Sunday, August 2, 2015

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.

Click to add a blog post for The Walrus and the Carpenter on Zomato

No comments:

Post a Comment