Boat Street Cafe, Seattle
A recent dinner at Boat Street Café reminded me that a dining experience where every single dish is extraordinary is a rare event, which I suppose is inherent in the definition of the word “extraordinary.” Most dining experiences are mixed, with some wonderful dishes, and others that are less than wonderful. At Boat Street, my wife and I had two appetizers (sautéed dates and pate), two entrees (pork chop and steak), and two deserts (pot de crème and bread pudding). Because we were going to the theater, we didn’t have time to eat the bread pudding at the restaurant, but they packed it up for us and we had it at home the next night. The preparation of the dates was fine, but I’m not sure I like the combination of dates and olive oil, even with the added punch of fleur de sel. It seemed to cry out for something to counterbalance the sweetness and oiliness. The chicken liver pate was good, and the accompanying pickled prunes were perfect foil for the pate. However, although the pickled prunes are missing, you can get a similar chicken liver pate of equal if not better quality at Le Pichet for $6, so the $14 price tag at Boat Street seems excessive. The Carlton Farms pork chop came perfectly cooked to order with a pink center. It was moist and flavorful, with the flavor spiked by pickled golden raisins. The accompanying kale gratin was also excellent. One of the best steaks I’ve ever had is Mark Peel’s grilled prime rib with black olive tapenade, a signature dish at his restaurant, Campanile, in Los Angeles. So I was excited to see the ribeye steak with black olive tapenade on Boat Street’s menu. Alas, it wasn’t even close to the version at Campanile. The steak was cooked to order (rare), but curiously had almost no flavor of its own. All the flavor came from the olive tapenade which, by itself, just wasn’t enough to carry the dish. The dark chocolate pot de crème was pleasant, but not very “dark.” It was more of a mousse. I prefer pot de crème to have a more intense flavor of bitter chocolate and be denser in texture. The texture of the Amaretto bread pudding was lovely, properly moistened with the rum butter sauce and further moistened with heavy cream. However, I found the almond flavor too strong, and would have liked a lighter touch with the Amaretto. We accompanied our meal with a very pleasant bottle of Domaine Alary, a Cotes-du-Rhone from Cairanne. .
Overall, with the exception of the pork chop, the food at Boat Street was good, but not wonderful. The service, on the other hand, was spectacular – it couldn’t have been better. My main quibble is with the price of the food. The cost of the food was $98 (before tax and tip), including a $2 charge for bread (a mini-baguette from Columbia City Bakery with a handful of Nicoise olives on the plate), plus $45 for the wine (I have no problem with the price of the wine, which retails for around $24.) This brought the total cost of the meal to $143 -- $186.30 after tax and tip. That’s getting up there. The question is how this meal compares with what you can get for the same price at other leading Seattle restaurants. It’s not out of the ball park, but it also isn’t at the top of my list. I will probably eat at Boat Street occasionally, just not often. .
Boat Street Cafe
3131 Western Ave Ste 301, Seattle, WA 98121