Category Archives: Seafood

Seastar

Repeatable: Maybe. Visits: 1

Seastar is an ambitious space in a likeable place: A spanking new swanky seafood restaurant next door to the Pan Pacific Hotel in Seattle, right above Whole Foods.

That description of Seastar’s location also serves as an apt description of its fare: One step above Whole Foods, next to 4-star status but not in the same league. If the space reminds you of an anonymous, expensive team-designed production, so will the food. It’s technically slick but soulless.

There were five of us on Friday night, and we ate early, so there was no excuse, really, for the slow service. Five minutes for the menus–I timed it. Another 10 for our server to take our orders.

If the food had been splendid, all would have been forgiven. But the scallop penne was goopy and pedestrian, the Caesar boring, and the steak OK. Even the kids wouldn’t eat their meals: More oversauced pasta with chunks of chicken–though we had specifically requested no meat, please.

Of the starters, the lone bright spot was the crab and corn chowder, which was sweet with corn and nuanced with crab. The cedar plank roasted mushrooms sounded great, but were really just a bowl of large, slightly undercooked mushroom chunks with a slightly smoky flavor. The pesto-steamed butter clams were interesting, but the overwhelmingly salty pesto soon turned my mouth numb.

On account of that lovely chowder, I’m willing to give Seastar another try. The menu is huge, and it’s entirely possible we had bad luck ordering. Though it was a Friday night, and the place wasn’t exactly hopping.

Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar (Seattle) on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Bar, Lunch, Seafood

Canlis

Repeatable: See note below. Visits: 4+

Peter Canlis Prawns, from www.canlis.com

Peter Canlis Prawns, from http://www.canlis.com

In Seattle’s closetful of restaurants, Canlis is the Chanel suit: flawlessly finished, tailor-made for special occasions, the epitome of timeless style trumping fleeting fashion.

Which is why I chose to celebrate my 40th birthday there. And why I threw a surprise party for my father up in the loft when he turned 70. And why I happily paid through the nose to buy a seat at Canlis’s 55th birthday celebration in 2005. And why my husband and I, whenever we wanted a special night out, would slip into the bar and eat dinner next to the piano, without a reservation.

I’ve been a regular there for the past 10 years, and the Canlis’s know it.

Which is why I visited the restaurant 4 times in the past two months before writing this. Because I wanted to make damn sure I got it right. And because I wanted to taste everything on the new menu, courtesy of new chef Jason Franey, who took over in December.

And I did taste everything.

Even though I wish ….

The rest of this review will be gone until the end of May. Check back then for the missing half as well as for the reasons why it left in the first (and second) place….

Canlis on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Northwest, Seafood, Steak

Spring Hill

Repeatable: Maybe. Visits: 1

Ovaltine, Cinnamon Toast, Salty Popcorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Cake

Ovaltine, Cinnamon Toast, Salty Popcorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Cake

I used to live in West Seattle, so believe me when I say the place has changed a lot in 10 years. The Junction in particular has really spiffed up, sparkling with shiny new boutiques  selling chic designer clothing and high-end bric-a-brac.

The gastronomical version of this uptown-girl shift was the opening of Spring Hill earlier this year (2008).  Strategically located in the heart of this gentrified corridor, Spring Hill is a major new restaurant for West Seattle. I’d probably take the geographical qualifier out and say that Spring Hill is a major restaurant by the rest of Seattle’s standards as well. (Some folks might consider that damning with faint praise.)

By virtue of decor alone, Spring Hill is a major restaurant. The space, all sleek blonde wood and smooth shiny surfaces, is a long rectangle divided into an open kitchen/bar on the right and dining area on the left. Sounds sterile, but all this sleekness is actually comfy and inviting too. So much so that the space begs to be jammed with bodies–and it was.

As a drinking hole, Spring Hill provides the perfect ambience. The bar and drink menu are creative and fancy enough to attract well-heeled bar-hoppers. The dinner menu, too, favors noshing over serious dining. The appetizers are generous enough–and rich enough–to sate most average appetites. It took forever to dig through my huge bowl of clams and pork belly ($12)(tsk, a dead crustacean hadn’t been picked out). Despite all the chunks of this and squirts of that and general paprika-redness of the sauce, the primary flavor was that of salt–not in a bad way, just surprising given how complicated the dish looked.

Shrimp with grits ($14) came atop a soft poached egg; the slightly undercooked shrimp reinforced the dish’s soft, quivering textures. The grits were more cream sauce than grits–or maybe that was the shrimp gravy and I didn’t get any grits? Confusing. The duck egg raviolo ($9) was all runny yolk and unctuous richness. These two dishes would have been perfect for someone with bad teeth.

As one of the servers cleared our plates, she asked if we were done or if we were having entrees as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than half their customers stop short at the apps. They’d be well-advised to.

Mike’s braised short ribs with dumplings ($26) were fine, if uninspiring; the brussel sprout leaves were absolutely delicious–brightened in a perfect way by Italian parsley. My tagliatelle ($20) with mushroom, chard, and slices of undercooked Delicata squash would have been much better if the squash had been less crunchy. The dish was snowed under by a mound of Parmesan–intended to  boost its flavor, I think. A bit disappointing, but not too bad.

Dessert was ordered out of a sense of duty. I’m glad we did. The trio of ice cream–cinnamon toast, Ovaltine, and salty popcorn–was the highlight of the meal. The salty popcorn tasted just like kettle corn and reminded me very pleasantly of the corn ice cream in Southern Mexico. The only unnerving detail was that one of the flavors seemed to have grease, which congealed onto my spoon in an annoying fashion.

Will I brave the bridge and go back to Spring Hill for another try? Maybe not. But if I happen to be in West Seattle shopping at one of those little boutiques, I know where I’m going to get my dinner.
Spring Hill on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Northwest, Seafood

Fish Fry

Repeatable: Maybe. Visits: 1

Tucked into an alley off Pike Street, Fish Fry is the kind of place you can only find if you already know where it is. Or if you have a built-in homing mechanism for fried food. Or if you’re drunk or high and have the munchies.  Or if you’re a teenager throbbing with hormonal rushes.

Alas, not being able to lay claim to any of the above options, I got so lost trying to find the place that I asked a tattooed guy sweeping a doorway where it was. “Right here,” he answered. Doh.

I arrived early, at 11:30am, to escape the mad hordes I was assured would be there. The place didn’t really fill up  until 12:30, and the young hard bodies jamming the space were clearly of high school vintage–that is, old enough to be my children if I had gotten knocked up near their age.

My tasting buddy for this jaunt was an old-school type–a Republican who eats fish on Fridays and is possessed of a more forgiving palate and even-keeled disposition than mine. I needed all the help I could get as I can no longer tolerate fried food (or wine) as I once could.

My first bite of the fried catfish nuggets took me straight back to my college years in Boston, when I thought nothing of roaming the Eastern seaboard via rail or road in search of something good to eat. The batter was the same deep-fried chestnut brown of my memories: a thin crackling shell that encased the fish like a glossy lacquer. Mmmm.

When I complimented him on his frying, the cook answered that he had learned his technique in Boston (Coincidence? Not! Like wines, frying styles vary by region. IMHO, the ne plus ultra of frying is in the South. Red-hot epicenter: New Orleans, of course. Sorry, but the Northwest simply doesn’t fry very well. Nor can anyone cook beans properly. CUMIN DOES NOT BELONG IN BEANS!!! But that’s the subject of another post.)

The medium-cut fries that came with my four pieces of catfish ($8) were just OK. But the battered and deep-fried lemon slice? Tangy crunchy heaven. And the battered, deep-fried green beans ($5)? Addictive. The oysters ($9) were also pretty dang good–crunch outside, molten quivering flesh inside. (But in my dreams, I will forever crave the fried clams I used to eat during the summers I spent bumming around Martha’s Vineyard.)

The accompanying sauces–“housemade” tartar, lemon aioli, curry ketchup, smoked chili mayo–were not nearly as finger-lickin’ as their names teasingly suggested. In fact, these 2-tablespoon-sized portions were all rather one-dimensional and boring–and so NOT worth the extra buck charged if you asked for another flavor besides the one you get with your order. By the time I realized that there were complimentary containers of tried-and-true malt vinegar and ketchup on the counter, a heaviness in my gut kept me glued to the stool I was sitting on.

From this perch, I watched the flock of high schoolers all queued up for their chance to stoke their flaming pimples with grease and salt. I contemplated that fried foods are best left to the hardier guts of the young and free. Me, I knew I’d be paying for my indiscretion for the next few days as a black headache crashed around my ears the moment I lurched out of the tiny store. Too much grease, both eaten and breathed in.

Sometimes, it’s just no fun growing old. But if you’re young and fancy-free, Fish Fry is definitely a place worth visiting.
Pike Street Fish Fry on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Casual, Kid Friendly, Seafood

Ponti Seafood Grill

Repeatable: No! Visits: 2

We recently returned to Ponti on a weekend night (November ’08), after our last unmemorable meal there 8 years ago. Seattle Metropolitan raved about the new chef, so we decided to give the place another try. We should have bolted when it took forever to attract the attention of someone who would take our order. There were five of us at the table. The food made us laugh–not happily (soggy, salty overcooked lobster; burnt scallops). The less said, the better.
Ponti Seafood Grill on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Northwest, Seafood