Revel used to be somewhere that defined dining in Seattle. The original Fremont space was the kind of hot restaurant that made you feel lucky to have gotten in, clinking glasses in the small space with friends and inhaling steam wafting in from the open kitchen. Sitting at the butcher block counter even closer to the action was better, and their Korean dishes consistently tasted phenomenal. Then, they closed for remodeling, zipped over to a temporary South Lake Union location during construction, and now they’re back on North 36th with a revised layout—including their menu.
If you’ve never been to their original location, the “new” Revel is a solid back-pocket spot in Fremont that’ll be there for you when you need a casual-but-not-too-casual weeknight meal. If you practically had glossy posters slapped up in your bedroom of the original short rib dumplings and pork belly pancake, though, you might feel a little disappointed in the changes.
The dining room is now huge and has more tables, but with a larger area comes more accessibility—we appreciate that it’s now easy to coordinate a group dinner or last-minute date. There’s still an open kitchen, but it’s more than a stone’s throw away from most of the chairs, and the counter is massive too, taking away a sizable portion of that physical—and emotional—warmth that used to be synonymous with Revel.
For the most part, the Korean food that fills these extra tables is great. There are Revel classics that remain delicious, like the rice bowl topped with charred short rib, tangy dressed mustard greens, sambal-rubbed daikon, and a runny egg yolk—or the Dungeness crab bowl with chewy seaweed-infused noodles, a tasty red curry broth, and crème fraîche to cool it all down. We also feel spiritually connected with their salty-funky miso sauce, which is one of the four squeeze bottles on every table meant to complement each dish. “The Sauces” have been a staple since they opened, and we’re ecstatic to report that they haven’t changed a bit.
Some things, however, have changed—mainly the two greatest dishes from the Revel of yesteryear: the short rib dumplings (which are now wontons in chili oil) and the pork belly pancake (which is now porkless). The new wontons work well enough if you need to satisfy a dumpling craving, but we used to often fantasize about the rich, drippy beef filling. What was once a pork belly pancake is now without pork, which is good news for the meatless crowd, but the exterior is both near-burnt and soggy simultaneously, with a spicy kimcheese that overpowers the otherwise-delightful sweet potato batter and smoky bonito flake dancers. Change happens, folks. But we have to admit that these in particular make us sad.
For the times when you need a reliable sit-down dinner option in Fremont, there’s no question that Revel still comes in handy. Order some rice and noodle bowls, some wontons, a platter of Chinese broccoli soaked in kecap manis and topped with hazelnut crumble, and you’re in for a solid meal. Do some of the adjustments feel like we just watched a spaghetti western reboot with sloppy CGI? Sure. But we still enjoy those action scenes, and after all these years, we still enjoy Revel, too.
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This platter of blanched Chinese broccoli sits in a puddle of slightly sweet kecap manis and is a good way to get in your greens. Between the tender leaves substantially soaked in sauce and the crunchy hazelnut-sesame topping, this vegetable dish is something you should order if eating greens is important to you.
This sweet potato pancake has a dark caramelization on the surface, but is somehow also soggy, which is increased two-fold after being topped with a layer of kimcheese. The overwhelming heat steals the show, but not in the best way, like when a toddler starts screaming in the middle of a DMV. We wish the sweet potato batter and subtle bonito flake smoke shines through more, but proceed, maybe with a cold beer on the side, if you’re a true spice lover.
Short Rib Wontons
While these aren’t as spectacular as Revel’s original short rib dumplings, they’re certainly tasty, especially coated in mild chili oil and a blizzard of fried garlic crumbs. It’s a great starter option.
Short Rib Rice Bowl
This bowl should always be your first entree choice. It’s filled with warm rice, mustard greens tossed in a creamy, tangy dressing, a runny egg yolk, and the showpiece: slices of melty short rib steak with excellent char and the kind of soft pink middle that reminds us of a cuddly baby teacup pig. Drizzle some miso sauce on top, mix it all up, and party.
Dungeness Crab Noodle
We’ve always been a fan of Revel’s noodles—especially these seaweed-swirled ones with brothy red curry, chunks of Dungeness crab, and a dollop of crème fraîche. Order this alongside the short rib rice bowl for a surf-and-turf moment.
Pork Osso Bucco
A towering braised pork shank with gochujang mole and spicy carrot pickles alongside split bao is such a good idea. We just wish it was executed a little better. The gochujang mole only has small hints of both gochujang and mole, and is delicious regardless, but the shank is full of tough meat with only trace morsels of tender treasures. You could just dunk the two bao in the skillet of sauce and call it a day, but that’s not the best use of $23.