Saturday, October 30, 2010

Seattle Restaurant Week Autumn 2010

I never really understood the hype and excitement around restaurant weeks. An experience last year tainted my opinion of eating for a "deal." I became a skeptic and I simply wrote off restaurant weeks as bad food wrapped up in good deals.

Enter Seattle Restaurant Week Autumn 2010. Flaunting a long list of eateries, I was already beginning to sense a feeling of quantity over quality. Though I had a genuine desire to give restaurant week another shot, I decided to go to restaurants that offered the best deals. In other words, pricier restaurants with limited or no happy hours. At the very least, I thought, I would pay less for what would normally be an exorbitant dinner.

Reservations for places like Rover's, Crush, and Spring Hill filled up in a New York minute, so I had to do some serious research for places I hadn't tried yet. The final list? The Pink Door, Palace Kitchen, Stumbling Goat Bistro, How to Cook a Wolf, and Poppy.

Because a review of each individual place would be a bit much, I'll try to stick to the fastballs and homeruns of each restaurant.

First, The Pink Door.

Hands down, the star was the Lasagna Pink Door. This gem of a pasta consists of fresh spinach pasta layered with besciamella and pesto, and is topped with a smooth marinara sauce. Though the dish comes out not looking like much, each bite contributes to what becomes a sincere addiction for the smart, balanced flavors of greens, reds, and whites: a true tribute to a classic Italian dish.

Palace Kitchen's star of the night was the Wood Grilled Lamb Sirloin with Garlic Sausage, Feta Bread Pudding, Arugula, and Pepperoncinis; a twist on the menu's standard Fennel Spiced Lamb Sirloin, Pepperoncinis, Feta, and Garlic and Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes. The lamb was cooked to medium-rare perfection, and the bread pudding added a robust base to the dish, without being too heavy. The pepperoncinis added a nice flare to the other gamey and starchy flavors, but were rounded out by a not too overpowering dash of garlic and a resilient feta. Overall, the wide array of flavors came together to a nice balance that still showcased the incredible cut of lamb.

A Tom Douglas restaurant rarely goes reviewed without a cameo made by his Dahlia Triple Coconut Cream Pie with White Chocolate and Toasted Coconut. I never though much of this pie, but that's probably because I'd only had it in it's miniature form. It was only when I got it in its full-fledged wedged glory that I understand why this is such a staple in his restaurant empire. Without being too sweet, this pie combines the crispy texture of perfectly toasted coconut shavings with delicately thin slices of white chocolate. None of the flavors were too overwhelming, which ultimately helped to showcase the pie's memorable combination of textures and subtle flavors.

Next stop: Stumbling Goat Bistro.

Tucked away in a sometimes ignored Phinney Ridge, Stumbling Goat Bistro shared two incredible dishes, among several other delicious pieces.

The first was a Butternut Squash Soup with Crème Fraiche and an Apple Cider Reduction. The hearty squash was further sweetened with the faint, acidic drizzle of a dense apple cider reduction and perfectly balanced with a surprisingly grounded crème fraiche. The overall product was a comforting, seasonal soup that set the tone for the rest of the night.

On the other end of the three-course meal was a divine Salted Caramel Pots de Creme. Like a pudding interpretation of a salted caramel ice cream, this pots de creme reached all parts of my palette and added an appropriate kick to the end of my meal. Though the cookie adorning the pots de creme was passable, the whipped cream added a welcoming balance to the dessert.

Day four featured an Ethan Stowell restaurant: How to Cook a Wolf.

If How to Cook a Wolf always does what it did this time for Seattle Restaurant Week, make it a point to go. Their deal is the biggest steal I've ever seen: One plate, one pasta, and one dessert from their regular menu for $25. Even though they don't take reservations, the wait is manageable, especially after 8:00pm. The best items came from the small plates.

The first was an Ahi Crudo with Avocado, Serrano Chile, and Lime. Typically, I like my tuna raw, naked, and alone. I rarely like my sashimi accompanied by mere distractions. In this case, however, the tuna was elevated by its partners in crime, and the overall dish was a unique take on even your typical crudo.

The second highlight of the night was the Soft Boiled Egg with Grain Mustard Aioli and Chives. The chives balanced really well with the mustard aioli to give the soft boiled egg a good kick of acidity and punch. The egg was cooked hard enough to please hard boiled egg traditionalists, but soft enough to hint at a creamy deviled egg. All in all, delicious.

The final stop of this culinary excursion was Poppy.

Poppy is a place that I'd been wanting to compare to the traditional Indian thali restaurant for a while now.

I decided to try the thali that included Qualicum Scallops and Pork Belly with Vanilla-Thyme Quince; Cucumber, Eggplant, and Shiso Pickle; Radicchio, Fig, and Pumpkin Seed Salad; Pumpkin, Bay, and Green Chile Soup; Chard, Chanterelle, and Farro Gratin; Fingerlings with Lavender and Mint; and Nigella-Poppy Naan.

The star and namesake of the restaurant was the Nigella-Poppy Naan. Not too much of a departure from the traditional naan, but enough to bring some crispy excitement to an old favorite. The Pumpkin, Bay, and Green Chile Soup was also a favorite, combining earthy tones of pumpkin with small traces of spice. The Radicchio, Fig, and Pumpkin Seed Salad was a very seasonal dish that was a refreshing trio of distinct flavors. The last notable dish on the thali were the Fingerlings with Lavender and Mint. Right when I thought the lavender would overwhelm, the refreshing mint supplanted the flowery flavors that accompanied the well-seasoned potatoes.

On the dessert side, the star was the Concord Grape Sorbet with Rosemary Granite. While the grape sorbet tasted like a nostalgic grapesicle, the rosemary granite added a nice bit of texture and a more refreshing taste to the dessert. The unexpected pairing of grape with rosemary was the perfect way to end a successful restaurant week.

Needless to say, the point of this post is to suggest that if you've lost hope in all restaurant weeks, please reconsider. I know some restaurants can do it completely wrong, but give it another shot. Though I've only mentioned a few of the many dishes I got to sample, I feel confident enough in saying that any of these menu items would be worth trying. Though I have yet to get a complete sense of what these restaurants have to offer, I am intrigued, and I would not mind going to any of these restaurants again for a hefty second bite.

The Pink Door
1919 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 443-3241
GET: Lasagna Pink Door.

Palace Kitchen
2030 Fifth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 448-2001
GET: Wood Grilled Lamb Sirloin with Garlic Sausage, Feta Bread Pudding, Arugula, and Pepperoncinis; Dahlia Triple Coconut Cream Pie with White Chocolate and Toasted Coconut.

Stumbling Goat Bistro
6722 Greenwood Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 784-3535
GET: Butternut Squash Soup with Crème Fraiche and an Apple Cider Reduction; Salted Caramel Pots de Creme.

How to Cook a Wolf
2208 Queen Anne Ave.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 838-8090
GET: Ahi Crudo with Avocado, Serrano Chile, and Lime; Soft Boiled Egg with Grain Mustard Aioli and Chives.

622 Broadway E.
Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 324-1108
GET: Concord Grape Sorbet with Rosemary Granite.

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