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Special Dinner in Seattle

My girlfriend and I are traveling to Seattle for the first time at the beginning of September, and we have a Saturday night where we will have our "fancy" dinner of the trip. The menus of Cascadia and Dahlia's both looked great, but reviews of both that I found online were inconsistent. Any input about those two or suggestions for any others that are comparable in price would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Walt, Between the two, I would suggest The Dahlia. The "inconsistent" reviews of The Dahlia are related to locals that have real issues when a restaurant achieves a certain level of success.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Leper

      as one of the "inconsistent locals" who has travelled widely (so many seattle people have not) and with 20 years in the hospitality field, i can tell you that you run a good chance at any of tom douglas's empire of getting lucky and being served an excellent meal - BUT the other side of that equation is the very real chance of being served something less than wonderful and paying full price for it. better you should have your 'fancy' dinner at union (where i have never been disappointed) or at le gourmand in ballard, a true hidden gem.

      1. re: Leper

        I suppose I am also one of the "inconsistent" reviewers of Dahlia as well. My boyfriend and I went there for dinner and I had to send the sea bar sampler back as I couldn't quite stomach the octapus and there was another sample I didn't really care for (Its been over a year so I can't remember the details). I also had the Tuscan grilled bread salad. It was way over salted and dressed...at that point though, I didn't feel like sending another item back. But on a positive note, they have great espresso and I love their donuts. I have no problem with restaurants achieving a certain level of success...in fact, I always hope that a great restaurant succeeds because then I know where to go for a great meal. I have never been disappointed with Mistral!

      2. Please don't go to Cascadia. Where are you traveling from?

        1. Rover's is the best dining in Seattle!

          1. I think The Dahlia provides an excellent dining experience. (And women find it very romantic.) Is it as good as Rover's or Le Gourmand? No, but they both are significantly more expensive. (Although they well may be the two best restaurants in Seattle.)

            1. If I could go anywhere in Seattle for a special dinner, I would recommend Canlis (http://www.canlis.com/) - The food is excellent, the service impeccable. My now husband and I had our respective families meet there for the first time (dinner for 10) on a Saturday evening. The evening was absolutely magical.

              Perhaps the only drawback is that they are not located in downtown proper so not sure where you are staying but it's a little ways to drive.

              1 Reply
              1. re: schoenick

                Yes. If you are 90 years old then Canlis is a fine choice. Don't forget your jacket. If you want a great meal then go to Mistral. It is expensive but small and intimate. My favorite restaurant in Seattle though is lampreia. Great food but not the most romantic imo. I usually go there for business.

              2. I have only been to Seattle once - ending up having dinner 2 evenings at Etta's, a Tom Douglas restaurant.
                We went back the second nite, because we had such a wonderful dinner and was treated like royalty!!
                And I have been all over the world!

                1. Thanks for all the input. We were very intrigued by Union as well. We are coming from Baltimore and spending 4 nights in Seattle and 1 on San Juan Island. We are gonna do the Fare Start Guest Chef one night, sushi one night (any suggestions for that would be wonderful as well), the aforementioned big dinner one night, and the other two are up in the air.

                  1. During your stay on San Juan Island, you should try 120 Nichols (www.120nichols.com). A lovely little place with a dedicated chef/owner, on a quiet street just a couple of blocks from the ferry landing.

                    I also must respectfully disagree with the discomfited locals remark. I have been to the Dahlia Lounge many times and each time my experience was the same -- a couple of dishes were quite good or excellent, and the rest were merely good but unmemorable or, at worst, underwhelming. There is no excuse for this in a restaurant with that kind of cache and those prices. I also don't particuarly recommend Cascadia (another example of a restaurant I wish I liked more, but have been consistently underwhelmed by -- although the daily prix fixe is a good deal). Although not so much as Portland, Seattle's restaurant scene has become quite enjoyable in the last few years. I recommend you stay away from Tom Douglas's restaurants, unless you dine at the bar at the Palace Kitchen (for which I confess a weakness), and try one of Seattle's (relative) newcomers. If you'll give a little more detail about what kind of experience you're looking for on the "big" night, I'd be happy to offer some recommendations.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ssusu

                      Basically, we are pretty young (mid-20's), and just starting to get into good food. My girlfriend does not eat land animals but does eat fish, and I will eat just about anything. I may have unintentionally misled you helpful people by calling it a "big" dinner. What we want it to be is a unique restaurant with a nice atmosphere somewhere in the price range of entrees in the mid to high 20's or so, and down from there. Everyone has already been a great deal of help, and I check this board like every 10 min. for new tidbits. Look forward to hearing more...

                      1. re: walterreuben

                        Hi walterreuben --

                        you might want to try Crush on Madison. You'll need a reservation on a Saturday night, but I was there this evening and thought of you (no, really). The menu's reasonably priced and everything works -- tonight, for example, we had a grilled octopus/chickpea salad app that was a standout, a chilled melon soup w/ bay shrimp, mint, and smoked chili oil, a lovely seared hamachi on a truffle-scented couscous terrine, and a lovely duck breast (served with some confit on the side) over a sweet white corn pudding with grilled black cherries and lavender salt. Yum! Plus the service was really outstanding. My dining companions and I are all current or former industry people so tend to be a little compulsive about our dining. I think you'd like Crush. hhlodesign's suggestion of elemental at gasworks is also a good one (but make sure you get there right when they open or you won't be seated -- they've only 5 tables and have long seatings).

                        For sushi, I agree with Barleywino that you might like Nijo (esp. for happy hour) -- and they're open late. You may also like Wasabi Bistro -- I know it occasionally gets knocked on this board but it's a fun place and I recently had excellent sashimi there.

                        Enjoy yourselves in Seattle and on San Juan Island.

                    2. Where are you staying? That would help us recommend a sushi place.

                      Dahlia Lounge is excellent, perhaps your best choice at that price. If you are willing to spend a bit more, you might consider Rover's, Crush, Mistral, or The Herbfarm. Of these, Rover's is the most romantic, Crush the most hip, The Herbfarm the most creative.

                      FareStart's Guest Chef Night should be fun (full disclosure: I'm on their board). Make a reservation; they often sell out. I just looked at the FareStart website and see that the next 4 guest chefs are excellent, and the 2 menus that are posted look delicious. Say hi to Megan, the awesome exceutive director; she's from Baltimore!

                      1. Agree with Herbfarm (very very expensive) and Mistral (very expensive). At a lower pricepoint, the tasting at Chez Shea. Nishino for sushi (chef's omakase, order ahead). If you end up at Cascadia, the Dungeness crab ravioli (and Kobe/oyster app).

                        1. New York well traveled hound here just back from Seattle. Loved Dahlia, Herbfarm and Mistral. Wish I could've tried Rovers and Union. Nishino was excellent for sushi though we still have better in NY:) . Also adored Harvest Vine and liked Wild Ginger very much.

                          1. For $150 a head, you won't find a better meal than at Mistral!

                            If you want to spend less, go to Elemental @ Gasworks and get the 4 course tasting with wine parings for around $50 a head. The front of house guy, Phred, is a love him or hate him kind of guy. If you let him drive, you'll have a wonderful time! And the food is excellent!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: hhlodesign

                              with wine pairings $250 a head and still worth it.

                            2. I lived in Seattle since 1960. For the last 10 years my favorite place to eat is Dulces Latin Bistro. It's in the Madronna neighborhood. You won't pay for a view. But you'll get the best food, wine and service in town. And you'll have some money left in your pocket. It's intimate and romantic. Carlos and Julie (the chef)will make you feel like you're long lost friends come to dine. A hidden gem!

                              1. hi! i'm walterreuben's lucky girlfriend--we're staying at the ace hotel. however, we will have a car and be willing to drive, if that's what it takes. if any of you are familiar with ace wasabi in san fran, that's the vibe we're going for with the sushi. creative, really fresh, fun, nothing too fancy. a fun night out.

                                thanks for all of your help! walt and i are getting really excited, and this is definitely helping.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jules c

                                  Since you are staying at the Ace Hotel, I recommend walking one block down the hill to the Edgewater Hotel. They have an outstanding restaurant called Six-Seven (because it's on pier 67). It has the best waterfront view in Seattle and their Sunday brunch isn't to be missed.

                                2. SOunds like you may be looking more for rolls instead of nigiri, and some place funky/irreverent rather than a NObu-style temple of cuisine. Maybe instead of Nishino you should try Mashiko in West Seattle? (www.sushiwhore.com) Or happy hour at Nijo (Spring below First)

                                  1. Matt's in the Market. Call right now for a reservation as it's a tiny place. If you're offered a seat at the counter, don't be put off - that's our (my wife and I) favorite place in Seattle.


                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: terrier

                                      I could not agree anymore. I took my girlfriend (at the time) here and I think this is when she decided that she would marry me. she's willing to put up with all the bad things if she knows I can find a good restaurant like Matt's on occasion.

                                    2. to add to the on-slaught...i'd suggest one and only one restaurant in seattle... THE STUMBLING GOAT BISTRO. google it...

                                      1. Thanks for all of your help, everybody. I think we are gonna try Crush, it seems to be just the kind of place we were looking for. We'll report back after the trip...

                                        1. I'm glad you are not going to Cascadia. I took my husband there for his 35th birthday and it was awful. The food was okay but the service is really inconsistent and the atmosphere is not special. They really need to work on their service.

                                          1. le gourmand, le gourmand, le gourmand .. bruce naftly's gem of a restaurant is the original eat local, eat well spot in town .. he is our`alice waters .. it is lovely.

                                            1. Don't see it mentioned yet so I would also suggest visiting this year's James Beard winner for the Pacific NW, Scott Carsberg's - Lampreia.

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