Repeatable: Yes. Visits: 1
Crush is probably one of the best restaurants in the Puget Sound. So why can’t I just spit it out and say it? Why do I need to go back to confirm this hunch? Because, to be fair, my first and so far only experience there was a tad handicapped by our foursome’s gluttonous decision to go for the 9-course prix fixe presentation. Also, Jason Wilson wasn’t cooking that night–his chef de cuisine was.
Hard to believe, but decadent multi-course meals can have downsides. When there’s too much of a good thing, dishes that come later in the lineup often fail to match the glory of earlier ones, simply because one is too full to appreciate them. It’s possible, as well, that those later dishes just aren’t as good–but who can judge accurately or fairly when stuffed to the gills?
Take, for example, the first four courses of our evening, which arrived in well-timed precision after we had inhaled our gougeres (tiny airy puffs):
1) A demi-tasse of mushroom-onion broth with Oregon black truffle. Quietly intense and very nice.
2) “Bacon and eggs:” Tiny globules of smoked salmon roe that exploded against the silken sweetness of parsnip flan. Adding visual interest and crunch were tiny crisps of prosciutto bacon. Whimsical and decadent.
3) Seared hamachi. This sliver of fish was perfectly cooked, with a thin ribbon of pink in the center. The rich buttery sauce that accented it was lovely.
4) Lobster claw with gnocchi: Ethereal little dumplings, with barely poached claw meat on top. Technically an impressive dish, but not exactly as loveable as those bacon and eggs.
At this point in the meal, we were all quite impressed, and while we were no longer hungry, there was still plenty of room in the belly. The potential monotony of everyone eating the same dishes was partially alleviated by the female half of the table asking for “lighter” fare. The next two courses diverged–as did the matching flights of wine (and for $70 per flight, they better have).
5) Girl food: Hawaiian mero sea bass. This sauteed fish had a gorgeously crispy exterior; the accompanying hedgehog mushrooms added a lovely musky note.
Guy food: Cuttlefish tagliatelle with a rich creamy scallop sauce. I tasted a forkful of pasta and was struck by how very rich and unctuous it was. I didn’t love it.
6) Girl food: Impossibly soft roasted calamari with rounds of sausage, potato, and onion. The clean smoky and savory flavors of this dish were indeed a heckuva lot lighter than what the guys got.
Guy food: A huge quivering lobe of foie gras with brioche and an intensely jammy sauce of quince whose sweet-tartness made me wince after the subtle flavors of the calamari. The portion size on this serving was so huge, it could have served as an entree.
By this point, I was done for. If it hadn’t been so cold, I would’ve been wearing my usual eating dress, with its forgiving empire waist. Instead I was wearing a very tight pair of jeans with a belt. Said belt refused to allow any more than a couple bites of the next two courses–a restriction I didn’t exactly lament.
7) Girl food: Slices of duck breast prepared sous vide with savory and chewy grains of farro. I’m not exactly a fan of sous vide poaching and its resulting soft gooey texture of steamed flesh. I also happen to prefer gamey meats cooked through–call me crazy. So I only ate a couple bites of the duck. But the farro–yummy! This chewy wild Italian wheat was delightfully toothsome and beautifully flavored. I had no problem eating all two tablespoons of it.
Guy food: The saddle of lamb with lamb sausage was a great dish. I especially enjoyed biting into the tiny sausage; it snapped with juicy, fatty flavor. A plate of those little sausages and a plate of farro, and I would have been very happy.
8) Girl’s dish: Rabbit terrine wrapped around rabbit loin, prepared sous vide. As I mentioned earlier, I am not a fan of the sous-vide texture. In this case, the terrine was fine, but the loin was alarmingly pink and raw looking. Wrapped in some kind of leafy green (spinach?) and then sliced into rounds, this dish looked exactly like rabbit sushi–if there were such a thing. Did I mention already that I have an odd thing about game being thoroughly cooked through? I nibbled. Enough already.
Guy food: Painted Hills Farm beef tenderloin with bone marrow sauce, baby carrots, and mashed potato. The beef was tender and juicy and infused with flavors from the wine sauce. Was it amazing? Maybe–I was so drunk on food by this point, I thought it was just OK.
9) Blue cheese, wine poached pear slice, toasted fruit nut bread. Fine. But does a 9-course meal really need a cheese course at this point?
10) Grapefruit and elderberry sorbet with sugary crumbles: The sorbet was too sweet and tangy to work well as a palate cleanser; those sugary crumbles sure were addictive.
I was absolutely sure by this point that we were done–but no, there was another dessert. Some sort of tiny bundt-like cake. I knew I wouldn’t eat more than a spoonful, so I asked the waiter to pack mine while I tasted my husband’s.
Not a bundt but a chocolatey mousse-y thing enrobed in a thin crust of chocolate with a crushed hazelnut layer on the bottom–f*ing gorgeous. I scarfed half of it down and didn’t notice the belt digging into my waist at all. I also ate all my little after-dinner petit fours–two coin-sized cookies, a caramel, and a marshmallow–even though they weren’t nearly as brilliant as that mousse cake.
Before I end this extremely lengthy post, I need to return to my subject and mention a couple more downsides to prix fixe dining. 1) Investment of time: All of this took almost 4 hours. 2) Investment of resources: Dinner was $125/person, with a $70 supplement for the accompanying flight of matched wines. It was what it was. To put it into context, I’ve paid more and less for food of similar quality.