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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