Sunday, November 30, 2014

Aqua by El Gaucho: Amazing Traditional American Seafood on the Beautiful Seattle Waterfront

Desperately looking for any means to get away from one of the obnoxious yearly holidays known as Thanksgiving where relatives place massive guilt on you if you don't show up for the awkward reunion, in addition of coercing you to take part in following their traditions or whatever the hell they want you to do which would otherwise lead to obnoxious drunken outbursts if not followed; I headed off to Seattle. Its cold weather and rainy skies were actually quite refreshing in contrast to the annoyingly never-ending sunny days that plague Southern California. Something to be noted when flying to Seattle: if you see people wearing a North Face jacket or vest, even more so if they're young college-aged women; they're most likely from Washington State.

Tangent aside, most of the restaurants that I wanted to try out were closed on the holiday; even more so as they were the trendy New American or European-influenced restaurants that SoCal lacks in comparison. As I wanted to have seafood as it deemed more appropriate of the colder, northwestern state; I ended up choosing Aqua by El Gaucho even though I had feared that the food might be too pedestrian for most dining enthusiasts (I really abhor the term "foodie" if taking a picture of the cereal you had poured yourself qualifies you as one) as it seemed like some of the people who dine there really just want to eat at the place solely for the gorgeous location on the Seattle Waterfront and don't mind paying for it without really caring about enjoying the food itself.

Definitely when I arrived there, the restaurant was certainly in a phenomenal location as it was right on the waterfront. The interior was certainly decadent as well with it being a place that serves old-school, traditional American seafood. The hostesses were very warm and kind in acknowledging my reservation while offering to take my coat. However in actuality, the vibe seemed quite accommodating not only due in part of the warm, highly-attentive staff and comforting interior; but it was filled with happy and kind families that chose to festively celebrate the holiday at this restaurant which contributed greatly to the momentum.

Newly seated, the gracious server who sacrificed spending time with his family immediately took my drink order while another server placed warm rolls of White, Wheat and Sesame bread. I ordered one of my favorite cocktails, a Manhattan made with Knob Creek Bourbon. Although standard in terms of appearance, I immediately noticed that it was prepared with the utmost care and precision as it tasted extremely balanced in terms of the measurements for each of the components. This certainly was the best Manhattan I've actually had ever! It certainly was so good that I immediately ordered another one after finishing it.

I ordered the Barents Sea Red King Crab Legs with Lemon Butter and Black Truffle Aioli. Boy was I glad to be enjoying this on Thanksgiving as it arrived quite beautifully! With the shells precut with sheers, it was not difficult opening it up which I greatly appreciated. The crab eaten by itself was extremely bold and lush in flavor. Be that as it may, the lemon butter was definitely the perfect complement for the crab. Although provided some nice acidity at times, I felt that the Black Truffle Aioli fought against the flavors of the crab. With that being said, I picked all of the meat within the crevices of the shells and devoured most of it using the Lemon Butter.

For my side dish came the half order of Sweet Roasted Yellow Corn with Chipotle Lime Butter. It was very richly flavored and satisfying. I could be wrong, but it definitely had a smoky flavor as it might have been cooked with bacon. Although the side was definitely delicious, I felt that it was a tad bit salty. Be that as it may, I would certainly order it again but also hope that the chefs would be more conscientious of adding the right amount of salt to the corn.

As I'm not much of an actual dessert person, I've ordered the Lagavilin 16 Year Single Malt Scotch from Islay (the "Ron Swanson" whisky) to end my meal. It came nice nosing glass in order to efficiently savor the whiskey aromatically.

My time at Aqua by El Gaucho was certainly amazing. Although I had earlier mentioned that I was worried about how the food might have come off as too simple, I was certainly impressed as its simplicity made the flavors of each high quality component stand out boldly. Although the food is quite delicious, the price I have to unfortunately admit was quite high for the value, especially at $89 for the crab legs. In most situations involving dining, I have no problem paying that price if it certainly is worth it. Would I pay for it again? I would but not often, for sure. However, what really left a sour taste in my mouth was paying $20 for a Knob Creek Manhattan. Even though I've just said that it was the best Knob Creek Manhattan I've ever tasted, I felt that it was quite unreasonably steep that I actually filled out a comment card complaining about it. I understand that the upkeep of maintaining a restaurant on a extremely valuable property is quite high, but I still don't feel that reason is adequate enough to justify its high price as even Michelin-starred restaurants don't even charge that high for the same thing.

Be that as it may, I acknowledge that it takes great skill to prepare deceptively simple yet extravagant seafood and craft amazing cocktails with accuracy and precision as they have to maintain high standards throughout the night. In addition to the food and drink, the skills and the attitude of the front of the house staff were certainly quite polished and attentive. The next time I come to Seattle with a companion, I would definitely like to bring that person here without much hesitation, except in regards for the price.
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