Monday, August 3, 2015

Rock Creek Seafood & Spirits, Morsel, and The London Plane: Breakfast and Brunch in Seattle

 Rock Creek Seafood & Spirits

There are certainly a lot of great breakfast and brunch places in Seattle; especially if you're looking to experience the stereotypical Seattle standard of it containing lots of seafood. However, the food climate's changed in Seattle, even though there are still places where you could get a dutch baby or a salmon eggs benedicts. Still wanting a seafood and very Seattle style brunch but with a modern take, we've made plans to go to Rock Creek Seafood in Fremont with having their famous Oyster Eggs Benedict. However, with the wrath of that bad porchetta sandwich from Meat & Bread still inflaming my digestive system, I decided to stay safe even though my friend and I are still went to Rock Creek.

Settled in, the restaurant's in an offkey, yet trendy location. Also, the interior is done tastefully even though I'll gripe about the music played as I found out too late that Rock Creek Seafood refers to their brunch as "Hip-Hop Brunch". Last time I checked, brunch isn't exactly "gangsta"; neither is the author typing this blogpost - zero street cred.

Anyways, with my stomach still suffering, I've decided not to take a chance and to go against my mantra of the first visit involving having to try the most popular dishes according to Yelp and food bloggers. However, that certainly didn't derail my brunch as they had some of their dinner items on the main brunch menu. One thing I have to say is that Rock Creek Seafood doesn't exactly stick to the whole "eating local" mantra, and neither does it say it does as a good chunk of their seafood comes from places outside of the PNW.

What I had to drink was a Salty Dog (not pictured) made with Bombay Sapphire gin. This should have been fine by me. However, with the stomach still not settled it from the Meat & Bread mishap, I could barely have finished half of it to which I ordered just plain grapefruit juice. To those that personally know me, my liver's essentially a furnace.

Anywho... My friend ordered the Public Enemy #1 which was barely legible on their separate "Hip-Hop Brunch" menu in a "gangsta" font. It's Pancakes with Ham, Turkey, Swiss Cheese (took it out due to his lactose-intolerance), and topped with Raspberry Jam and Powdered Sugar; "real gangsta". Regardless of the jab, he says it was pretty satisfying. Come to think of it, what was really ironic was that my friend is actually from East LA where all of the West Coast Gangsta Rap came from that I totally forgot to bring up to him when we were there.

I went with the Jumbo Carolina Prawns St. Helena, Brown Butter, Lemon, Rosemary, and Mc. Ewen & Sons Grits. Although the prawns weren't exactly jumbo, they were really delicious and not overcooked. The grits were wholesome; not sure if there as any cheese though. The brown butter broth was very peppery that brought it all together. Although the amount of food given seemed small, it was sort of fine by me as the peppery flavor of the dish seemed a bit too aggressive for most people during brunch which made my stomach glad it didn't have to endure so much heat early in the morning.

What was bothersome during brunch was that there's an actual DJ spinning vinyls in the restaurant. Not only roughly switching to different tracks, but the sudden base beats and distortion would really throw people off, especially if you were also hungover like me. It's funny as half the people were having "ladies brunch" with their champagne mimosas and the other people according to how they were dressed looked like they came out of an R.E.I.; once again, doesn't exude "gangsta-ness". Also after peeking into the WC, having scented oils isn't exactly "keepin' it real", although I'd admit I'm  very appreciative; once again, a guy with zero street cred.

All in all, the food was really spot on. Even though it didn't fit what outsiders had in mind of a "Seattle Brunch", it was really delicious. With that being said, the food is what really matters and I hope to endure it once again but with a stronger stomach as the Oyster Eggs Benedict will be in my crosshairs.


After hearing of all these biscuit places popping up these past couple of years along with plans of taking my friend to show him the University of Washington (which its campus including frat houses blows away all Southern Californian universities BTW), we've decided to head to Morsel in the U-District. If you recall "The Layover" episode in Seattle covering a place called "Nook", it had closed but reopened as Morsel with a different menu. After seeing the line, I was well prepared to be accustomed to their menu as I went through it like a breeze once the cashier took my order. By the way, the cashier is really awesome and extroverted that seemed to be capable of turning any frown upside down (excuse the cliché) that you had to tip the guy. However, he went quickly through me as it felt that judging by what I wore, I didn't exactly looked like the laid back UW student as I looked like I was posthumously adopted by Mr. Rodgers since I wore a navy cardigan, a graph check white dress shirt, chinos, and a freakin' tie. Regardless, he was still very friendly and nice.

I went with the "Spanish Fly" that had Prosciutto, Fried Egg, Manchego, Arugula, Mama Lil's Pepper Aioli w/ a Cheddar Chive Biscuit (choice of biscuit). Although seemingly a bit more refined compared to the more "smothered" items on the menu with cheese curds and gravy, it certainly was very rich with a considerable part due to the buttery cheddar chive biscuit by itself. It was very delicious with the cured prosciutto providing the animal protein needed to surge the endorphins of the brain during the beginning of the day, the fried egg which also does the same thing but tones down the other more aggressive components without getting too out of control, the manchego cheese providing a more earthy component to the biscuit, the pepper aioli providing a tang to the palate in order to kickstart the brain, and the arugula to provide a nice fresh counterbalace to refreshen the palate. Certainly, it was a damn good biscuit. Despite its small size, it was pretty rich which made it very filling that I couldn't finish it to which I felt bad for cause it was very delicious.

Part of Morsel is Sound Coffee that uses local Jersey milk to add to their coffees. As I've never had one of those pretty looking lattes with the heart pattern foam on top despite having lived in Seattle for 6 months before, I was pretty exited to try it. I went with their 8 oz latte which is a good size latte to start your day.  Not only did it have a hint of natural sweetness from the milk that I didn't need to add any sugar, it was very delicious. For a reference, it certainly beats a latte from Starbucks. There was also a nice amount of foam at the top.

So, if you're looking for a bite in the beginning of the day before you head onto campus either before a class or before you start a tour of the campus,  I highly recommend having it at Morsel.

The London Plane

Last but not least (really...), I made plans to visit The London Plane in the historic Pioneer Square that's created by the owners of Sitka & Spruce and Marigold & Mint before my flight later in the afternoon. Once in the vicinity, it was certainly beautiful the area it was in with its brick buildings and green trees to complement them; imagine Greenwich Village in NYC. Once in there and as others have said, it's as if Pier 1 Imports had a baby with a lighter toned Chez Panisse; just utterly beautiful and quaint along with a femininity that either of the sexes would appreciate.

After being given the menu, I then realized that all of the people of The London Plane all had friendly, disarming smiles from the waitress, to the cashier, and all the way to the cook who had told me where the WC was. Excited from the anticipation of constantly viewing their menu on their side, I confirmed with the menu before me of what I wanted to order. Although their menu has changed from that listed on the website, I still had a general idea of what to order.

What usually pops up a lot on their Yelp page are the pictures of their avocado toast. However, this time, it was Curried Avocado, Shaved Radish, Carrot, Mustard Greens, and Cilantro. They certainly give you a lot as the shaved vegetables on top hide the rest of the toast. When eaten, it certainly lived up to its reputation. The curried avocado paired well with the bread with its distinct curry flavors and freshness from what seemed to be recently smashed avocados. The vegetables on top seemed lightly pickled that their freshness and primarily their acidity uplifted the flavors of the avocado to which they all went together with the bread inducing a pleasurable sensation when one eats carbs. This was a spectacular dish. There might be some naysayers that think it's not worth the $10, but I doubt they haven't tried it yet. This avocado toast (which its preparation will change throughout the year) is a must have to order at The London Plane.

Next came the New Potatoes, Sweet onions, Sultanas & Fennel w/ Dill & Mustard Aioli. This definitely isn't your average potato salad.  The New Potatoes are essentially different kinds of potatoes (purple, red, yellow) that add to the dish's aesthetic along with providing different flavors, although nuanced. The sweet onions provided that needed tang to go along with the rest of the salad and the sultanas (raisins) contributed sweetness that is an essential part to complete the dish. Finally, the fennel, dill and mustard aioli all provided the freshness, tang and acidity to meld all the components together to form a unique, harmonious flavor on the palate.

Unfortunately and a heads up: I couldn't finish either the dishes as I had to make some room for the other in my stomach. You might be overwhelmed by the menu and want to order as much as you can. But as you'll most likely arrive in the beginning of the day where your stomach can't hold much, I'd definitely suggest to order just one thing off of their main menu, and the addition of a pastry at most if you're really hungry. With that being said, along with their variety and with it constantly changing, this is a great spot for Seattleites to have their daily breakfast right before work.

I did order some additional take out from The London Plane so that the family could try some of Matt Dillon's team's wonderful cooking by bring them on the plane ride back. I would have wanted to bring the avocado toast, but that would have oxidized as did my left over piece that I too brought home with me. I chose the Marin Breakfast Cheese, Roasted Cherries & Honey. Granted, it may have not looked as elegant as plated when dining in. However, it was still pretty delicious (not pictured). The cheese itself was firm yet not overly pungent which is great for those just getting up in the morning. The honey and the roasted cherries both provided a sweetness that went well with the cheese and the bread, whereas the roasted cherries along brought some needed tart that would have perked up the eater. Delicious nonetheless, even though the family preferred Salumi's Prosciutto, Fig, and Goat Cheese sandwich instead, but that's on another class on its own.

Ultimately, I was very impressed with The London Plane. It certainly is a new, different breed of the Seattle breakfast. Definitely if you're struggling to find breakfast places, even more so if you're not looking for brunch which The London Plane does also have, do add it to your list if you're an out of towner. If you currently live in the city, why haven't you made the small trek yet to The London Plane if you haven't done so already? Even with all of that being said, you certainly wont be disappointed at all.

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sitka & Spruce (2nd Visit): Delicious Wholesome Food that You Actually Feel Good Eating

Like with my last visit at Sitka & Spruce, the highlight of their food came up as not only the food's healthy as their sources are organic and farm-to-table, but it all tastes delicious which seems sadly counter-intuitive in today's world of processed food and chains. We certainly need more restaurants like S&S throughout the country. Not only would it make us healthier, but it'll teach us how to appreciate and enjoy wholesome food.

Bringing my friend who's from Southern California, he definitely became exposed to restaurants that highlight farm-to-table dining such as The Walrus and the Carpenter which utilizes not only organic ingredients that are much more healthier for your body but also local ingredients highlighting the bounty of the Pacific Northwest.

Now, the ingredients listed on the menu might make some people wonder if it's actually food like "ash roasted shallot", "cured yolk", "burnt honey", "tonnato", etc.. But then again, we ingest artificial compounds such as Acesulfame Potassium (artificial sweetner), Synthetic Trans Fats, Blue # 2, etc.. I'm not saying to never eat processed foods (I certainly still do, and mostly as I'm not overtly aware at the time), but we definitely need to intake more healthier foods in our diet and we also need to demand that it should taste good as well, which is why Sitka & Spruce is a forerunner of today's sought-after restaurants.

If you've ever been to the restaurant or the Melrose Market building that it's in, the interior is very inviting, open, and appropriately artistically modern where it looks like it's done with taste.

This is our meal before the Bourdain show at The Paramount Theater nearby where we'd thought he was going to have a meal prior. Alas, that didn't come true even though the restaurant was filled with people going to the show afterwards.

As it was still sorta hot, especially after walking from our AirBnB, I needed something refreshing for a cocktail. The cocktail list at S&S looks very well thought-out after looking the components for each cocktail. Unlike some of the bars that horribly fail with their mixology, S&S seems to craft cocktails using the right amount of restraint. The cocktail I ordered was no exception which was titled "Grapefruit" which has Blanco Tequila, Salted Grapefruit Cordial, Lime, Campari, and Soda. Not only was it refreshing but all of the components worked together. Some people might complain if they had the drink of not being stiff enough. I digress as the tequila flavor was still bold but without the overwhelming taste of alcohol/ethanol that would have ruined the cocktail; right amount was added. The salted grapefruit and lime really went along with the soda water to make it refreshing while guzzling it down. After ordering it first and with it being a relatively hot day in Seattle, other people got the idea of ordering one for the table.

This is the dish that really surprised my friend of how flavorful and delicious vegetables can be. Who knew green leafy vegetables grilled could be so damn good. This was the Grilled Escarole, Salted Berries, Apricots, Mustard & Shave Lardo. Each component tasted good alone, well maybe except the mustard aioli by itself. The grilling brought out the flavors of the escarole as the burnt flavors add another dimension. The apricots had more of a savory flavor instead as it too was grilled. The fatty lardo was just oozing with lusciousness that it felt like a sin just eating that alone. Also, the salted berries were delicious providing acidity on the palate. However, this is the real magic of S&S: when eating all of the components together, it's like if Gestalt's concept of the whole being greater than the sum of each individual part became experienced through S&S food. Really, when eating all of the components together, they create a symphony, a unique and intricate flavor that its magnitude can only be felt by the tongue that's very difficult to describe. Certainly, this dish was a success and not the only one.

Before proceeding to the next dish, I ordered a non-sparkling Luberon Rosé from Chateau La Canorgue. It being a rose, I felt it would have the uncanny capability of going well with fish yet subtly providing an earthy element to the bounties of the sea.

Next came a dish that I was personally excited for since the PNW specializes in salmon and also I anticipated it more as one of the top restaurants in Seattle was preparing it. Smoked Potatoes, Cured Salmon, Seaweed, Cured Yolk (aioli), and Shaved Horseradish. Before I tasted all of the components together, I've tasted each as much as I could (won't be eating that lone speck of shaved horseradish). The cured salmon had the appropriate level of salt that certainly didn't overwhelm the essence of the fish. Along with flavor, the texture of the salmon was moist which added more pleasure to the palate. Even more so, the smoked potatoes were not only moist and not overcooked but the level of the smoky flavor didn't overwhelm and instead complemented the other components of the dish such as the salmon. When all eaten together, the saltiness from the cured salmon, the earthiness and smokiness from the... smoked potatoes, the acidity and tartness from the cured yolk aioli, the bite from the seaweed, along with the refreshing parsley and shaved horseradish all resonated with each other. I was certainly glad to try this dish.

The first of the mains came: Albacore Tuna, White Cucumbers, Turnips, Red Currants, and Nasturtium (the flowers) in a Seafood Fumé (broth). The albacore tuna was plump in texture while its raw flesh tasted clean and harbored the essence of the fish. On the sides, the sear isn't overly aggressive as the seared crust provided a nice counterbalance in both texture and flavor. The turnips are some of the best I've had. Even my friend complemented and was surprised by them as he says they're usually mushy and horrible tasting; not these ones. In addition to being plump, the seafood fumé really brought out the delicate earthy flavors of the turnip. The white cucumbers and lettuces seemed slightly pickled which was great as it provided some refreshing acidity. Once again, eaten together created a harmony on my palate.

Before receiving the lamb dish,  I had actually wanted to order a cabernet sauvignon, but they didn't have any by the glass. With the help of the waitress, I went with another deep, earthy red which I ordered the Chinon "Les Granges" by Domain Bernard Baudry in the famous Loire Valley. Although definitely earthy, the wine was very fragrant to which I thought paired well with the upcoming lamb dish.

The other main came: Grilled Lamb Leg & Belly, Roasted Carrots, S&S' Yogurt, and Burnt Honey. This dish was certainly a delight of its own. The lamb belly was succulent and certainly sips from the red wine help cut the gaminess while working will with the bold, earthy flavors of the lamb and just melding well with the fatty components in addition. The lamb leg was cooked to a nice medium that seemed appropriate to satisfy a wide range of diners. Although I felt it could have been more moist, it was still delicious while not having the same level of gamey flavors like the belly. The yogurt itself was tart and fresh tasting. For it being one of the lone vegetables, the roasted carrot was sweet while its roasting brought out that particular flavor even more. When eaten all together, especially with having the piece of mint to not only counter the gaminess and provide refreshment on the palate, it seemed like a marriage between Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and Western flavors.

Before the Anthony Bourdain show and wanting to also adhere to a personal tradition, I went with a digestif of Cognac which was a Guillon Painturaud VSOP. Delicate it was and how spontaneously soothed the palate, it was a great way to end the meal.

It certainly was a great last dinner at Seattle at Sitka & Spruce. Once again, it lived to not only live up to my expectations but surprised me even further. My friend even told me that this was his favorite meal, even beating Canlis. What I've also told the waiter was that vegetables haven't tasted as good until I've first dined at S&S. When we were children, I can imagine we weren't all fond of vegetables that our parents made for us. If however they'd prepared it like the talented chefs at S&S, I'm pretty sure we'd have much different perceptions. If you're coming into Seattle and want to try something other than the familiar chain restaurant while wanting to truly experience PNW cuisine, you must eat at Sitka & Spruce.

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The Walrus and the Carpenter - Seattle's Top Oyster Bar for Those that Solely Travel for Food

If you're one of those like me who travel solely for food, then you've must heard of The Walrus and the Carpenter. Made even more famous by Anthony Bourdain's, "The Layover", if you don't get there at least 30 minutes early of opening, you're most likely guaranteed to wait an hour plus; even on a Tuesday. As I was waiting with friends, we've decided to go to Chippy's Fish and Drink right next door. Feeling a little bit guilty as I know that they know we're primarily waiting for the other place in the same building, I order three oyster shots and an IPA.

I ordered one of each of the three types of flavors that were available (Although I'm not sure what kind of oysters but they seem to be the standard, large meaty kind): Ponzu, Lime & Jicama, and the classic Cocktail Sauce. Surprisingly, my favorite one was the Lime & Jicama, then Cocktail Sauce, then Ponzu. I felt that there was too much of the ponzu but the Cocktail Sauce one had the right amount. No doubt, they were all delicious. If you look at the menu of Chippy's, they serve no frills, straight forward American Seafood that you'd get at a seaside shack. I have to say that the servers were really nice. We actually sat at the stools with an opening to the front of the building. It was refreshing to be exposed to the outdoor air as it was raining without getting rained on. However, the people watching made it uncomfortable as when they would walk by, they'd stare at you. With that being said, I have to say that it was interesting to see all the out of towners dropping off at the front of the building from their Lyft/Uber rides. By the way, I highly recommend taking Lyft over Uber as the Lyft drivers are not only friendly & safe, but they provide great conversation to lighten the mood, unlike the Uber drivers that I heard were previous taxi drivers.

Anyways, we had another ten minute wait but as we walked to the front of the restaurant (one of the local friends made the reservation as I didn't go through the hallway to see the front of the restaurant as that's what it takes to get through in order to get to the front of the restaurant), I realized there was a bar next door that's most likely part of The Walrus and The Carpenter as it was under a different name. We probably should have waited in there. Anywho, our table finally opened up and we were excited to finally get to eat.

The first dish is Smoked Salmon w/ Lentils, Walnuts, Onion, and Crème Fraîche. The salmon was firm but it had a nice smoky flavor without being overwhelming. The lentils and walnuts with crème fraîche mixed in provided a sweetness that went well with the smoked salmon. The pickled onion provided countering acidity that when eaten together they all became harmonious with one another.

We've finally got the part of the meal we were the most excited about: the oysters! Starting from the lemons in the picture and then going clockwise, it went from the least briny to the most. The oysters in that order were: Humboldt Gold Kumamoto, Samish Pearl, Naukati Bay, Tomales Bay, Baywater Sweets, Summer Stone. All the oysters were delicous. But even with that said, my favorites were the least briny to the ones that had some in the middle (The Kumamotos to the Tomales Bay). They were served with a Mignonette and Shaved Horseradish (not shaved mozzarella as it looks like from the outside). If I had to compare them to the Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bars and if you have to choose one or the other, I'd say it's better to go to The Walrus & The Carpenter, regardless of the hour wait.

Next came the Grilled Sardines with Walnuts, Parsley, Shallots and what is assumed as Olive Oil. These were delicious as I ordered them unexpectedly all of a sudden as my companions were appreciative that I ordered this dish. Definitely, the grilled sardines didn't have any of that fishiness associated with the fish. In addition, I didn't really encountered any bones which was very appreciative. The walnuts added a crunch and earthiness to the dish and the parsley & shallots contributed refreshing flavors that uplifted the sardines,

These Seattle chefs really can prepare vegetables as I was pleasantly surprised at Sitka & Spruce last time from one of their all vegetable dishes (I will cover my return visit to S&S later). Before us came Billy's Tomatoes w/ Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette, Summer Savory, and Labneh. These tomatoes were succulent whereas the roasted lemon vinaigrette contributed some refreshing yet earthy (from the lemons being roasted) acidity. The summer savory contributed to uplifting the flavors of the tomatoes and the cooling & refreshing labneh along with the associated acidity of it being a strained yogurt brought it all together.

Next came the cured Speck w/ Grilled Figs and Balsamic Vinegar. The speck was very delicious and just loaded with that umami flavor without being too aggressively salty. The grilled figs and balsamic vinegar on top of it contributed both sweetness and acidity that relieved the palate after eating much of the speck. However and as I pointed out to my friends, it's all magic when eaten together where it really proves the Gestalt of things as eaten together is more pleasurable than the sum of pleasure of tasting each component individually. It definitely is a great course to have in order to have something other than seafood without being too filling as I can imagine after waiting for an hour plus, you'd want to try as many things as you can on the menu.

Earlier, I had a Martini w/ a lemon twist but the wonderful and methodical waitress that served us warned be how they added more dry vermouth (I faintly remember hearing about a 1:1 ratio of gin to dry vermouth, a "Perfect Martini" as they refer) to their Martinis. I'd have to say the added vermouth went will with the oysters. However, I forgot to take a picture but after I was done with the martini, I went for an Alimant-Laugner, Crémant d'Alsace Sparkling Rosé as my next drink which proved to accompany well with my following courses.

Next came the Steam Clams w/ Curry Cream, Escarole, and Potatoes. A revamp of the steamed clams dish seen on the Seattle episode of "The Layover". The clams were steamed to the right point as there were none of that tough chewiness as experienced with overcooked shellfish. Initially, my friends and I thought it was coconut milk as curry typically goes with that component. Nonetheless, they went well with the clams along with the escarole and potatoes as well. The waitresses were more than willing to provide bread to sop up all that cream. However, I wouldn't suggest getting too carried away by filling yourself up with bread if your goal is to try the most from The Walrus & The Carpenter.

Right before we've received our cheeses, I've realized that I forgot to order then made the order for the Fried Oysters that's a must after seeing "The Layover". But waiting for those fried oysters, we've received the Hannah Cow/Sheep Cheese with Apricot Preserve and the Barneveld Blue Goat Cheese with Pickled Cherry Preserve. The Hannah was firm in texture while not being overly pungent that went well with the apricot preserve and bread. However, even though the softer Barneveld Blue was good on its own, the pickled cherry preserve was too sweet that overwhelmed the cheese, even with bread added.

Being too full, I'd wished to order this sooner. However, my stomach had to be a champ to eat as many as I can. These are the famous Fried Oysters w/ Cilantro Aioli (although it came with 6, I'm not sure what the oysters were). Freshly fried, they were certainly hot and crisp. Therefore, I was grateful that the cool cilantro aioli was there to go along with the oysters. The fried oysters themselves were seasoned to the optimal point of bringing out the most flavor from the batter without being overkill. When it came to the cilantro aioli, although it brought refreshing flavors from the cilantro component, I felt that it should have been more bolder. Maybe it's because I had to share with the others, so next time, I'll dunk more with the aioli. Certainly, it's definitely a great dish that first timers must try.

Overall, The Walrus and the Carpenter lived up to expectations of being one of Seattle's top, trendy seafood restaurants. It's certainly suits those with more adventurous mindsets and palates that's fitting of the traveler with trying the best food in mind. If you could only choose a few restaurants to go to when visiting Seattle (a common topic on various food-related forums), I would definitely include The Walrus and the Carpenter. You certainly won't regret it!

In regards to the automatic 20% service charge: I have to say that I'm glad they implemented that. Not only is it used to fairly compensate their employees with a livable wage and health insurance that full time employees do deserve, but it definitely forces the horrible people who are cheap that have the emotional intelligence of a child on this subject ("Why me?") to tip properly. By the way, all of the servers were wonderful, kept their cool, and delivered orders accurately in the extremely crowded dining room which is why they totally deserve it.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Canlis (2nd Visit) - The Works of a New Chef and its Unique Situation

After Chef Jason Franey's departure, it certainly made a void at the helms of the Canlis kitchen. However with the recent addition of the newly made Chef de Cuisine at Canlis, Brady Williams, it would seem that Canlis has decided to go towards more of a route utilizing molecular gastronomy. Even with that being said, Canlis has a unique dilemma for a fine dining restaurant: it seems that it wants to attract people from out of town who are really passionate of food (i.e. "foodies") while also  not wanting to alienate their clientele who have more simpler palates or tastes. I will later dwell on that near the end of the blog post.

When we had arrived, the entire restaurant was packed. Although we were a bit early, I had encountered a mishap where I had left my ID and we had to go back to the place we were staying at then quickly returning. What's going to a high-end restaurant serving great food and ambiance without having accompanying drinks that'll also get you a bit lit throughout the experience? When we had arrived again, our table was ready for us. Right when we sat down, we were a table away from being right next to the window. Luckily, the table next to us with the spectacular opened up. However after asking one of the bussers, we had to have approval of the Maître d' before moving. Fortunately my friend and I received approval from him and a grumpier pair that came later took our previous table. No doubt, the view and interior of Canlis is spectacular as it certainly carried vibes of swank and class; a modern take of a 50's dining club.

The Maître d' warmly welcomed us informing of my message I had sent prior to inform my friend's lactose-intolerance and my birthday to which they were more than happy to oblige. Afterwards, we were greeted by one of our main waiters for the night who was a fun, pleasant, easy-going waitress who was also able to attain her formality when chatting casually with us, while she took my drink order. I ordered my usual when it comes to dining at fine establishments like Canlis: a Sapphire Martini with a lemon twist with very little to no dry vermouth; a great way to cleanse the palate. 

After deciding what we'd want to order, the other main waiter came by and took it while taking great detail and enthusiasm of not only just going over each dish but to accommodate and being upfront about our orders, such me wanting to order another dish but was willing to share his concern about not wanting me to order too much to which I'm grateful for. He clearly was the star of the front of the house. FYI, if you go for the Four Course option, instead of two appetizers, one main, and a dessert; you could also go for one appetizer, two mains, and a dessert. This is great for those of you who want to have one main while also wanting to try their famous duck for two for which we did. One of the things I admire about Canlis is them being very easy going and not stickers for generally sticking to the menu (although I'd imagine if one does the tasting menu, the rest has to) while being very reasonable towards the customer of only charging the cheapest item out of the entire menu ordered if you want to order another dish, although the dessert seems to be the exception as they would charge the cheapest thing other than the dessert.

Throughout the meal, the main waitress was very fun to talk to as she would tell us which bars to go in Seattle and how fun they were while taking her very important time to quickly write a list of where we should go for the rest of our trip. Whereas, the other main waiter was very sharp and attentive while going over the dishes and then asking about it with such detail and enthusiasm. It was amazing hearing his input as he was someone with a great amount of experience and insight which adds more to him being the front runner of their service team. The more and more my friend and I were able to talk to them, their already top of the line service got better and better since we're building a rapport and enjoyed each others' company rather than them with some of the other, more grumpier and snootier customers that were primarily going to Canlis solely for it being the fanciest place in town without caring much from the food; not "foodies" at all. I bring up the snooty and utterly demanding clientele as I think the servers, other than the two aces I've mentioned, who brought out the bread and dishes had uninterested deadpan faces without giving much eye contact, if any at all. Although it was disappointing for those other servers to not give anywhere near the same level of enthusiasm as our main waiters, I can't help but feel sympathy for them as they seemed emotionally worn out for dealing with those types of customers. Hell, I'd be the same way if I were serving a bunch of demanding and harsh people who weren't appreciative about being in a high-end restaurant and not wanting to enjoy and be interested in the food. I will dwell more on that later.

Our Amuse Bouches came before us while providing a different to my friend set due to his dietary restriction. Although I don't remember exactly what my amuse bouches were (top), I remember the first two being very delicious and the last chip with the salmon roe & crème fraîche was alright, albeit refreshing.

The bread for this visit was a small baguette with accompanying salted butter. It was certainly very moist and also greatly appreciated to quell our initial hunger. Like with their bread, I hear it's freshly baked for each customer. Although some might say otherwise, I'm really glad that Canlis doesn't give you too much bread to stuff yourself with and would much rather serve you one extremely delicious, high-quality piece as if it were a course itself. I've been to some of the other high-end, more French-focused places who place a lot of emphasis on the bread served throughout the meal: Canlis serves better bread than most of those places I've been to.

My first course was the Foie Gras Torchon w/ Summer Berries, Chamomile Gelée, Nettles, and Amaranth coating the foie gras. The Foie Gras Torchon itself was very rich and heavy that's full of foie gras flavor. Unlike the previous visit at Canlis although they've provided an accompanying piece of cinnamon bread, I'm glad that they've provided a good amount of torchon with refreshing, sweet berries to counter the richness of the foie gras instead of proving too much while having little of the component meant to go against its richness. Along with the Chamomile Geleé, the nettle sauce and the Amaranth coating, the Summer Berries (Blueberry, Blackberry, Strawberry, and Currant) were some of the sweetest, freshest, best tasting berries I've ever had that it was too a pleasure to eat the remaining ones when I've already devoured the foie gras. I'd say, the strawberry was the highlight our of all the berries I was fixated on.

My friend had the Peter Canlis Prawns w/ Dry Vermouth, Garlic, and lime, sans butter (lactose-intolerant). I too was anticipating to try this classic. Even though they've got rid of at least most of the butter, they still tasted pretty damn good! The prawns themselves were plump and succulent and the sauce was still richly flavored with shellfish stock and loaded with umami that it was still beyond passable without the butter. If you had to choose one if you wanted to try one of Canlis' classics, I would highly recommend the Peter Canlis Prawns.

I usually have bad experiences with modern age cocktails/mixology to which I really want to get into. It's most likely due to the fact that I'm a straight up spirit drinker of Scotches and Cognacs which is why I prefer more classic, high-spirited, less sweet cocktails such as Martinis and Manhattans. However, this "Into the Birds Averno" is hands down my most favorite modern cocktail I've tasted. This is what I had in mind hoping when wanting to try mixology cocktains. Although flavored with bourbon and other Italian herbal liquours, the more pronounced flavor of mint came from the Strega herbal liquor component. Surprising to its looks and although it has those rich flavors, it actually is much lighter and somewhat refreshing due to the Strega. Out of all the cocktails on the cocktail list at Canlis, I would recommend trying this one first.

 Next, our fish main courses are up. Like my last visit at Canlis, they seem to do fish very well; and they should being in Seattle. My dish was the King Salmon in Broth w/ Peas, Fava Beans, Lemon Balm, and Mint. This dis incorporates some of the newer methods of cooking such as the Salmon being Sous Vide due to the moistness and softness of texture (and the lack of grill marks and a harder exterior), and molecular gastronomy by relying on the properties of oils and lipids not mixing with the broth. The Salmon is so moist and concentrated with flavor from the vacuum pack of the sous vide. Although some would argue by grilling it or pan searing it, you would bring out more of the flavors of the fish while the carmelization from the sear/grill marks adds another dimension to the dish. Be that as it may, this preparation is quite satisfying to those who love sushi or more rawer preparations of fish and meat. Without the caramelization or the burnt carbons as put in by other preparations, the lack of it allows the soft and delicate salmon to cooperate well with the other lighter components such as the mint and lemon balm to which those components also bring out more of the salmon.

My friend opted for the Halibut that's sauteed/pan fried w/ Summer Squash, Buckwheat, and Manila Clams. Although the caramelization and char brings out some of the flavors from both the fish and the vegetables partucularly, my friend and I believed that although the crust was meant to provide a crisp, crunchier texture to the dish, we've felt that it was overcooked where the flavor from the burnt carbons overwhelmed the delicacy of the dish.

Before our main dish came out that the both of us were excited for, albeit very fitting as a date dish to which we had to both put our egos aside, I went for a glass of Margot Pinot Noir from Colene Clemens in the Willamette Valley, 2011 to go along with the upcoming duck dish as unlike some of the earthier cabernet sauvignons, the pinot noir has a much more resilient berry component and associated acidity while having a tone of earthiness that would pair well with duck rather than red meat such as beef. The sommelier was very friendly and excited to give his concise notes of the pinot noir I was having as he had me smell and taste the wine for approving. Of course, it was very delicious and was how I'd just described it to be. Giving a warm and devoted smile with appropriate eye contact that's inviting and completely the opposite of a glare, he finished pouring the rest. 

FYI to those that don't know unless if the wine is really bad even though I really enjoyed the wine provided and felt that it was well compatible with the upcoming duck, it's generally polite to still accept the wine even though it might not completely suit your taste as he or she already opened the bottle.

Finally! I get to try the famous 28-day dry-aged Muscovy Duck. Granted, most dishes meant for two are generally date dishes. However, my friend and I are pretty secure with ourselves to not let that get to us. On to the dish: a 28-day dry-aged duck breast that's roasted whole w/ Radish, Cherry Gastrique, and Spring Onions. The duck itself was seasoned to the right point with the right amount of salt on the skin. Eaten together with the radishes and the different types of spring onions along with rubbing the duck with some of the cherry gastrique, all the components blended well. The earthy acidity and sweetness from the cherry gastrique complemented the rich fatty flavors of the well seasoned duck and the zing from the spring onions provided a refreshing contrast to the heaviness of the duck which also invigorates the tastebuds to amplify the tongue's ability to taste all the components further. My only issue with the duck is that I felt it's been either cooked too long or left out for quite awhile as it wasn't as moist as duck can be (think of Chinese roasted duck that you'd find in dim sum restaurants or Peking duck as well). Otherwise it's a solid dish that I highly recommend trying when you're dining at Canlis as most likely, you'll get a more fresher, moist piece as we ordered ours later in the night.

With still some room left in the stomach, I ordered an additional dish for myself which is the Artichoke w/ Dungeness Crab, Potato, Buttermilk, and Nasturtium which are those dark green leaves that look like lillypads. This dish was amazing as it was loaded with the Dungeness Crab (Canlis certainly doesn't skimp on the high quality ingredients). The artichokes tasted really fresh which gave the crab some earthy flavors. The nasturtium brought some additional fresh flavors to the dish while the lemon juice mixed in brought out and uplifted the flavors of the artichoke and the dungeness crab especially, whereas the potatoes served as a bite to accompany texture in the dish while absorbing some of the lemon juice in order to not let it become too acidic on the palate. As the waiter inquired about how I enjoyed the dish, we've both agreed that there should be a name change to the dish as there's significantly a whole lot of crab in each bite. Although I can understand the chef wanting to use artichoke as its name as you can see it more visually than the crab along with it being a huge component in the flavors of the dish; from a marketing prospective, it would seem to be better to change the name of the dish to Dungeness Crab in order to entice more customers to order the dish, and like I said before, I've taste more of the crab compared to the other elements of the dish. If it's still on the menu, I'd definitely recommend someone in your party to order it, especially if you or someone else wants to try the bounties of the Pacific Northwest.

After devouring the duck, this is the part where I usually indulge in a liquid dessert like a Single Malt Scotch or a Cognac. I forgot to take the photo but me being partial to the scotches of Islay with their intense peatiness that incorporates medicinal and smoky flavors, I went with a Laphroaig 18. The peatiness was certainly more than the 10 year that I usually drink. Even with that being said, the flavors were more restrained while the amplitude of the peaty flavors were more than the 10 year. I certainly enjoyed this Scotch as it was served in one of those snifter-like tasting glasses. If you haven't tried Laphroaig, you have to try the 10 year ASAP, especially if you're a Scotch lover like I am.

Although looking at the dessert menu I was more interested in the "Buckwheat" dessert with Strawberries and Devonshire Cream which all sounds delicious by the way, I went for the original Canlis Soufflé as not only was it on my to-eat list and me not going to be back for a while as I'm out of state, it's mainly because I was disappointed with the dessert I had during my previous visit as I don't want to experience that same mishap again which is why I want to go for their classical dessert. After the waitress poked a hole on the top of the soufflé, she poured the Crème Anglaise into it and left the rest of the glass on the side. Although the menu says that it takes 30 minutes to prepare the dessert, our waitress says realistically it's more like 15 minutes and she was right. After blowing out the candle, the candle holder was an apricot gummy that was certainly delicious. On to the actual dessert itself: it was certainly eggy in both flavor and texture as the texture was mixed with being fluffy and runny at the same time (also due to the crème anglais mixing in with the soufflé). The Grand Marnier liquor gave the dessert citrus notes without being too aggressively citrusy. And, the sweet creaminess of the crème anglais not only provided a sugar rush on the palate, but the creaminess melded the citrus and egg flavors well together. It's definitely a solid dessert where you cannot go wrong ordering it, especially if it's your first time at Canlis. At least someone in your party should order it and they'll certainly be happy, unless if you have the same dietary restriction as my lactose-intolerant friend.

At the end of our meal, the most embarrassing thing happened to me that one could possibly face at a fancy establishment where your reputation can be tarnished: my debit card was declined! As everyone at the last few tables left, our star waiter politely gave me privacy and patience for me to take care of this matter. Although it took around 30 minutes, the issue was that I didn't let my bank know about my travel plans as I had thought it was only for international travel, even though I didn't let my bank know before that I was out of state and was fine (this actually was during the first time I went to Canlis actually). Once it finally went through after finishing talking to the bank at 12:30 am, I was immediately relieved and the waiter was certainly glad that the situation resolved, not solely because I was able to pay for the meal but he was certainly empathetic towards my situation as he didn't show any issue and was more than willing to wait. I share that particular situation on this post to demonstrate the high aptitude of the service team at Canlis as they're really thoughtful and attentive to your needs; just downright good people.

The waiter left our complementary chocolate bars and macarons which their flavors change throughout the year during the frustrating call I had with the bank. Not exactly sure what the pinkish orange macarons were but I think they're Apricot but the other brown ones were Hazelnut Coffee. The flavor of the chocolate bar was Mint Chocolate Chip. After I took care of the mishap of the bill, I finally ate the macarons guilt free while saving the bar for friends and family to enjoy back home in California like with my last trip. Canlis has certainly nailed it providing macarons as a great way to end the meal. Not only being in Seattle, it would seem wasteful to not take advantage of the coffees they have at Canlis. I went for the Flying Boat Irish Coffee. Certainly it was very delicious with the warm coffee spiked with Irish Whiskey whereas the dollop of cool heavy cream on top gave it a refreshing, invigorating contrast.

My meal at Canlis was very wonderful, especially as I was able to bring a friend from out of town to experience it. The food is certainly solid as I don't doubt most people with a sense of taste will certainly enjoy it as Seattle's best high end restaurant. With that being said, this leads me wanting to share my thoughts of Canlis' current situation, or even a dilemma. 

With Seattle booming even more as their tech sector's still growing, there will be an influx of wealthy or well off people in the city creating even more of a demand for high end dining. However, there is a good chunk of people who simply go to Canlis just because it's the nicest place in Seattle with a spectacular view while not caring a whole lot for the food itself which is sad as that's what one should go to a restaurant primarily for. Basically, these people have no taste or haven't developed a sense of what's good and only see food as a source of nutrients, not for taste which translates into pleasure. Throughout the Lyft ride I took to Canlis, the driver told me some of the customers' opinions of how they say Canlis is overrated and only good for the view which saddens me to hear, especially as I'm not part of the staff at all. If you look on Instagram with #Canlis, most of those photos are people taking pictures of themselves or selfies; shouldn't they be filled with food? That tells to me as I said earlier that a good chunk of people only want a nice place to be at between the hours of 6-10 pm without caring about what they put in their mouths. In addition, they'd probably would add more to the trash talk.

When tasting the food, I could certainly taste or even feel the restraint in the cooking, and not the good kind to not let aggressive flavors go out of control. I understand that Canlis is a restaurant with a long standing tradition and history that doesn't want to alienate its loyal patrons with simpler tastes (just to be clear, I'm not trying to give those types of people a hard time as I'm definitely capable of knowing how simple foods are deceptive in the following sense as there certainly is a complexity involved such as a good steak or well prepared sushi) since it started out as a steakhouse serving what you'd expect since the 1950s. However, I personally feel that the restraint is implemented due to the fact that they know that a lot of people with unrefined tastes and aren't adventurous in that regard will dine over and do not want to shock them with avant-garde cuisine as that's the direction Canlis is taking since hiring on Chef Jason Franey. Also in regards to the restraint and on the other end of the spectrum, there are those that are certainly snobs, or at least act snobbish but don't really have any taste, that would try to find fault in everything that's in front of them while barking hideously at the servers which would ultimately degrade the quality of service since the front of the house staff would be worn out when moving to a new set of customers. With that being said, it's not just Canlis, but any restaurant won't ever be able to really please these types of people; that's what the overpriced steakhouses are for. Most likely, these people won't return anytime soon, or at most they'll probably come by once every few years for a really, really special occasion.

Moving on to my point: regardless of what previously was said, Canlis, with its stellar and unmatched service that dwarfs even some of the restaurants with Michelin stars, and having a Chef de Cuisine who trained at a two Michelin Starred restaurant in Brooklyn who is also gifted in molecular gastronomy; certainly it is clear that Canlis has the potential to truly become one of the best, most innovative restaurants in the nation. For starters, they certainly need to get rid of the current tasting menu involving modern approaches of their classics if they haven't so already. As the tasting menu usually involves solely on the creations of the Chef de Cuisine, the prospective tasting menu should be with Chef Brady Williams having complete control, or at least the majority of it, of what's going to be on it highlighting his cooking technique. Also Canlis being a restaurant in Seattle, the tasting menu should mainly utilize the local ingredients while only importing a few specialty ingredients in order to make it the best and most unique restaurant in Seattle. In order to still retain the loyal followers who've been dining at the restaurant before the days of Chef Franey, they should have a separate menu having only the classics, or if that seems much, keep doing what they've been doing by adding the classical dishes to the menu but have an asterisk next to them noting them as such. However, as someone who generally prefers a la carte for most meals, not just the tasting menu but Canlis really needs to let Chef Williams loose to crank up the innovation so that most items on the menu can be both mind-blowingly delicious and innovative at the same time of which the diner won't have expected to taste anything like it before while being pleasantly surprised and satisfied as well. One of the things that usually gets people coming back to these high end places in particular is its quality of only offering food that really can't be served elsewhere along with being mesmerizingly delicious that they'll want to go back with a deep yet unexplainable yearning. Restaurants that are successful in that regard, such as the now defunct "El Bulli", want their customers to not stop raving over the dishes had over the following days; even and especially for the most seasoned diners as well. I personally think it's imperative for a restaurant to develop a menu without much compromise (well in this case, still have items for the other patrons). If you even look at some of the other restaurants in Seattle such as "Sitka & Spruce" and "The Walrus & the Carpenter", albeit not high-end, the customers keep coming back, even if they're from different parts of the world. Not only are reservations filled, but even "The Walrus & the Carpenter" with their no reservation policy always have lines of people waiting for an hour plus, even on a Tuesday. Not only do those restaurants use high quality, local ingredients, their main attribute is their innovation: making unique dishes utilizing local ingredients and using unique cooking techniques that makes food from their restaurants hard to emulate. 

With all of that being said, I implore of Canlis to let the creativity of their cuisine go with guns blazing. I hope to return to Canlis in the near future and as they usually say: "The third time's always the charm."


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