Monday, December 1, 2014

Sitka & Spruce - One of the Most Ideal Restaurants to Enjoy Modern Pacific Northwestern Cuisine: Truly (Organic) Farm to Table Food / A Brief Prelude of the Best Espresso I've had Ever at Victrola Coffee Roasters

After seeing Anthony Bourdain's The Layover Seattle episode many times, it was definitely certain that I would be dining at one of Seattle's modern dining establishments that truly highlights the bounty of the Pacific Northwest: Sitka & Spruce. To be honest, I had been hearing of how "overrated" the restaurant was as some people's comments were along the lines of the food at Sitka & Spruce "being just a bunch of barely cooked vegetables on a plate". Because of that, I was almost unjustly swayed away from the restaurant by wanting to try some of the other restaurants in its league such as The Walrus and The Carpenter or The Whale Wins. Fortunately for the case of Sitka & Spruce, both of Renee Erickson's restaurants were closed for lunch (certainly hope to dine at those places in the future) as that was the only time I could dine since I reserved dinner for Canlis to which I will certainly review soon.

As I was looking for time to kill as Sitka & Spruce opened up at 11:30am as it was pouring, I ended up going for coffee; something I actually wanted to avoid in Seattle as I would down five shots of espresso each day at work. In addition to it not being Starbucks, I actually wondered to an amazing coffee house in Capitol Hill as the exterior immediately exuded a vibe that it was where the true, local coffee connoisseurs went to get their fix: Victrola Coffee Roasters. The moment I walked in, the man with a welcoming, relaxed demeanor in a place that sold stimulants immediately took my order for a double espresso for $2.50. After waiting for a while, it actually turned out that my order had already been called for. Be that as it may, the barista willingly offered to make another one without me needing to bring it up. After immediately picking up the remade order, I divulged in what was the best espresso I've ever had: harmoniously and elegantly bold & bitter, garnished with a slight, natural sweetness.

After I enjoyed the best espresso, I immediately walked over to Sitka & Spruce when it opened; albeit my 12:00 reservation. Impressed by the tasteful modern decor while the Seattle rain further accentuated its vibe, I became quite excited to sit at my table and receive the menu when the host promptly sat me ahead of my reservation. Although the descriptions may seem either too merely simplistic, downright weird, or both to those not familiar with or perhaps unwilling to open their horizons in regards to this style of food preparation; for those that truly enjoy food: this menu will certainly make the mouth of any dining enthusiast immediately salivate.

After gazing over the drink menu (not pictured), I ordered one of my standard cocktails, the Manhattan, from the extremely attentive and informative waiter who also happened to be the bartender. Of course, he crafted my cocktail with the utmost care even though an orange twist/peel was used as the garnish like that in an Old Fashioned instead of the traditional Maraschino cherry. I didn't catch what bourbon was used but it was still a great way to start the afternoon nonetheless.

Originally wanting to go for three dishes, I actually decided to order just two. I later realized that it was quite the wise decision as I felt that it was quite misleading of some of the negative reviews I had read saying that the dishes were small & overpriced. In reality, it was quite the contrary as the price of each dish was quite reasonable when factoring not only the amount of food actually on the plate but also including that it was made with extremely fresh & organic high-quality, local ingredients while utilizing the accurate expertise and the utmost care from the chefs themselves.

Starting out, I had the Black Cod Brandade with Apple, Cultured Cream and Sourdough. Garnished with fennel, the dish looked absolutely like a work of art (please excuse the cliché). Just a warning: eating the brandade as is was actually quite aggressively fishy. Some of my readers might say "seriously? Don't you eat sushi quite frequently?", even though when in actuality sushi should definitely be clean tasting. After making that mistake, I immediately realized to eat all of the components together; made clear sense after that. To balance the "fishiness" of the brandade, the tang from the cream, the crunch and slightly buffering quality while too contributing to the tang from the sourdough (hence the name), and the refreshing sweetness of the apples all go together in order to create a harmonious and complex symphony of flavors. As my waiter put it, putting all of those components together in one bite is supposed to hit all characteristic aspects of one's palate: sweet, savory, sour, umami, etc..

After finishing my Manhattan, the next drink choide definitely seemed quite logical to go with the next dish: a non-sparkling Domaine de Torraccia, Corse Porto Vecchio Rosé.

With that first dish being quite satisfying albeit the initial mishap, I was immediately ready to proceed to my next dish: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Borani (a Persian yogurt appetizer), Chili Vinegar and Dried Cranberries. At Sitka & Spruce, it seemed quite imperative and crucial to order a vegetable dish. Some may scoff at ordering a vegetable dish if it doesn't have any meat. However, this dish is a prime example to think twice before doing so as it actually was the second best dish overall of my Seattle trip, let alone being the best dish for this meal. With the Brussels Sprouts roasted, there was not only the flavors and moisture kept intact but it also gave it caramelization which gave it not only more texture, but also bringing out the sprouts' natural sweetness. The Chili Vinegar besides obviously giving the dish overall a spice component, the flavors of it along with its acidity complemented well with the earthiness of the sprouts. In order to bring down the heat, the Borani along with its tartness provided quite the refreshing contrast to counter while also working at the same time with the chili vinegar. In addition, the dried cranberries gave the dish quite the concentrated tart and fruity component that provides it the well-needed, satisfying aftertaste while the cilantro served to cleanse the palate.

After noticing that I immediately devoured this at a much more rapid pace while traces of the Borani and Chili Vinegar was still left on the place, my waiter was kind to provide some slices of their amazing bread at no charge to mop it up.

As I've said earlier, I extremely disagree with the negative criticism of the dishes being small as I was very full. Really wanting to try a third dish as I would be flying back the next day, I whipped up the courage to order dessert; something I rarely do - Parsnip Cake with Salted Bay Leaf Ice Cream and Walnut Praline. Besides looking quite decadent to those that have blogs or Instagram pages completely devoted to baking and cakes, this was a great way to end the meal aside from the Balvenie 12 year Scotch I had immediately after. In addition to not being overwhelmingly rich and sweet that turns me off from most desserts, the Parsnip Cake was quite moist and provided the flavorful experience as if one was eating shortbread cookies. The Salted Bay Leaf Ice Cream was not strong but extremely refreshing as it proved itself to be a much more unique alternative to the much plainer vanilla flavor. Finally, the sweet and crunchy Walnut Praline provided the candy texture that pairs extremely well with the cake.

To say that my meal at Sitka & Spruce was an extremely satisfying one would be quite an understatement. Having food like this is certainly a lifechanger as this is the first time in quite a while where I've felt that I actually ate wholesome food as it is essentially the complete opposite of the processed foods I'm used to eating back home. Everything I put in my mouth felt natural for my body to consume not only for nutrition but also for pure enjoyment. I hope that me writing this post can justly negate the comments of the food at Sitka & Spruce being "extremely weird, small in amount, very overrated, and food only for hipsters". For those that want to experience modern, truly wholesome Pacific Northwestern cuisine; Sitka & Spruce, without hesitation, is a must as one of Seattle's premiere dining destinations.

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