Hitchcock (Bainbridge Island) revisited
We hadn't been to Hitchcock, Bainbridge Island's most inventive restaurant, for a while so we made reservations and went last night.
Am I glad we did.
We were welcomed graciously and seated immediately in the area we had requested. Our drink order was taken right away.
We started with Marcona almonds and heirloom radishes with house-made cultured butter, radish greens, and Cyprus flake salt. Although radishes and butter are a little less known here, they took my wife back to her days of living in France.
But it was my main that really impressed me. I had maltagliatti with beef short rib and tomato ragu with pecorino and mint. The house-made pasta was cooked perfectly and the sauce reminded me of Babbo's "Mint Love Letters," (though Batali's dish is made with spicy lamb sausage. It was one of the best restaurant pasta dishes I've had in quite some time - perhaps since my last visit to Babbo.
One of my dining companions had gnocchi (also house-made) with creamed Bainbridge Island nettles, Parmesan, and breadcrumbs - also a knockout. The third dish at our table was an excellent whole wheat spaghetti and Eagle Rock clams with lacinato kale, garlic, chilies and herbs.
Overall a restaurant experience that was everything a serious Hound looks for - great food and great service in a lively environment.
Winslow Way, where Hitchcock is located, is currently under construction, but don't let that deter you from taking a ferry to Bainbridge for dinner at Hitchcock - it's easy to get around and Hitchcock's side of the street is currently unaffected by the construction work.
Wow. Really? We were there last Friday night. My experience was a bit different:
First off we had really great service, really great. The atmosphere was nice, lively but not loud. We ordered a half dozen oysters to start and some martinis to wash them down. Bread was served. The oysters were lovely; fresh, briney, wonderful. Unfortunately for me were topped with a raspberry ice. I love raspberry but it didn't marry well with the oysters; it was fine if a bit salty and the oysters were really calling out for something with some acid - citrus or vinegar.
The martinis came and they were icy and perfect - only to be ruined by some really lackluster olives.
The bread? Well, I am admittedly a bread snob and I am just so disappointed when someone puts bread on my table that should be crusty and brown and it is not. This bread was pale to the point of being almost creamy white.
Like you we had the maltagliatti with beef short rib and the gnocchi with nettles. The gnocchi was genius, A+. The maltagliatti was good; the pasta was well made and the sauce was good. But nothing to drive me to order it again. I had short ribs at Babbo and this ragu didn't bring that to mind at all (and I'd order those Babbo short ribs again in a heartbeat).
All in all a good dinner but I haven't made plans to go back.
We were also there recently and left very happy. I had previously posted about lackluster service, since much improved.
I liked the oyster garnishes a lot more than cburnsi (they had changed by the time we had them) and the oysters were phenomenal.
The house-cured pork loin (with pickled fiddlehead ferns that night) was *incredible,* as good as you can get for charcuterie anywhere.
My wife and I pigged out on sides (brussels sprouts, cauliflower), which were just basic, simply roasted, and great.
I agree w/ cburnsi on the two pasta dishes -- the gnocchi was excellent, the bolognese was perfectly fine but there's plenty better, nothing I'd order again.
We also split a *very* nice roast chicken with lentils.
And it was fun to see a Washington state nebbiolo on the wine list (Cavatappi), which was excellent.
Look, you have to make some allowances for place here, in my humble opinion. To have a place like this on Bainbridge Island is a huge blessing -- a rapidly changing, inventive menu, truly local/seasonal/organic, a chef who is so personally invested in and enthusiastic about what he's doing. So if you're grading on the Kitsap curve, it's a clear A. But if you're grading on the greater Seattle curve you have to take it down a notch - though the next night my wife ate at Staple and Fancy and said that for a very similar menu she preferred Hitchcock.
All in all, this is a very good place, and we're going to be back for sure.
Thanks for the correction; I guess our server wasn't well informed and the saltiness so overwhelmed the oysters I am very surprised to here there was any acid in the granita. It is great to know you are here and I'm sure next time they'll be perfect.
Now, about those olives you use for martinis..... :)
I recently wrote about my experiences at Hitchcock, but the thread got moved to the Food Media and News board, since all the other posts were about whether and when a restaurant reviewer (specifically the Seattle Times review of Hitchcock by Providence Cicero) should explain and define terms like “brodo.” So, for ease of access by Seattle area Chowhounds, I’m re-posting my experiences at Hitchcock here.
I’ve been twice recently, once when Chef McGill was in the kitchen, and once when he was on vacation. Both times I had a wonderful experience and thought the food was interesting, creative, well-conceived, and well-executed. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, and much that I loved. I tried the duck liver mousse, beef marrow bones, olive oil poached baby turnip, wood-fired chicken drumettes, watermelon with anise hyssop and chili oil (fabulous!), house-made chorizo, and spaghetti “di grana arso,” where the semolina is charred in the wood-burning oven before incorporating it into the pasta. I normally don’t like the texture of steak from grass-fed beef (although it makes the tastiest steak tartare), but the grass-fed flat-iron steak was absolutely delicious and perfectly cooked.
Hitchcock initially aroused my attention because of numerous complaints on Chowhound’s Seattle Board about poor service. Whatever problems there may have been in the past, on my two visits the service was fine.
Bottom line: I’m a huge fan of Hitchcock, and it’s become one of my favorite places west of Seattle. It measures up to Seattle standards just fine – which few places on Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County, or the Olympic Peninsula do.
There are certain blends of foods that Seattle foodies will try that seem so unmatched in truth that they'll send me out of a restaurant, never to go back again.
Oysters with rasberries and bitter oranges is one of those recipes.
Salmon with chocolate sauce is another. (Salmon fudge sundae? Only here!)
Although I’m a purist, and enjoy my oysters on the half-shell “naked” with nothing other than the natural oyster liquor, some form of acid – either citric acid or vinegar – in a mignonette or granita is a classic accompaniment. The traditional mignonette involves vinegar and shallots, but a squeeze of lemon is another classic accompaniment. So oysters with blood orange & citrus granita (as Hitchcock pointed out, there were no raspberries in the granita) isn’t anything very weird or “out there.”
re: Tom Armitage
I like mine cooked in something that's pH neurtral or actually basic, like milk sauce. I don't know what an acid would do to them, but I'd suspect that it's important to keep sugars far, far away from them!
Another one I had to try was pasta with sardine sauce. This is fennel, golden raisins, garlic and fried or grilled sardines.
The sardines were good. The pasta was good. The combination was horrific. I'm pretty catholic in my tastes, and it's rare that I find a food combination that I simply can't stand at all, but that's one of them, and mixing sweet friut with oysters is another.