[caption id="attachment_2339" align="aligncenter" width="479" caption="Fries and gravy from Hotel Murano\'s Bite Restaurant in Tacoma. Photo by Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer"] [/caption]Thin or thick, I don’t have a preference. But do make mine crunchy on the outside, creamy-unctuous on the inside. I’m picky about my fries that way.
I used to think I was a fry purist: crisp potatoes with a sprinkle of salt, please.
And then I had the garlic herb fries at Pacific Grill. Insta-fancy-fry convert. And then I had fries and gravy at Bite at Hotel Murano. And then came along the bacon cheesy fries at Crown Bar. And have you ever had the yuca fries at Asado? Amazingly good.
At Bite and Crown Bar – fancy fries are dishes that command their own real estate on the menu. They’re served solo, sans burgers. They’re big plates of crisp fries covered in elevated ingredients that will make your favorite fast food restaurant fries seem like sad, little, soggy ’taters.
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Here, a look at my four favorite fancy fries around town.
Hotel Murano Bite RestaurantWhere: 1320 Broadway Plaza, TacomaInfo: 253-238-8000 or www.hotelmuranotacoma.com
“The Canadians call it poutine, fries and gravy,” so says Matt Stickle, executive chef of Hotel Murano’s Bite restaurant of his dish, fries and gravy. “When we were coming up with our menu, we thought of every comfort food possible and fries and gravy came to mind. It is very popular in Canada (originated there) and me from Wisconsin loving cheese, we couldn’t go wrong with adding it to the menu. We dressed it up with the sautéed shiitake mushrooms, gorgonzola cheese and a not-too-thick sauce made from zinfandel.”
How they’re made: “The sauce is made with a bottle of zinfandel along with roasted shallots, peppercorns, fresh thyme, bay leaf, and demiglace and butter, then strained,” said Stickle. “We heat up the zinfandel sauce along with sautéed mushrooms while the fries are getting crispy. When the fries are crispy and brown we toss them in garlic butter. Then we stack the fries up and spoon the sauce over top. We then sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese and fresh chopped parsley.”
The results: Fries and gravy ($8) is such an enormous portion, it’s like an entrée. At first bite, the gorgonzola is a nice, rich tease before the heady, thick (but not too thick) gravy sauce permeates your palate. The gravy sauce is very impressive, but so is the finger-licking garlicky butter goodness in those fries.
Asado RestaurantWhere: 2810 Sixth Ave., TacomaInfo: 253-272-7770 or asadotacoma.com
“We sell quite a few side orders of yuca fries all the time, especially in the bar. People really enjoy them. They’re rich and filling, you can’t eat a whole bunch of them, but they are just so delicious,” so says Asado general manager Wayne Howard.
They’re actually served as a side with the Asado Burger ($13.75, on the bar menu), although Asado will prepare a side for those wanting to nosh on just fries.
How they’re made: As explained by Howard, with input from Asado chef Tasso Zambarrsa: “It’s a yuca root we buy. We use a slicer to square them up. There’s not too much to it other than we deep fry them.” After the fries come out of the fryer, they’re tossed with truffle oil, then topped with a sprinkle of cotija cheese. The results: The texture is what hooked me on the yuca fries. They’re crispy-crunchy on the outside, and creamy-silky smooth on the inside. On one visit to Asado, however, the fries came with a too-crunchy exterior from being slightly overcooked, which stole away the creamy interior. The yuca fries are served with a side of poblano aioli with a slightly spicy punch.
Crown Bar Where: 2705 6th Ave, Tacoma Info: 253-272-4177 or www.crownbartacoma.com
“The bacon cheesies are our super tasty late night snack,” says Crown Bar owner Charlie McManus. “Our kitchen is open to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and they are a go-to comfort treat for late-night munchers.”
How they’re made: “The fries are, of course, freshly made in house,” said McManus. “They are cut and soaked in ice water for 24 hours. Then blanched in the fryer at 320 degrees until partially cooked. They are then chilled and finished in the fryer at 350 degrees. Finally they are topped with smoked bacon and melted Cougar Gold cheddar.”
The results: Smoked bacon and white cheddar Cougar Gold cheese might just be the most perfect match of any food pairings (or at least close). An observation about Crown Bar’s Bacon Cheesy fries ($4) is that they have serious shelf life beyond what other restaurant fries offer. We let our fries cool considerably as we noshed at Crown, and when we came back to the fries, the fries did not lose their crisp – and that’s a sign of a well-constructed fry. The fries are to be served with a curry ketchup, but on my visit, I was given plain ketchup (or at least it tasted that way).
Pacific GrillWhere: 1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma Info: 253-627-3535 or www.pacificgrilltacoma.com
“I started serving them years ago maybe around 1992 in Los Angeles when I first started serving the sliders at The Monkey Bar,” said Pacific Grill owner Gordon Naccarato of his delightfully thin, crispy garlic herb fries that accompany the cheeseburger sliders ($11) and pulled pork sliders ($10.50) on Pacific Grill’s bar menu. “I think we called them ‘skinny fries’ back then for the self-conscious stars who are always obsessed about their weight even though they still ordered them.”
How they’re made: “First off (days in advance) we poach whole garlic cloves in olive oil until tender, then cool (we save this garlic infused oil for vinaigrettes). Then we fry the french fries in canola oil until almost done,” said Naccarato. “In the last few moments of cooking we add fresh sprigs of rosemary and sage, and the poached cloves of garlic, allowing the garlic to finish browning, and the herbs to crisp. Then we season the fries with salt and fresh pepper.”
The results: Thin and crispy, but with still a creamy interior, these are delicious fries. The texture of the sage leaves is so deliciously crisp. I love how the leaves shatter into a sage flavor blast. Poaching tames the garlic flavor and softens the texture, creating a creamy accompaniment to the fries.
YOUR TURN: Where do you eat your favorite fries? I didn't have room or time to write about the nacho-ish fries at Masa for this roundup, but they're worth a visit. El Gaucho also makes a perfect, if not straightforward, fry. What's your favorite fry?