My favorite blended alcoholic drink is the Manhattan. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find a really fine Manhattan anywhere outside Manhattan, but I’ve enjoyed a few in some of Seattle’s more exclusive restaurants; for example, the Hunt Club in the Sorrento Hotel. However, I’ve never had a good Manhattan at any of the lounges in the immediate vicinity of Enumclaw and Buckley. They aren’t really bad, you understand — that is, I consume them with some satisfaction — but I can’t recall having a truly excellent Manhattan anywhere on the Plateau. As you’d expect, waitresses usually commend the bartenders’ skill, so I give them a try, only to find I’m disappointed again.
Well, the other night my girlfriend and I were returning from one place or another and she suggested we eat at Gino’s Bistro at Four Corners bet ween Black Diamond and Maple Valley. That sounded good to me. Neither of us had been there before.
Our hostess, Andrea Ehlis, was a most pleasant and attractive lady and she assured me — as expected — that the bartender made an excellent Manhattan. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his name and I certainly should have because he nailed it. As fine a Manhattan as I’ve ever had. (Admittedly, some of the results may have been a matter of luck and I haven’t been back for seconds.)
Given such a splendid beverage, I anticipated our meals would be just as exciting and I wasn’t disappointed. Our “Nonna’s” salads were quite rare among salads I’ve experienced recently. Wild greens, sun-dried cranberries, candied walnuts, some kind of crumbly stuff and grilled pears, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette. Just listing the ingredients makes me salivate. For my entree, I enjoyed scampi fresco; that is, prawns sauteed in tomatoes and pancetta, stirred in angel hair pasta with nuts and various cheeses. The shrimp were snappy and the blended favors were unique and tasty. My companion was also delighted with her calabaza: roasted butternut squash with caramelized onions and spinach tossed with garlic, olive oil, and some kind of pasta.
In general, the service was so good I hesitate to offer any criticism. However, for the benefit of the young lady who served our table, our drinks — especially such superb Manhattans — should be served sufficiently in advance of the meal to allow plenty of time to relax and savor them. In part, this was probably my own fault; we could have enjoyed our drinks in the lounge before we were seated for dinner.
I was so impressed with the entire experience, I went back a week later to meet with the owner. Gino Rivera is a good-looking, quick-witted fellow who’s been cooking, gathering recipes and experimenting with various concoctions for at least 20 years. He opened his first restaurant in the Federal Way Twin Lakes region about 10 years ago. His Four Corners Bistro has been open for nine months.
How do you account for the fact that a dude of Peruvian heritage operates such a wonderful Italian restaurant? I’ve no idea, but trust me on this one: the guy knows what he’s doing.