Bookstores, coffee shops, the gorgeous library, John Irving at Town Hall, Pike Place Market, bicycle rides, ferry rides, and food food food. That was the Seattle itinerary. Yesterday's post provided a few snapshots of some of the street snacks sampled during our trip. Today it's mostly a look at a few really fine restaurants: Revel, Sitka & Spruce, and The Walrus & The Carpenter.
Husband/wife chef-owners Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi met while cooking at New York's Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. Rachel brings influences from her Korean heritage; Seif contributes an American farm-to-table sensibility. The industrial space features a large butcher block chefs table -- behind which sous chef Mike is getting set to release our salad:
Revel's cuisine was clean, creative, luscious. We started with sturdy dumplings filled with chick pea, kale, roasted cauliflower, mustard yogurt and parsley ($9) and then had a salad of hearts of palm, spinach, black lentil, smoked peanut, and miso vinaigrette ($8):
Homemade seaweed noodles with dungeness crab, spicy red curry broth, and créme fraiche: arguably the single most delicious plate (bowl) of food we ate in Seattle ($16 -- the most expensive dish on the regular menu!):
Revel's "Summer Grill Shack Menu" features a whole animal, butchered on premise and grilled outdoors over apple wood fire. The night we visited featured a pig from Pure County Farm in Washington. We tried a starter sampler of sausage, belly, and smoked ham steak ($18).
The Walrus & The Carpenter is an oyster bar/local pub/small plates place helmed and partnered by the well-regarded local chef Renee Erickson. It's another industrial-style space, with a heated outdoor patio. Clams, mussels, house smoked fish and specialty meats share the menu with oysters shucked and served in numerous ways.
I didn't take my camera to this particular dinner (hey, I was on vacation!), but we had fresh oysters, oyster consommé, geoduck tartare, fried fish skins, spring radishes with foie gras butter, sardines, halibut...the most expensive plate on the menu was around $12. Again: Pretty much a flawless succession of clean, locavore-leaning cuisine in a hip city atmosphere.
Guess you can say I was pretty ignorant of the Seattle dining scene before arriving here. When Seattle Weekly critic Hanna Raskin described the restaurant Sitka & Spruce to me as being "the definitive Matt Dillon experience," I figured she meant it exuded a Drugstore Cowboy vibe. In fact, Mr. Dillon just weeks ago nabbed the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest. Sitka & Spruce is his less formal establishment, but as with the other two restaurants above, the food was brilliant. We sat at the chefs table, our seats right by the kitchen workspace.
Looking towards other end of chefs table and dining room:
We started with cured local seafood -- loxed Quilayute king, smoked river trout, and cured Puget Sound silver smelt -- and amazingly fresh greens ($15.50):
Unbeatable bread basket:
The vegetables here tasted as though picked from the ground in the kitchen; in fact the restaurant gets many of its vegetables and its eggs from its own farm on Vashon Island. Asparagus was served with sheep's milk feta, pumpkin seed, and za'atar ($13); king bolete mushroom was sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and parlsey and topped with a softly cooked egg ($17). From the fireplace, we had mains of slow-cooked half chicken with morels and caraway seed, ramps, flageolet, thyme, and caramelized butter ($35):
We also loved the local halibut (seen before being plated) with ramps cooked in yogurt, miner's lettuce, and a side plate of lentil pilaf, nan-e-lavash bread, yogurt salad and "many herbs" ($36):
Doughnuts are big in Seattle. Top Pot Doughnuts are the most popular:
You may have heard that coffee is popular here as well. Victrola Coffee Roasters poured the best cup I tried, even if the counterperson was the only rude Seattle-ite that I encountered on the trip:
I hate to admit it, but I did visit the original Starbucks. It looks old as the tourists who frequent it:
Final thoughts: Seattle is a smart, beautiful city with wonderful cuisine and a strong sense of civic pride. Plus lots of tattoos.