“ We could start walking now. Post up at the bar until 3 rolls around.”

“No, I’ll start ordering before happy hour.”

“Ordering what?” I say, but I’m just poking the bear now. Playing soccer with a beehive.

“Oysters!” he says and then the dancing has started and I have to ride it out before we can talk again. The car sloshes back and forth in the blustery wind, grooving with him and his personal version of cabbage patch. When the dance is over he says,

“What time is it now?”

“It’s 2:48.”

“Okay let’s go.”

Let’s talk about oysters.
As a food source, they’re incredibly well balanced. Pretty even split of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids, which all make for a happy belly. They’ve been on the menu for at least the last 2,000 years, when the Greeks started dredging them up out of the sea and punching them into their faces. They loved oysters so much that they began to cultivate them after finding that they would grow on the inside of broken pottery that was left submerged in coastal waters. You can attribute all the aphrodisiac references that accompany the pseudo-sexual looking mollusk to the Ancient Greeks as well. The very term “aphrodisiac” comes from the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, who emerged from the sea in an Oyster shell. And, in case you were wondering whether any of those ridiculous, “oysters will make your Peter Dinklage want to engage in a Game of Bones” rumors are true… They ARE! Scientists have found a rare amino acid present in oysters that makes your sex hormones go all squirrely. It’s rumored that Casanova (AKA: Italian R. Kelly) ate somewhere between 4 and 10 DOZEN oysters with breakfast everyday. If Casanova were alive today and living in Seattle, I know where I could find him on a Tuesday afternoon. You’d find him at the bottom of a glass bellied up to a dark wood bar on 15th street, watching my dad and I shoot back oysters like somebody bet us we couldn’t, thinking to himself “I wish I loved anything as much as those dudes love oysters.” Well, keep dreaming Casanova, you don’t.

The jazz through the speakers is that fast paced, jamming on the keys type of jazz, which is pretty fitting for the wind ripping at the trees outside and the feverish pace at which we are eating oysters. The waitress keeps coming to see how we’re doing and the prognosis is always, “out of breath and out of oysters.” What do you want from us though? They taste like the sea is giggling into your mouth. Each type has a slightly different flavor to it. This one’s buttery, and that one’s got a flash of garlic to it. Bit of melon, hint of sweetness. Beer comes, beer goes and we are happy. When it comes to oysters in Seattle, for me, its almost always Coastal Kitchen. Dark wood and light tiles, stiff cocktails and something akin to bossa nova usually on the speakers. Every time I walk into the place, I want to put on a fedora and commiserate over the last “dame” who walked into my office. When it comes to which day of the week to eat oysters at Coastal Kitchen, for me, its always Tuesday. After 3pm on Tuesdays, it’s one dollar an oyster, which in and of itself is enough to get anybodys Dinklage wiggling.

Between slurps of Oyster and beer my dad shakes his head, takes a breather.

He says,”while you and your wife were on vacation and I was house sitting for you, I walked here by myself.”

“Oh yeah?” I say.

“Yeah,” he says, and he’s setting up the next oyster, blast of lemon, drizzle of mignonette. “I ate 5 dozen oysters by myself, drank three martinis and staggered out the door. Barely made it home.”

“Holy shit.” I say.

“Yeah.” and he shoots the oyster back. “It was awesome”

Written by:

Kellen Burden


Oysters, a Simple Food with a Complicated History


The Comfort Zone: It Feels like 90’s R&B

Recently, Young, our friend and co-owner of Phórale, recommended a soul food restaurant called The Comfort Zone, located inside of the Dragon Pearl restaurant in Burien. I had to repeat the location to confirm I heard it correctly…which still seemed odd even though our last hidden gem (Phorale) was located inside a convenient store in South Park. For a second, it didn’t make sense and just for that reason alone, it was right up my alley.

Note: Get your butt to Phorale if you haven’t been yet, these guys are getting busier and busier by the week. (

Anyway, I decided to check out Young’s recommendation and headed to The Comfort Zone on a Wednesday evening with a friend that trusts me when it comes to decisions involving food. We walked into the main entrance of the Dragon Pearl Restaurant and made an immediate left into the separate setup for The Comfort Zone.

We were greeted by some old-school R&B playing on the radio. There’s an old saying in Tennessee (I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee) that says, “If it doesn’t feel like 90’s R&B, I don’t want it”…I might have Bush-ified that a tad bit but these words couldn’t be any truer when it comes to my love for soul food. When I’m cooking at home, I find myself listening to 90’s R&B every-time, because it is a labor of love. You cannot have true soul food, without tasting the TLC that it was made with. The music was definitely a good first sign.


After receiving our order of fried gizzards, oxtail stew with rice and the shrimp and grits, the following 10 minutes was silence. Silence is a good thing in my book, when you’re eating. This means that you’re so immersed in your current experience that you completely block out reality for the moment and enjoy what’s in front of you. There’s also something about listening to baby making music while eating a plate of what I can best describe as ‘love’ that brings back nostalgia…not quite sure what of, but it just feels right and you know that you’re exactly where you were meant to be at that very moment.

The fried gizzards: fresh, well-seasoned and not oily, oxtails: fall off the bone tender, shrimp: fresh and juicy, grits: perfectly buttery and creamy. I’m pretty sure “Butta Love” by Next started playing during my first bite of the grits.


The 10 minutes of nostalgia would probably have lasted longer if not for, Talya, the owner of The Comfort Zone stopping by our table to assure that our dishes were prepared to our liking and asked if we had any feedback. Talya emphasized that she wanted to make sure that every guest felt like they were part of her family. We only had praise to offer and told her that we would be coming back, except with more people next time.


While finishing off my last morsel of oxtail, I finally understood what Brian McKnight’s “Back at one” had been about all of these years…his love for soul food.

Written by: Krishan Kumar

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Because Food is Important

Food is important to me. It’s in my operating system. It’s on my home screen. If you grow up near the ocean, you surf. You hear the shudder and hiss of waves thumping into the sand your whole life and at some point you wade out there with a chunk of fiberglass because you have to put that fury and power in your world for real. If you grow up near the mountains, you climb. You grow up in the woods, you run naked through them… Or whatever….

Anyway, I grew up around food. My mother made breakfast every. God. Damn. Morning. And if you’re thinking that she was dousing some Frosted Flakes, or creaming some wheat, just stop right there, because she wasn’t. The woman made crepes. She made cinnamon rolls. She made bacon and eggs and hash browned potatoes and then she picked up her briefcase and slipped into her heels and she went to her job. No one would have blamed her for phoning in breakfast. In the age of pop tarts and Captain Crunch, plenty of parents did. But not her.


And neither did my dad. There wasn’t a single day in my childhood in which he didn’t ask me what sounded good for dinner, usually right when I walked in the door from school. After that, you’d find him out in the backyard on his hands and knees, blowing into a coal starter, the smell of smoke and marinated something or other wafting in through the screen door, California sunlight hanging in the trees in the backyard.


When I sat at the counter of that kitchen watching mom dart around with her spatula before rushing off to her ball-busting job, or watching dad flick collard greens around in the pan, freshly home from his, a fact began to slowly chisel itself into my brain:

Food is important.

And throughout the course of my life, that fact has stood unflinchinglcarsleepingy in the face of all my experiences. Screaming across the Midwest on a cross country road trip, an uncle took us in and fed us homemade dinner at a real kitchen table after a week and a half of McDonalds over a steering wheel, and we were loved. Alone in a new city full of strangers, my new coworkers took me to a bar and started a taco Tuesday tradition and we were accepted. Working a long night shift with a 50 year old Somalian woman with whom I had nothing in common, I brought up Somalian cooking and her eyes lit up and we were friends.


So, fuck all that food shaming. Fuck calorie restriction, and all those holier than thou memes about whether you’d rather have French fries or toned calves.

I’ll take French fries every time

Because, food isn’t a gallon of unleaded for your body and it’s not something to feel guilty about enjoying.

Food is culture. It’s a chunk of our life story. It’s important.



Hot, Crispy, Solace 

These are scary times. Heavy times. Every morning finds me pajama clad at the kitchen table, nursing a fresh cup of French press, listening to NPR on our made-in-China radio wondering, “was it always this bad and I just wasn’t old enough to know it or is this a fresh kind of terrible?” Listening to my egg sizzle in the skillet over the sounds of FM horror, all tinny and crispy through cheap speakers. The ticking of the toaster oven steady and insistent, flat grey coils buzzing faintly, rising to a glow, shining fiery red. I used to hear stories from my grandparents about the Cold War. Shake my head in wonder at the thought of living always on the edge of my seat, watching hands in restaurants, shrinking away from shadows passing overhead. Life under siege. It was sad the way history is always sad, which is to say, distantly. Inaccessibly.

Then people started shooting up schools and movie theaters. North Korea went all Caligula crazy. Riots in the streets and a presidential race that’s just a game of Russian Roulette with a semi automatic and before you know it the coils are hot and everything is burnt toast.

I don’t know how my grandparents got through their uncertain times, although, if I’m to believe what I see on Madmen and in the washed out photos scattered around my parents house, the answer probably came in a tumbler and smelled a lot like whiskey.

(Photo credit:

It’s 2016 now, though. Taking my pants off at a baby shower because I “got the tequila sweats” doesn’t make me “quirky” these days. Crashing a Pontiac into a mailbox and tumbling out stinking of rum and fear isn’t just another Tuesday evening anymore. You’ll catch a charge for that shit now. End up in a program. So where, in this age of global instability and social responsibility are we to find any solace? I’ve been picking mine up at place called Cho Dang Tofu Restaurant.

First, if you’re fingerjamming this place into your Yelp machine, you’ll see that there are a couple of different Cho Dang Tofu Restaurants in the area. Im told they’re both owned and operated by the same people and , if their Yelp reviews are to be believed, they’re equally awesome, but my experience is limited to the one in Federal Way, so that’s the one I’ll be talking about.

Krishan, my proverbial food guide and area expert, introduced me to the place at the midway point of a frustrating day. We’d just pulled one of those stops that was sideways before it even left the runway. Kid had a handful of unnecessary bullshit Tetris’d into a plastic hand basket and we had sandwiched him between us at the door.

“Put the shit down, man” I’d said, and I watched his eyes go wide and his pupils sphincter shut. He took a step forward and Krishan got two handfuls of his jacket, gave him a little tug back. Kid looked over his shoulder to see if the guy behind him looked as punchable as the guy in front of him and I saw that head turning, artery in the side of his neck working overtime, chugging adrenaline, spitting it into the rest of him. The compressed zip file version of it, is that we hip tossed the kid. He did a wicked sweet barrel roll and dropped all the shit he had in his basket, then he got up and waded through a bush that he was otherwise unaware of thanks to his tunnel vision, then he reached into his pocket and said, “I got the strap.” Which is a douchey way of telling someone that you have a gun.

He didn’t have the strap. He had a raspberry on his elbow. He had two guys in front of him who’d just tossed him like a pony keg, and a pound and a half of uh-oh in his shorts. But he definitely didn’t have the strap. His hand wiggled about ineffectually in his empty pocket, a silent prayer that we were buying this bullshit swimming in desperation in his eyes. It was over, though. He turned and broke like a wild pony and we collected the stolen things from the lot, carried them back into the store.

Moments like those are funny for the first few minutes, while the adrenaline is still arc flashing off you.

“I got the strap! I got the strap! Hahaha.”

“Haha did you tell that kid to ‘come catch this fade’?”

But when it’s fizzled out and the paperwork is done, the novelty has started to wear off and you’re just left with the bones of it, which is that you’re just two guys doing a kind of shitty job in a kind of shitty world where shitty things happen all the time.

“What an asshole.”


What if he’d had a gun?”


“Wanna get some lunch?”

So, with our hackles up and a brand new Instagram filter called pessimism over our lives, we shuffled through the doors of Cho Dangs’s… And totally redeemed ourselves


Dark wood on the walls between the framed photos of kimchi pots in various stages of the fermentation process. Food sizzling in stone bowls putting off that crickets in the deep woods feel as the staff waded through miasma of good food and happy people. So much for no safe places.

Krishan and I took up a table in the corner and flipped some menus open. I snapped up some magical words like somebody’d highlighted them for me and shut the menu immediately, because I knew what I wanted.
Krishan and I opted for one of the combo meals, which included a bunch of traditional Korean sides, (one of which was a mean looking fried fish, which is crispy and delicious as long as you don’t bite the head

off it like there aren’t any bones in there.)

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The rest of the sides were interesting and tangy and pretty foreign to my domesticated tastebuds, which made them all the more tantalizing. We fired them down with a fervor while we waited for the main course to come out, our troubles already sloughing off in the thralls of such exciting new goodness. The Kalbi beef hit the table, hissing like a lit fuse in the hotpot and we ate that caramelly meat off the bone grinning like idiots while that fuse sizzled down to the real boom-boom. A fat bowl of bibimbap.

Bibimbap literally means “mixed rice” and it’s been a mainstay of Korean cooking since the late 1300s to early 1600s. It’s one of those meals with deep roots that just makes sense, like stew or barbecue. You’ve got a lot of people to feed. You’ve got some rice and some vegetables and meat. Throw all that business in a pot, hit it with some gochujang and boom: Dinner.
It’s been tweaked slightly since the time of its conception, and one of the more welcome additions has come in the form of a hot stone bowl, which crisps the rice along the bottom and throws a whole different texture into the mix. It’s heaven. Sweet salty heaven in a hot stone bowl.

The waitress brought ours out and offered us the obligatory warning about not touching the sizzling hot pan, which I quietly mocked the obviousness of, and then immediately did on accident. Barely felt it though… because I was in the zone. I was cramming mouthful after mouthful of perfectly seasoned food into my previously worried face and watching the sharp edges shave off of the world around me. Fuck the election, and the crazy dictators. Fuck a kid with a gun and a nuclear winter. I’ve got beef and mushrooms. I’ve got rice and a stone bowl. I’ve got hot, crispy, solace.




Written by:


Kellen Burden