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Sep 2, 2009 10:03 AM

Most Overrated Restaurant in Seattle

Most of us have had the experience of going to a highly rated, almost universally acclaimed restaurant, and come away saying, “Huh? What’s the big deal?” So I’m interested to find out what my fellow Chowhounds would nominate as the most overrated restaurant in Seattle.

My nomination is Crush. Almost every list of the best restaurants in Seattle includes Crush. The chef, Jason Wilson, was named one of the top ten new chefs in North America by Food and Wine Magazine in 2006 and was nominated in 2008 and 2009 by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef Northwest. Jonathan Kauffman, the restaurant reviewer for the Seattle Weekly, recently named Crush as the best restaurant in Seattle. But on each of the occasions when I’ve dined at Crush, I have come away underwhelmed and wondering why my reaction is so at odds with seemingly everyone else’s. I’ll use one recent dish as an example – black cod in porcini dashi broth. The dish was presented in a relatively deep bowl with the broth at the bottom and a large, perfectly cooked fillet on top. The texture of the fish was true to the species, very moist and oily, but was very bland in taste. In concept, I liked the idea of using dashi with the black cod, and the combination of mushrooms and dashi is classic in Japanese cooking, although the Japanese typically use shitake mushrooms, not porcinis. But I just didn’t think that the stock married with the fish in a way that added flavor to the blandness of the fish. The stock and the fish almost seemed like opposite fields of magnets, pushing each other away, rather than pulling together. I wondered if marinating the fish in miso or lightly smoking the fish would have helped. Or maybe the presentation should have been in a shallower bowl and the fish in smaller slices, so that the stock would have covered over the fish rather than just resting in a pool below the fish. In any event, I wasn’t thrilled by the dish as prepared. (By the way, black cod should probably be called sablefish, since it is not a member of the cod family.) I also found the butter poached lobster lacking in flavor. And, while I’m at it, I have one other nit to pick. Before my most recent visit, I looked at the menu on the Crush website and found lots of dishes listed there that, on paper at least, suited my fancy. But when I was handed the menus at the restaurant, only one of the many items on the web-site menu (the butter-poached lobster) was available. I understand that web-based menus are usually only “sample menus,” and very few restaurants take the time and effort to change the web menu to reflect the actual menu for that day, but to find that virtually none of the items on the web menu were available was a real downer.

By definition, I know that most of you will disagree with my assessment of Crush. That’s the nature of this exercise. So what’s your nomination for Seattle’s most overrated restaurant? .

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  1. I would say Matt's in the Market. I reccomend it for lunch but for dinner it leaves much to be desired. The food is resonably good but at that price point I expect spectacular.

    1. I've only eaten at each of these places once, but the cost was high enough and I was unimpressed enough to not be tempted go go back:
      Union -- Great appetizers, but the main course left me wanting.
      Steelhead Diner -- I can't even remember what I had, if thats any indication.

      Union Restaurant
      1400 First Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101

      Steelhead Diner
      95 Pine Street, Suite 17, Seattle, WA 98101

      2 Replies
      1. re: adamb0mb

        I disagree strongly about Crush. Both of my meals there were exquisite, certainly by local standards. And I've liked the black cod dish in particular.

        Matt's is a good nominee for most overrated...mostly because, as DGR points out, the price point has gone above where it should be.

        However, for me, it has to be Cafe Juanita. My assessment is here: . Its not terrible, just way too salty across the board, making it unworthy of the glowing accolades and "must-do" type of praise it receives.

        Tough day for the sacred cows.

        1. re: equinoise

          It would be a toss up between Canlis and Union. Horribly over priced and the food was forgettable. I have not been to Crush, but have had Jason Wilson's food at different charity events and have found the food bland and not worthy of a visit to his restaurant.

      2. LOL, I read the title of your post and immediately thought, Crush, for sure. The food was actually quite good but the service was absolutely terrible on my first and only visit. I haven't been back, as IMO Seattle has too many excellent places to justify spending my dining out money at a place that apparently doesn't value its patrons enough to train its servers well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: NWWanderer

          I must admit to having heard stories of bad service at Crush. I've never experienced it myself.

          1. re: equinoise

            I've always had exceptional service at the bar at Crush (not only from the bartenders but also, sometimes, from the chefs!) I would agree that service in the dining areas is more spotty.

        2. Can we also include overrated chefs? My vote is for Ethan Sowell by a nose over Tom Douglass. For some reason, both seem to be able to open multiple restaurants revolving around nearly identical themes, and to receive way too much praise and attention for occasionally good but seldom great food. I applaud their marketing acumen, but that's not what gets me to a restaurant.

          1. I agree with NWWanderer. I also thought of Crush when I saw your title.
            We went there about 2 months ago....the food was ok, but the service was terrible in a number of ways. All three of us were way under impressed. None of us will be returning.