We started our meal on the convivial deck, festooned with blue wine bottles and wisteria vines, packed with folks happily soaking up a little June sun. After enjoying a brief alfresco experience before it cooled off, Red House’s servers were gracious about our decision to eventually move inside after our first round of tapas and Rhone rose.
One major benefit of dining in a Beer and Wine shop is that you can pluck any bottle of wine off the shelves for a $5 corkage fee, or pay $1.50 for a bottle from their impressive ale alcove (they can quickly chill any wine or beer). As a wine professional, I can genuinely say that the selection is thoughtful and reasonably priced, and if you’re feeling splurgy, there’s a special section of their list dedicated to those occasions.
The Red House menu will leave you with a good problem—what to order with so many tempting options. I highly recommend ordering the Family Style Assorted Tapas Plate ($18), which includes ALL three of the following Mediterranean dishes: Shrimp Risotto Croquettes: creamy on the inside, yet perfectly crisp spheres of flavor. Bowls of Romesco Sauce and Garlic-Caper Aioli make for delicious side cars. The second dish on our cascading tapas trio was a Forest Mushroom Bruschetta. Moving to Italy, an assortment of sauteed mushrooms are draped atop rustic slices of grilled bread, then bathed in a rich cream and herb sauce, with a flourish of black truffle salt. This artistic Tapas trio is finished with Chipotle Deviled Eggs and Pickled Vegetables (loved the spicy carrots especially). Artistically presented, with bright and diverse flavors, this appetizer trio is worth the trip to Renton’s downtown.
And for more adventurous eaters... We could not resist the inventive-offering of Seared Tuna Cebiche ($9). If you’re not familiar with cebiche, this is essentially South-of-the-border sushi. High-quality tuna is briefly ‘cooked’ in the citric acid of orange juice. These serrano-spiked tender slices of tuna were made to go on Red House’s homemade potato chips. Salty and spicy mouthfuls ensue. This could be the ultimate date food if you fed your fellow diner these aphrodisiac morsels across the table with a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
One of the reasons why we ended up at Red House was a rave review I heard about the Portuguese Seafood Stew ($17). I daresay it would be difficult to find a bowl of flavorful shellfish of this caliber, at this price, anyplace in Seattle. The menu touts “Tomato, Star Anise Broth”--this is where owner Gene Sens' Italian roots beautifully mesh with Huong, his Vietnamese wife’s kitchen sensibility. The broth is homey and complex, with layer upon layer of flavor. I especially loved the inventive touch of shrimp meatballs, but this is a bowlful of Sabor! packed with chorizo, salmon, crab, clams and even scallops, that cozy up to bite-sized pasta.
I moved to the Renton-area too late to have the opportunity to dine at Gene’s Ristorante, where Vino is now, but love the spirit of the Red House. Even if you haven’t been for a while, Gene makes you feel like a regular. When Gene’s Ristorante closed, the one item that customers begged him to bring to the Red House menu was his Lasagna. A slice of pinch-your-cheek grandmother lasagna is only $14. (That's the New-Yorker in me talking.) The lasagna noodles are freshly made, giving a light texture that balances out the richness of ricotta, meat sauce, bechamel, and baked mozzarella. No leftovers were brought home from our table, due to irresistible deliciousness.
Our friend insisted we finish things off with his favorite Tiramisu, that quintessential Venician dessert made with ladyfingers soaked with dark rum, espresso, layered with marscapone cheese, and dusted with cocoa powder. We ordered a glass of 20-year-old Six Grapes tawny port ($15 glass) to go with— Gene my only complaint about our entire evening would be a better dessert wine by-the-glass list.
To the deck people with a bottle of wine and Family-Style Tapas... Do it and love a Renton treasure.
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