Bellevue’s 99 Park is a breath of fresh air. Restaurants like Café Juanita, Pearl Bar and Dining and Bis on Main, to name a few, have set the stage for independent, chef-driven establishments like 99 Park to be successful, but it’s been a while since something new opened on the Eastside that doesn’t focus on burgers or high-end pub food.
And 99 Park feels different, almost as if you’re not in Bellevue when you’re sitting at a table. The interior seems high-end without being luxurious. The space is gorgeous and open, yet understated. The dining room is not large, but it doesn’t feel stuffy either, even on a busy Friday night.
First-time restaurant owner Micah Pittman, whose day job has been real-estate development, is a world traveler, and you can see some of those influences in 99 Park, especially on the menu, which features flavors with international flair. But Quinton Stewart, 99 Park’s executive chef, is an Eastsider. His parents live in Kenmore, and he went to Inglemoor High School. And even though 99 Park’s menu is dotted with global flavors, Stewart cherishes the small farmers and producers in the area, and local sourcing is a significant part of this restaurant’s story.
“When we were opening, we spent a lot of time at the Bellevue farmers market. The producers were really excited to work with us. In many cases they’re smaller producers who don’t have the capacity to work with bigger markets like in Ballard or at UW. We have access to all these ingredients that other chefs would have to come to Bellevue to pick up,” Stewart said. Boldbrook Farm is a small two-acre farm in Sultan and is particularly special to Stewart. It’s run by young couple Steve Gisel and Marni Sorin. Boldbrook’s first growing season was last year, and its only two outlets to sell its produce are a few CSAs and the Thursday and Saturday Bellevue Farmers Market. The couple visit 99 Park after the Saturday Market, open up their car trunk, and the restaurant purchases what’s left from the market. Stewart said the farm’s tomatoes from last summer were some of the best he’d ever tasted. “It’s been really fun. We’d put dishes on the menu sometimes where we’d have basil come from one row from Boldbrook, and then cucumbers from two rows over.”
And there are plenty of stories like this that relate 99 Park’s connection to the land and farmers. One of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the roasted carrots with mole, came from a trip to the Bellevue Farmers Market. “We went to the Alvarez farm stand, and they had these really great baby carrots. But they also had these dried, smoked peppers from the previous grow season — guajillo, ancho and chipotle. And those are traditional ingredients in an Oaxacan-style mole. We also found some fresh cojita cheese, fresh cilantro and pearl onions that day. And it turned into one of our most popular dishes. … It’s a perfect example of one producer from Eastern Washington that I’ve known about and really loved for years that inspired a cuisine. You take what you can get locally, and try to turn it into something cool and it doesn’t matter if that’s an Oaxacan-style mole or a Malaysian-style curry.”
Stewart’s menu is full of those international influences — items ranging from a pork-belly bahn mi to green papaya salad and vegetable tempura fulfill the small-plates list, and items like Anderson Valley Ranch lamb tagine and Taylor Shellfish clams and mussels with panang curry are choices for large plates. Stewart sees vegetable-heavy plates continuing to dominate trends in restaurants through 2015, but he’s found that, while there’s certainly interest in that in Bellevue, there’s still a large demand for meat on the Eastside. “One of the things diners really love here in Bellevue is steak. They love steak. They seem to want big cuts of meat. It’s what they’re often comfortable with, so there will be elements of that on our menu,” Stewart said. The restaurant’s Sunday supper fried chicken (3 drums, 3 thighs, with a sweet chili glaze and a la carte sides) also has proven quite popular.
99 Park is an ideal spot for a date night, and dinner service seems to be booming. It’s also a bit of an undiscovered gem in terms of happy hour, which runs from 4-6pm and 9pm to close Tuesday through Saturday and all day on Sunday and Monday. Discounted small plates and specialty cocktails are a great way to sample 99 Park’s menu before you go all out on dinner.
99 102nd Ave. N.E., Bellevue
Monday-Sunday, 4pm to close
Tuesday-Saturday, 4-6pm and 9pm
to close and all day Sunday and Monday