Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Tilth is an institution. Before I even moved to Seattle, Maria Hines' Tilth was at the top of my list of places to go to in Seattle.

Forget the Space Needle and Pike Place Market; I was pumped to try one of the first restaurants to lay the tilth for today's local, organic, and sustainable food movement.

Tilth is also a quintessential Seattle restaurant: a cozy environment, comforting food, friendly service, and simple decor.

From the light green accents to the stacked fireplace, there's no better way to feel like you're eating in Seattle.

Though a few dishes are regulars, the menu changes seasonally, so this post will only speak to what I had.

First and foremost, their Housemade Butter is phenomenal. Smooth and creamy, the butter complements any piece of bread beautifully. Housemade butter is one of those things, like chanterelle mushrooms and sous vide eggs, that can win my heart over in a millisecond.

Every dinner I've had here was introduced with a small, chilled soup. Every soup I've had has been a great palate-whetter. Though none of them have been mind-blowing, they all served the purpose of piquing my interest and readying my appetite for the meal.

If Tilth is offering a seasonal special, get it.

I had the Figs with Preserved Lemons, Lemon Vinaigrette, Almonds, and Farmer's Cheese and it blew me away. This may still be my favorite dish I've had at Tilth. The freshness of all the ingredients and the way the sweetness of the figs played off of the citrus lemons and fresh almonds worked well with the tart, creaminess of the fresh cheese. The simplicity of this dish really shows off the complex and sophisticated palate behind the food at Tilth.

The summer menu featured a Watermelon Carpaccio with French Melon, Feta, and Wild Mint. I loved the way the melons tasted with the fresh mint, which both tamed the strong feta flavor. Overall, this was another showcase of Chef Maria Hines' ability to concoct simple flavor combinations.

My favorite from the summer menu was the White Corn Flan with Nasturtium, Corn Kernel, and Pop Corn Shoot. I've ordered this dish in both the full and half size portions on various occasions, and it never got old. The white corn flan had just enough salt to bring out the fresh flavors of the white corn base. Though I was worried that the excessive corn flavors might overpower the dish, the pop corn shoots helped to level the straightforward corn flavor from the corn kernels, which in turn helped to bring out the white corn accents in the creamy flan. The nasturtium petals brought in a very subtle floral flavor to bring together the whole dish.

Another summer favorite was the House Made Pappardelle with Fava Beans,Cipollini, and Sous-Vide Egg. This dish was perfect. The fava beans were cooked just enough to add some texture, but blended in with the fresh textures of the house made pappardelle and the sous vide egg. The cipollini came in just enough to bring in a mouthwatering sharpness to the dish. This is definitely one of two extremely hearty dishes I've had at Tilth.

The other hearty dish I've had at Tilth is the Bluebird Grain Farro Risotto with Basil Pistou, Mornay Sauce, and Spinach. This has to be the most beautifully presented farro I've ever seen. When most people slap on the title of "risotto" to a non-traditional grain like farro, I usually have my doubts. The break from tradition here, however, was welcome. Though farro is naturally a little bit harder to break down and chew, the mornay sauce helped to tenderize the farro's tough texture. The smooth spinach and the basil pistou added a strong, herbal base to the entire dish. I was fascinated by the way the two heartiest dishes were also the most vegetarian-friendly entrées. This is another signature that Chef Maria Hines has brought to the culinary scene since she opened Tilth: vegetarian options that are not the lesser options on a restaurant menu.

The meat-based dishes were also well-prepared.

The most inventive of the dishes I've had was the Pete Knutson's Wild Sockeye Salmon with Tomato Water, Currant Tomato, and Romano Bean. The salmon was cooked just enough to add that crispy texture to the small layer of skin sitting on top of the main meat. What I love about Chef Maria Hines is that she combines several different variations of a very similar ingredients in a single dish to somehow accentuate their differences. As she did in the corn flan, melon carpaccio, and the risotto, this dish combined a common element, tomato here, with a main, but also secondary element. The crispiness of the salmon carried the texture of the dish, which was playfully balanced with the tomatoes and tapioca balls. I could have done without the tapioca, but they did add a little fun to the dish.

The Grilled Eel River Ranch Sirloin with Fried Green Tomato, Cheesy Grits, and Chow Chow sounds heavier, but was prepared and served in a way that didn't leave me as painfully full as other sirloins. Almost like a homage to southern cuisine, this dish served up a solid combination of well-seasoned beef and bright tomatoes on a grounded grit base.

The Pan Seared Wild Alaskan Halibut with Haricot Vert, Fennel, and Lobster Mushroom is probably my least favorite dish I've had at Tilth. Though it was still delicious, this is one example of a dish that was played too simply. The flavors were lacking, the fish was overcooked, and the dish could have used either a little more seasoning or another, stronger element to elevate it.

My favorite meat entrée is luckily a regular on the menu: the Skagit River Ranch Poussin with Romesco, Goat Horn Pepper, and Baby Chickpeas. The poussin has a crispy outer-layer and opens up to amazingly tender poultry. Though the accompanying ingredients are relatively simple, the pepper and chickpeas bring a balanced flavor to the entire dish that makes each bite irresistible.

One of Tilth's most famous standards are the Mini Duck Burgers with Fingerling Chips, House Made Ketchup, and Hot Mustard. The duck patties are extremely juicy and the hot mustard adds a good kick to the dish. Where a chef could easily get carried away with the innovation of a duck burger, Chef Maria Hines keeps things incredibly simple with ketchup and mustard to bring out the naturally delicious flavors of the burger.

The fingerling chips added a needed saltiness and crispiness to the overall dish. Though not my favorite dish, this is a dish that deservedly brings patrons (including my mom) back for more.

The only dessert I've had here is the Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake with Strawberry Chip, Rhubarb Coulis, and Chantilly. This was a very one-note dessert for me, and the least interesting dish of the meal. Because this is the only dessert I've had at Tilth, I won't be quick to judge on Tilth's ability to pump out a great dessert.

Every dinner I've had there has ended with some complimentary Chocolate-Dusted Hazelnuts. These are simple, addictive, and amazing.

After many dinners here over the past year, I only recently had the opportunity to try their weekend brunch.

The brunch is on par with the dinner. The fresh ingredients shine more than they do at dinner.

The Walnut Raisin Bread was incredible. It had just the right amount of walnuts to play off the sweetness of the raisins and the fresh jam. The bread was so good on its own that I was hesitant to put on the butter. But after remembering how delicious the housemade butter was at previous dinners, I couldn't help but slather one some butter to add some creaminess to the bread and jam. Delicious.

Next was the Truffled Egg Mousse with Tomato, Brioche Toast, and Lemon Vinaigrette. Overall, the textures came together in a way that let the fresh greens come through the strong truffle and egg flavors. Overall, I think the truffle and egg flavors were a little too overbearing. I think a smaller portion of the mousse, or more pieces of toast would have helped to balance the flavors more.

The perfect bite, however, was just that: perfect.

The House Smoked Pete Knutson Salmon Hash with Capers, Crème Fraîche, and a Sous Vide Egg was your restaurant take on a traditional combination of lox and capers. Chef Maria Hines knows dang well how to cook a salmon.

The tenderness of the salty preparation of the salmon was delicious with the smooth crème fraîche and gooey egg. The texture was balanced out well with the crispy, fresh greens.

The Dungeness Crab Omelet with Corn, Tarragon, and Crème Fraîche was a little bit one-note for me. Though the crab was extremely delicious, the rest of the plate did not add much to the massive egg wrapped around the crab. I would have rather had either a sous vide egg or just the crab with the corn, tarragon, and crème fraîche.

One last generality that I love about Tilth is how it serves up filling dishes that leave you feeling comfortably full and responsibly healthy. Every dinner and brunch I've had here, even when I've had tasting menus, has left me perfectly saturated, even with dessert.

Overall, Tilth is an experience that every visitor and native to Seattle should experience. The food is reasonably priced for the level of technique, freshness, and tamed innovation you get at Tilth.

1411 N 45th St
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 633-0801

GET: Figs with Preserved Lemons, Lemon Vinaigrette, Almonds, and Farmer's Cheese; White Corn Flan with Nasturtium, Corn Kernel, and Pop Corn Shoot; House Made Pappardelle with Fava Beans,Cipollini, and Sous-Vide Egg; Skagit River Ranch Poussin with Romesco, Goat Horn Pepper, and Baby Chickpeas; House Smoked Pete Knutson Salmon Hash with Capers, Crème Fraîche, and a Sous Vide Egg.


  1. Holy crap. I want it all. The butter looks insane, as does the sous vide egg. I also want the corn flan and pappardelle and farro right now. Next time, this is #1 priority.


    I got chills reading through the descriptions!!!

    I would not mind going for dinner on Saturday and brunch on Sunday haha

  3. Steph and Dy, we are DEFinitely going next time either of you are in Seattle! My mom now makes it a point to go here every time she visits, haha.


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