The Oriel Cafe and Restaurant
129 Central Way
Kirkland WA 98033
New Owners, Same Local Charm
By: Steve G
Located on the corner of what most people consider the heart of downtown Kirkland, there's a quaint spot called Oriel Cafe and Restaurant. Formerly known as Triple J, Oriel Cafe has been taken over by new owners hailing from Australia. Inspired by a successful restaurant that they used to work for in the aforementioned country, it has an understated style and appearance that is very welcoming to regulars and newcomers alike.
As you come through the door, you're treated to stark white walls and high ceilings with thin veil-like drapes that adorn the huge windows. On a sunny day, the light shines in and really emphasizes the sleek, clean look of the restaurant. Overall, the place has a really European feel to it. Very laid back with nothing too pretentious, it felt like a cozy spot to grab some breakfast or lunch on a nice spring or summer day. Oriel is also very kid friendly as they provide a slew of children's books and toys to keep the little ones entertained while dining.
On the menu there's a mixed bag of breakfast, lunch and dinner items. Breakfast highlights include pancakes, French toast, and the Australian inspired Aussie heart stopper. The lunch menu is inundated with different types of pastas and sandwiches. Dinner hours offers strictly entrees with such treats as the horseradish crusted salmon and Australian filet mignon.
We came in during the early lunch hour and sifted through the menu, ordering a little from each category. Grant ordered the Penne Pesto Pasta ($14.00) for his main entree with Crab Cakes ($10.50) for starters. Robin and Bryan turned their eyes to the sandwiches and opted for the Chicken and Brie Baguette ($12.00) and Gourmet Lamb Burger ($11.50) respectively. I opted for the Aussie Heart Starter Breakfast with a choice of Poached Eggs and Multi Grain Toast ($12.00).
The service at Oriel Cafe was a bit hit or miss. Maybe we were the victim of a bad seating location, but after being quickly seated and served our food we were almost completely forgotten, as we were out of the sight of all of the servers. Other than timing though, the service was decent.
Overall, the warm inviting atmosphere makes Oriel Cafe a pleasant destination with dishes that are filling and delightful. Kirkland is not exactly a place to make a destination, but if you're in the area its worth a stop for a light meal.
With a name like the Aussie Heart Starter, I guess I was just expecting a little more from the dish. It came with a choice of scrambled or poached eggs with bacon, sausage, grilled tomato and baked beans. The poached eggs were prepared nicely with the egg whites mostly congealed and the yolk very runny. The bacon and sausage were decent, but nothing truly amazing. Overall, the plate comes with a lot of things, but I was still left craving a little bit more. Great for someone looking for a medium-sized breakfast, but those with a larger appetite might want to go for something a bit heartier.
Cafe Oriel reminded me of my first Turkish coffee experience: an acrid start with a strong finish. The crab cakes were juicy and flavorful, with a medley of fine vegetables, spices and white shell parts. And I do mean lots of shell. A first baseman would have blushed by the time I was done spitting my way through the cakes.
Perhaps the bar was set ridiculously low for my pasta entree, but it tasted a world apart from the shell cakes. The salmon was cooked perfectly, with an even brown crisp, pink flaky meat and a flavorful peppery lemon coating. The pasta was cooked well and tossed in a creamy pesto sauce. Mushroom fans will love the soaked up buttery flavors combined with the salmon.
My Chicken and Brie Baguette was quite a treat. The thick slices of chicken and brie with caramelized onions on a fresh toasted baguette had several subtle flavors that together were most enjoyable. The chicken and brie combined were flavorful and rich, while the onions and brie were both a bit pungent. Even the humble side salad, with its bright red pear tomatoes and subtle, mustardy vinaigrette, was great. I personally prefer strong flavors that grab my attention, but this dish won me over. What a great lunch spot!
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