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Oct 1, 2009 11:37 AM

Help Rank High-End Restaurants in Seattle

I will be visiting Seattle for the first time in November and have been perusing the threads on Chowhound, as well as other Internet sites, for ideas on where to eat to find the best food, regardless of price. Although helpful, I am still having trouble sorting through the information, so I would like to ask for help from those interesting in "rating" restaurants.

Much of the discussion of restaurants in Seattle focuses on service. I know it is important, but I would like to set it aside and ask for your ratings on food, with specific attention to three variables: freshness of ingredients, innovation and quality of preparation, and plating (which, of course, includes whatever sauces or sides are on the plate).

It would be helpful if you would use numerical ranking (1-10, with 10 being highest) to summarize your opinion on each of the following restaurants. (I know that rankings will be subjective and therefore some people's 5 would be like another person's 7, but it is still useful.) Feel free to add any high-quality restaurant not on this list, or to suggest removal of any herewith.

Flying Fish
Etta's (arbitrarily chosen over Dahlia & others in Douglas empire)
Cafe Juanita

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  1. Lola- 6 (BUT very good- inventive- and flavorful for brunch)
    Flying Fish- 5
    Etta's (arbitrarily chosen over Dahlia & others in Douglas empire)- 5
    Lampreia- N/A due to never eating here
    Elliotts- 5
    Cafe Juanita- N/A due to never eating here
    Spur- 6 (BUT drinks are amazing- the flavorful plates really small)
    Quinn- 7
    How to Cook a Wolf- 7
    Spring Hill- 7
    Crush- 7
    Art of the Table- 8
    Elemental- 8
    Barolo- 6 (VERY good happy hour)
    La Spiga- 7
    Cafe Flora- 6 (BUT very good- inventive- and flavorful for brunch)
    Brasa- 5 (Icky!! famous dish- BUT happy hour food is good)

    *I actually like Dahlia better than Etta's and Palace Kitchen over Dahlia if going for a more casual fun vibe- note... The Dahlia Bakery(attached to Restaurant) has amazing baked goods

    2 Replies
    1. re: natalie.warner

      Spinasse 10, twice there, great stuff.
      Lola- 8 also great breakfast.
      Flying Fish- 8
      Etta's 8- love breakfast there.
      Lampreia-N/A due to never eating here
      Elliotts- 8 always good to me.
      Cafe Juanita- N/A due to never eating here
      How to Cook a Wolf- 8
      Spring Hill- 7 hit and miss for me
      Art of the Table- 7 ok, good.
      Barolo- 7 (VERY good happy hour)
      La Spiga- 8, last few years really good.
      Cafe Flora- 8 great brunch.
      Brasa- 5 never loved it there.
      Pink Door-8 always the same very good.

      Cafe Juanita
      Kirkland, WA, Kirkland, WA

      Flying Fish
      2234 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121

      Spring Hill Restaurant & Bar
      4437 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116

      Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

      2107 3rd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121

      Cafe Flora
      2901 E Madison St, Seattle, WA 98112

      1940 Westlake Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101

      La Spiga
      1429 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122

      Art of the Table
      1054 N 39th St, Seattle, WA 98103

      1. re: mikeeatsalot

        Valid ratings, Mike, but note that the original poster was planning a trip in 2009 (some on the list have even closed). I think he has made all his selections by now.

    2. Of these, I really only think of Lampreia and Cafe Juanita as truly "high end" - can't rate either since I've never been to either.

      Elliott's is arguably a high-end oyster bar, but except for that is not especially high-quality in my book.

      Some places I do think of as high-quality restaurants in the top class of what's available in Seattle:
      The Corson Building
      Harvest Vine
      Dahlia Lounge

      5 Replies
      1. re: terrier

        Elliot's is great for happy hour, but maybe not so great for dinner. A friend swears she was just served instant mashed potatoes there.

        1. re: christy319

          No doubt.
          Oyster happy hour is the bomb if you chat-up the shucker, though...

        2. re: terrier

          Terrier is right on. But I'll give you my numbers anyway

          Lola - 7
          Flying Fish -5
          Etta's (arbitrarily chosen over Dahlia & others in Douglas empire) - 6 but 8 for lunch because I love their soups and there is always something to enjoy at all Douglas restaurants
          Lampreia - 9
          Elliotts - meh but great for cocktails
          Cafe Juanita - 10
          Spur - haven't been there
          Quinn - haven't been there but have heard good things - it is like upscale bar food from what I gather

          I addition to Terrier's extra's, if price is not an issue, definitely also consider Rover's.

          1. re: bourbongal

            And, while you're Frenching it - Le Gourmand.

            1. re: mrnelso

              Lola- never been
              Flying Fish- never been
              Etta's - 6 (interesting preparations, a little overdone)
              Lampreia- never been
              Elliotts- good oysters, not a high-end place
              Cafe Juanita- 5 (I voted it Seattle's Most Overrated)
              Spur- (great drinks and food, but again not fine dining)
              Quinn- (good food, but again not fine dining)
              How to Cook a Wolf- never been
              Spring Hill- 7
              Crush- 10
              Art of the Table- never been
              Elemental- never been
              Barolo- 7 (overlooked for creative Italian)
              La Spiga- never been
              Cafe Flora- never been
              Brasa- 8 (I really like Brasa, maybe the best happy hour food in SEA)
              Union- 9
              Spinasse - 8 (great food, could be 9 but for limited menu)
              The Corson Building - never been
              Harvest Vine - 8 (haven't been lately, but several credible downhill alerts have been sounded)
              Dahlia Lounge - never been
              Rover's - 9 (its been awhile, but it may perhaps be the only haut cuisine french place around)

              I'd add:
              Lark - 9 (local, organic, lovely)
              Canlis - 9 (food not the most inventive, but very high quality, and unparalleled service)

        3. Lola: 7 (only had appetizers not sure about dinner but heard brunch is good)
          Flying Fish: 6 (heard they have a good happy hour)
          Etta's: 5 (as someone else said, better forlunch and brunch)
          Lampreia: 9
          Elliotts: 5 (good happy hour)
          Cafe Juanita: 7(some dishes were really good but others..way too salty)
          Spur: 7+ (more drinks and snacks..not really dinner)
          Quinn: 7+ (high end bar food)
          How to Cook a Wolf: never been
          Crush: 9
          Art of the Table: never been
          Elemental: never been
          Barolo: 7 (also great happy hour)
          La Spiga: 7-
          Cafe Flora: 6
          Brasa: 7
          Union: 9-
          Spinasse: never been
          The Corson Building: never been
          Harvest Vine - 8+
          Dahlia Lounge: 5+ (food was not amazing; dessert and espresso was great)
          Rover's - 8+
          Lark: 8+ (Haven't been in a while but going in two weeks..can report back)
          Canlis: never been

          Waterfront: 9+ (excellent seafood)
          La Gourmand: never been

          15 Replies
          1. re: karen2006

            Summary so far:

            Not High-end

            Art of the Table 8
            Barolo 6 7 7
            Brasa 5 8 7
            Cafe Flora 6
            Canlis 9
            Crush 7 10 9
            Elemental 8
            Elliotts 5 5
            Etta's 5 8 6 5
            Flying Fish 5 5 6
            How to Cook a Wolf 7
            La Spiga 7 7
            Lark 9 8
            Le Gourmand
            Lola 6 7 7
            Quinn 7 7
            Rovers 9
            Spring Hill 7 7
            Spur 6 7
            Waterfront 9


            Cafe Juanita 10 5 7
            Dahlia Lounge
            Harvest Vine 8 8
            Lampreia 9 9
            Spinasse 8
            The Corson Building
            Union 9 9

            If anyone else weighs in, please remember to rate the food, not the service or the drinks. Thanks to everyone who's helped so far!

            1. re: ponocat

              I think you've got some of these in the wrong area - Rovers, Le Gourmand, Waterfront and Canlis are high-end.

              I've added my scores to the ones I've been to.

              Summary so far:

              Not High-end (good weekly/monthly dinner out, under $70/pp):

              Dahlia Lounge 7 (skip the raw bar stuff, their regular food is good+)
              Barolo 6 7 7 7
              Brasa 5 8 7 7
              Cafe Flora 6 6
              Elliotts 5 5 2 (2 for entress, 8 for oysters)
              Etta's 5 8 6 5 4 (not so good)
              Flying Fish 5 5 6 4
              La Spiga 7 7 5
              Lola 6 7 7 5 (much of their food is pretty bland, but my coworkers love it so I end up having lunch there a fair amount. Their lamb burder is ok, the spreads are fun, the lox breakfast plate is good)
              Union 9 9 9 (nice food. If you come during October check out Urban Eats for 3 courses for $30 - excellent).

              High-end ($100+/pp, special dinner place)

              Harvest Vine 8 8 7 (It's been a while, though)
              Le Gourmand 8 (some of the food is outstanding, some not so much. Not a high-end looking place, but strong focus on local ingredients, etc.)
              Rovers 9 10 (OUTSTANDING. Love Rovers. )
              Waterfront 9 9 (Some very nice food, not particularly imaginative, but solid)

              1. re: akq

                I can't believe I forgot:

                Add to High-end:
                Campagne 10

                Also, just since they are always thrown out as recs on this board:

                Not high-end:
                Steelhead Diner 2
                Matt's in the Market 4
                Restaurant Zoe 6

                1. re: akq

                  Thanks for everyone's help. After reading what you've said, plus the menus on the various restaurants' sites, I have my four nights in Seattle narrowed to Union and Lampreia for sure, but am still trying to decide which of the following to eliminate: Barolo, Champagne, or Harvest Vine. So my question is: Has anyone been to two or more of these RECENTLY and how do you judge them against one another?

                  1. re: ponocat

                    Ponocat, I am so close to you on restaurant choices! I am only going to be in Seattle for three nights -you have an advantage! My updated list is: Friday: The Union, Sat: Lampreia or spring hill, Sunday (more difficult, as many places are closed): Rovers or Campagne.

                    1. re: rp1760

                      rp1760, when will you be there? I go in November. If you go first, will you write your impressions?

                      1. re: ponocat

                        I will be there late evening October 22 through noon on October 26. I will do my very best to post a review by October 30!

                        I don't eat much of a breakfast, and rarely go out for formal brunch. In addition to my dinner list, I am hoping to get to some of these places for early lunch and/or late afternoon snack: Elliotts for oysters, Matt's for Ciopinno, Cafe Nola in Bainbridge, Chinook's at Seattle's Fisherman's Terminal, and maybe Tillicum Village for salmon if I don't go to Bainbridge. My reviews will be skewed towards fish/seafood, which I adore.

                        I am getting so excited for my first Seattle visit! Thank you, fellow Chows, for being so very helpful to me and ponocat and others!

                        1. re: rp1760

                          Aside: if you are fish-crazy and like sushi, don't miss Nishino. We had dinner there about 6 weeks ago with out of town guests who asked that the sushi chefs just keep sending sashimi platters of their choice to the table. The freshness of the seafood was unbelievable. It is not inexpensive but also not "high end". Good value for the money in my book.

                          1. re: rp1760

                            If you're going to Bainbridge, check out Mora ice cream. Excellent.

                            1. re: rp1760

                              rp1760, did you go? What was your evaluation. I am getting ready to go myself and hope to learn from you!

                              1. re: ponocat

                                Updated info - Union has closed and Lampreia is now a small plate format.

                                Lampreia Restaurant
                                2400 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

                        2. re: ponocat

                          Dump Harvest Vine. Of the three, it's the least impressive on food quality level.

                          1. re: ponocat

                            I can definitely recommend Harvest Vine over Campagne, although both are very food. I'm a little biased because French food is often a little heavy for me and I always feel guilty about eating so much butter.

                            1. re: ponocat

                              Campagne is awesome, if you like French. I've had several excellent dinners there this year. Barolo's food is divine, although I have only been there for lunch this year. You've got three different cuisines - French, Italian and Spanish...I'd go with Campagne of the three, Barolo second, HV third. HV gets mixed reviews on the Board. There are a few people who LOVE them, but quite a few (it seems) who are so-so on the experience. Of the three, I'd guess HV will run the most expensive.

                              1. re: akq

                                You can hit Txori for a quick bite or lunch for a similar palate to Harvest Vine. Totally different vibe, etc but same chef/owner.

                                My two cents: I was at Crush about a month ago, and had a fabulous meal, again. I went to Union for the first time this weekend and it was, well, "fine". Nothing to complain about, food was very good, but i think my expectations were too high, b/c I love how to cook a wolf. If I were to complain, it woudl be that everything we ordered was on the Urban Eats menu and i just paid $150 for a $60 meal, but I suppose that was my own fault. I think they are weak on dessert.

                                I love Campagne, and if you go, you will enjoy it. However, if you have a good french restaurant where you live, it isnt' something you have to come to Seattle for. I would consider Canlis for a high end meal. It has really earned its place back in the best of Seattle, imo.

                    2. I'll Second the vote for Rover's, IMHO, probably the best restaurant in Seattle.

                      Cafe Juanita is highly over-rated - here is a review I posted on another website.

                      Friends (another chef and foodie wife) were visiting Seattle so we decided to join them for a weekend of culinary adventure. One of the restaurants they apropos was Café Juanita, since we had met them on a culinary tour of Italy just over a decade ago.

                      First of all to correct some misconceptions here, this is not exactly authentic Northern Italian cuisine, it is more of Nuevo fusion of Italian and NW cooking. The chef seems to enjoy throwing together unusual items, I guess this for some wow appeal, but many times the pairings simply did not work.


                      The Beef Tongue was ok but nothing special, we all agreed that Tonnato sauce overpowered it the delicate flavor of the tongue.
                      Veal Sweetbreads were good
                      The curried foie gras was okay, but why use curry????? Foie Gras has a beautiful taste that should be complimented and not overridden. The pomegranate went well (acid to cut the fat).
                      The pear salad was good.

                      The entrees were better then the apps

                      Rabbit was excellent
                      The whole sea bass presentation was something I liked until the server tried to filet like a mad butcher. Perhaps they should give them some lessons, Mark, my friend who ordered it, actually got up and showed him how to properly fillet a cooked bass, I think we embarrassed him but he needed help.
                      The stuffed chicken with sweet breads, emmer wheat (faro) and foie gras sauce was one of those dishes that had way to many competing flavors for it to work. A definite redo of this dish needs to be done.


                      The Brussels sprouts with pancetta and anchovy sauce was another dish that did had too many flavors; I don't want vegetables with pork and fish on them.
                      We disagreed on the cauliflower, I liked the lime, and everyone else thought it didn't belong.


                      I usually find Italian desserts to be insipid and banal, however we all agreed that the desserts were very good to excellent, although extremely pricy for what you got.

                      Service was excellent, however as a party of four we spent over $ 450.00 and considering the price - the quality and wow factor were not there.

                      1. My wife and I just returned from 3 days there and here's what we thought:

                        Poppy (new place from the guy who was head chef at Herb Farm) - Fantastic, highly recommended (but avoid the funky cocktails).

                        Dahlia Lounge - Total disappointment, felt like a has-been that's seen its day. Best avoided.

                        How to Cook a Wolf - Loved it. Everything we had was delicious. Really outstanding, cool and fun.

                        Dahlia Lounge
                        2030 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

                        Herb Farm
                        14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: stever70

                          So what did you and your wife have that was either terrific or disappointing, steve? I always love knowing what to avoid!

                          1. re: stever70

                            Funny. We ate at The Dahlia last night, and while it has been a while since we have visited it seemed to me to live up to the high quality I have had in the past. Wife had the albacore tuna, with wonderful sides. Perfectly fresh...great flavors in the kale and beans. Mr pork loin was juicy, pink rare, and full of flavor. Great brussels sprouts.
                            We also had some house smoked salmon. Very nice. Maybe we just hit a lucky night...but it was as it has been. "Best avoided" is too strong.

                            1. re: stever70

                              I felt the same way about Dahlia. It somehow felt dated, like maybe 15 years ago it was great, and was trying to keep up, but had lost its luster. I was both underimpressed with the service and the food when I went.