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first time in seattle for 2 days -- please help

We are going to Vancouver for a week, and flying in and out of Seattle, so we'll be spending the saturday in the beginning and another saturday in the end of our trip in your fair city.

So, we have 2 lunches and 2 dinners. Yes, I know -- not enough time, so we need your help prioritizing.

We are from Boston, and I teach fish cooking classes. So we are not looking for touristy seafood experiences, but really great food that is unique to pasific northwest.

Here is what we are thinking:

Matt's in the market - the lunch menu looks a little sparce. do you think it would do the place justice or do we have to go for dinner?
Etta's - is it worth going if we try Palace Kitchen or Dahlia lounge for dinner?
any other good lunch places opened on a saturday?

Union -- does anyone know how much is the tasting menu? any recent opinions?
Flying Fish -- heard mixed reviews -- anyone been recently?
Palace Kitchen or Dahlia lounge -- which one would you choose and why?

That's already too many places. Which two would you choose for dinner? or would you choose something entirely different?

I am not putting any sushi places on our list intentionally -- we are going to Vancouver for a week and will have plenty of great sushi there, but if you think it's an oversight, let me know.

Thank you so much for your help :)

We are terribly excited about this trip!


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  1. Wanda, good to hear from another Bostonian! I'm a fan of Matt's (lunchtime-only) catfish sandwich, would do dinner elsewhere. Another good lunch spot is Maximiliens in the Market (Alsatian bistro; from 1st and Pike, head towards the water past the fish counter and bear left). Not a huge Tom Douglas fan (I'm probably in the minority) or Flying Fish fan. Union is a good choice, the tasting is not formally on the menu anymore, but you can request it and just tell them when you are full, or your target price. I agree, if you are going to eat plenty of sushi in Vancouver (Tojo's omakase) you won't need to spend one of your 2 meals in Seattle on that. Some other possibilities: Dungeness crab ravioli and Douglas fir sorbet martini at Cascadia (good bar to eat at), Kobe steak and lobster claw app at Canlis (great atmosphere and views), steamed black cod and crab spring rolls wrapped in lettuce at Monsoon (call to see whether they have it)...

    1 Reply
    1. re: barleywino

      Hi Barleywino!

      Great to hear from you :) Did you move to seattle? Thanks so much for the recommendations!



    2. I agree with Barleywino that Flying Fish should not be one of your top choices, but that comes with the caveat that I prefer small, quirky restaurants to large, high-volume establishments. I also agree that you should consider a dinner at Monsoon -- all of the fish preparations are excellent, the wine list is innovative, and the restaurant itself is nice and neighborhoody, while still doing really interesting and memorable things with food.


      I also am not a huge Tom Douglas fan but prefer both Etta's and Palace Kitchen to Dahlia Lounge.

      Let us know where you went, and what you liked.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ssusu

        Monsoon looks very tempting. They do a dim sum lunch on weekends. Has anyone tried it? Is it traditional dim sum or Vietnamese version?

        1. re: A Fish Called Wanda

          It's an odd combination of traditional dim sum, post-colonial (i.e., French-accented) Vietnamese, and brunchy things. It's a little spendy for dim sum, and not so fun, because everything's ordered off a menu. I say save your dim sum craving for Vancouver because it's phenomenal there. BTW, I'm not sure what your dining itinerary is in Van, but if at all possible you should try to eat at Lumiere (and get the seafood prix fixe menu). http://www.lumiere.ca/

        2. re: ssusu

          Calling Flying Fish a large. high volume establsihment is a disservice to that palce. Flying Fish remaisn teh #1 restaurant in Seattle to try innovative fis/seafood dishes. It si a restaurant that is hard to reproduce in other cities. I would not be so quick to dismiss it if it is your first time in Seattle.

          Other "non tranportable" spots' Harvest Vine, Lark, Earth and Ocean....

        3. PS. if for some reason you don't find good o-toro in Vancouver, the o-toro at Nishino (seattle) is better than any i've had in Boston...other items worth keeping your eyes (and mouth ;) open for out here are oysters (B&G Oysters notwithstanding) and Rainier cherries...while you are in Vancouver, make sure Tojo gives you some of his seared albacore/bluefin wrapped in banana leaf

          1. Hi,

            Went to flying fish last week. Not that impressed. Greasy calamari appetizer, though the crab cakes were good, and the raved about fried rockfish was pretty overcooked with a bland, though spicy, pineapple and anchovy salsa. Had much better and cheaper in Asian restaurants. Grappa brownie was OK, and my partners trio of cupcakes were....just cupcakes(albeit expensive ones). Spent $190 all up, and feel a little ripped off. No promised romantic table for our anniversary, not even a booth, and the serviceperson had an annoying habit of walking off after I ordered a drink, leaving my husband hanging, and requiring us to get his attention mid 'busy-walk' to ask again, this happened twice. Felt a little rushed.
            Wont be back. Not horrendous, just not lovely for us, which was a pity cos we dont get much of a chance to go out these days, and certainly not to blow $200!!

            1. Dinner-try the Waterfront Seafood Grill at pier 70. Blows Ruth's chris steakhouse out of the restaurant registry for taste and SERVICE. Fantastic seafood, good water views. A bit pricey. Can spend $150-200 without much effort. But will delight in every taste. Can order a split/half of side dishes (ala carte) so try more than 2. I remember locations by meals enjoyed. Thus, due to this restaurant, will never forget seattle.

              1. Ditch Etta's and Flying Fish. Palace Kitchen is always a top choice in my book, but if it's seafood you want, Dahlia might give you more options.

                Union's very good, but I can't say it's wowed me recently - the last couple of times I've walked out feeling it was expensive for what I got.

                elemental@gasworks, on the other hand, blew me away. It's not for everyone, though - you have to be willing to relinquish control over the experience to the host. (I posted about my recent trip there on this board - should be easy to find with the search)

                Do try some of the Vietnamese offerings here, either Monsoon or Tamarind Tree. I prefer the latter for being less pretentious and more (perhaps?) authentic, but Monsoon is clearly the more "sophisticated" establishment (and is priced accordingly). Even though there are certainly large Vietnamese populations elsewhere in the US, I've never had Vietnamese food of the same quality elsewhere.

                3 Replies
                1. re: terrier

                  I love elemental -- but if you're looking to eat seafood specifically, check the menu online (it changes weekly) to see if there's enough seafood for your liking. I'm also a big fan of Tamarind Tree but last time I went, to my disappointment, my fish was overcooked. Oh well, s--t happens, I suppose. Won't stop me from going back.

                  The owner of Tamarind Tree has explained that he strives to present Vietnamese "country" cooking (see, e.g., Lemongrass Fried Fish Paste -- consisting exclusively of fried fish paste with lemongrass and Vietnamese bacon), whereas at Monsoon there is some effort to fuse Vietnamese cuisine with Northwest ingredients. By way of comparison, I found Monsoon similar, but far superior to, Nam in Tribeca.

                  1. re: ssusu

                    I am not looking for seafood in particular (especially that my favorite seafood in boston is not at "seafood" restaurants). I am sure that we'll get a couple of fish dishes just by going to good restaurants. Elemental looked really cool and I love the idea of a blind menu, but some things about it worry me... We'll be in Seattle on 2 saturdays. It looks like it's almost impossible to get a table there even on a regular night. I also heard of people being treated rudely at times. It looks like a place that has potential for real brilliance, but also high risk. If this was in my own town, I'd be there in a heart beat, but since we only have 2 days, I think it's better to go with something a bit more "safe".

                    Well, you guys convinced me to dump Flying Fish and Wild Ginger and here is the revised plan:

                    Matt's and maybe Macrina for lunch
                    Union and Monsoon for dinner

                    So all of Tom Douglas's restaurants fell off our plate. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess it depends on who you ask :)

                    The only one that everyone seems to like is Palace Kitchen, but they are closed for lunch. Is it worth giving up dinner at Monsoon or Union for it? Oh, never mind. I am probably just torturing myself. I am sure I'll get as many yeses as nos.

                    1. re: A Fish Called Wanda

                      THis board has a "pre-conceived" idea that a large restaurant (i.e. WIld Ginger) is bad....this is false. The quality of a resturant depends on staff, ingredient, atmsophere and details. A large resturant can have more fluctuations than a small one but when it hits, it is a "home run". As far as FLying Fish, it is one of the most succesfull restaurant in the city and there is a good reason for it: consistency and value.

                2. Although Wild Ginger is traditional panned by many different chowhounds, it's a right of passage for chowhounds newbies to express their dissatisfaction w/ the place, it is consistently rated as one of the top restaurants by local chefs. Eat in the bar and try the catfish.

                  I haven't seen any mention of Lark. Chef John Sundstrom has built a great following with his great organic, seasonal dishes. Emphasis is only small plates from local suppliers.

                  Earth & Ocean at the W Hotel is also outstanding. Chef Maria Hines is a stand out chef which F & W recognized as one of the top 10 new chefs in the U.S.

                  Lastly, Voilet Bistro on Madison prepares a killer halibut. This is more of a NY neighborhood restaurant, but they certain dishes as well as anyone.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: drock36

                    Wild Ginger is crap. The idea of fusion is bad enough. Poorly executed, overpriced fusion is even worse. Stay away!

                    Earth and Ocean has taken a step back since Maria Hines took over. Go to Lark instead to try Jon Sundstrom's (original chef at E&O) food. Plus, she refuses to serve Foie Gras!

                    1. re: hhlodesign

                      If the idea of fusing foods is bad, then Seattle must be a terrible place to live :).

                  2. As a mass-expat I would avoid Italian and Middle-Eastern food while in Seattle.

                    The Union tasting menu was $55 for 5-courses, and $65 for 7-courses. IMO this is some of the the best food in Seattle and worth a trip.

                    Monsoon is a couple blocks from where I live so I have frequented quite a bit. I have generally had very good meals here (noodles with hedgehog mushrooms and duck egg, crispy crab/duck roll appetizer, etc.). Also they have a Vietnamese dim-sum brunch on weekends. I've had a sub-par special here so I would stick with the regular menu.

                    Both Union and Monsoon prepare fish very well.

                    Palace Kitchen over Dahlia - recommend sitting at the bar

                    For an international flair you could go with 1 of 3 for lunch or dinner:

                    Tamarind Tree - Vietnamese (have had good seafood here
                    )Seven Stars Peppers - Szechuanese (whole crab)
                    Malay Satay Hut - Malaysian

                    Other high-end - go with the one word restaurants:

                    Veil - http://www.veilrestaurant.com/
                    Lark - http://www.larkseattle.com/
                    Crush - http://www.chefjasonwilson.com/

                    1. I agree with the recommendations of Crush, and harvest vine. I would also add Mistral and Lampreia to that list. I thought Veil was WAY too loud!! Although their peanut butter ice cream was fantastic! I agree with the comment that Union did not wow me and it felt expensive. Lark also seems pricey for what you get...the portions are tiny!

                      I also agree with the comments about TD restaurants Ettas and Dahlia lounge (they are not my favorites)....the only thing I really love to have at DL is their espresso and donuts. I have only been to Flying Fish once...because after reading their restaurant inspection report, I would not send anyone there.

                      I would also recommend Cremant (although their strong suit is meat). Their chocolate mousse is to die for! (I haven't tried Voila Bistrot but its on my list) Good luck!

                      1. If this weather keeps up and you're looking for a special setting, Waterfront is hands down the room to be in. I couldn't compare it to Ruth's Chris in any fashion, but it is run by the good folks @ El Gaucho, perhaps this is why a steakhouse came up in text. They even have a shuttle service between venues, which is quite fun, as these are two distinctly different properties.

                        For lunch, the patio is open @ Elliott's Oyster House. Right now they are featuring virginica and Coromandel oysters on the half shell. The dungeness crab is always first rate.

                        Don't underestimate Dahlia. It is a tendency to forget what Tom Douglas' team has done for Seattle all these years. And still very, very good.

                        Lark, Veil, Cremant, Crush, and a new opening @ Hotel 1000 make these the latest players on the scene, and all are lovely too.

                        When deciding between Flying Fish or Queen City Grill, I always end up going with the latter.