Juan Arias prepares a Thai green salad and an Indonesian peanut sambal at Ruby’s Restaurant on the Ave.
Ruby Restaurant, while unassuming from the sidewalk, offers some of the best international cuisine in the U-District. The menu includes a mix of dishes inspired by traditional Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and South Asian foods.
Ruby is dimly lit by colored paper lanterns and red lights, offering an exotic romance uncommon in the U-District. The interior calls to mind the inside of a Spanish adobe building, with earthy tones, wrought iron on the bar and poured concrete flooring, stained warm red on the stairs. Large mirrors decorate the walls.
Restaurant-goers can choose from a menu that includes salads, soups and rice bowls at moderate prices.
Besides the traditional appetizers of bread and oil, Ruby has a number of seafood choices, including calamari, prawns and mussels. The prawns in Persian pomegranate sauce are phenomenal, bathed in a deliciously sweet and savory sauce and accompanied with a spread of creamy garlic cheese atop a bed of spinach.
Many of the soups feature seafood, ranging from bouillabaisse to an inventive, delicious soup of salmon and pineapple in a coconut broth with rice noodles.
The salads include more traditional choices like Greek and Caesar, but the grilled salmon on organic greens with avocado, red potato and mustard vinaigrette brings unconventional concepts to salad. While the melts-in-your-mouth salmon and buttery avocado pair beautifully with the slightly sharp acid dressing and bitter greens, the presentation made it almost difficult to eat: Large pieces of organic greens with sliced onions required some cutting to avoid messiness.
The sandwiches are all made on warm, crusty baguettes with a choice of grilled mushroom, seafood, chicken or streak. The grilled chicken breast with roasted jalapeños, caramelized onions, mushrooms, aioli and blue cheese had a marvelous play of flavor as well as texture between the smooth and tangy creaminess of the aioli and cheese, smoky sweetness and mild heat from the grilled vegetables and the delectable crunchy and chewy baguette.
Inspired more by South Asian cuisine, the rice bowls offer tofu, chicken, beef, lamb and seafood, with combinations of potatoes, carrots, spices, herbs and curries over rice. With choices on the menu for all tastes, the Indonesian lamb bumbu with cardamom, anise, nutmeg, cumin and fresh cilantro paired just enough rice with sweet spices, tender lamb, carrots, green peppers and a delicious sauce.
Somewhat surprisingly, Ruby also offers omelets and a traditional brunch. The omelets include spins on national food traditions, with Russian, Mexican and Greek available. The Northwest omelet combines Alaska salmon with garlic, red peppers, caramelized onion and cream cheese.
Ruby never felt crowded. During my evening dining at the restaurant, there was only one waiter, but that did not mean any patrons suffered — the service was highly pleasant.
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