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Is Canlis or Herbfarm dated?

a
albatruffles Sep 15, 2011 02:54 PM

I was looking to go to both of them for dinner in October, but the pictures on yelp reminded of an 80's restaurant. Canlis' website is more modern, but I still have my reservations. Curious if these places were good years ago and under a different chef? Would you recommend going if you only had 4 nights in Seattle? Thanks.

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Canlis Restaurant
2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

The Herbfarm
14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072

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  1. babette feasts Sep 16, 2011 05:46 AM

    Canlis is swank lodge, I wouldn't call it dated. Nice, and service bends over backwards to please.

    Herbfarm is floral grandma layer upon layer, not modern. Food is good but I think you really have to be in it for the whole theatrical precious experience.

    1. m
      maddie2011 Sep 16, 2011 08:19 AM

      i went to the Canlis like 3 weeks ago for the first time its very nice with an amazing view awsome staff and their food is just perfect. i've never been to Herbfarm but no disappointment at the canlis

      -----
      Canlis Restaurant
      2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

      The Herbfarm
      14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072

      1. c
        christy319 Sep 20, 2011 02:39 PM

        Dated isn't the right word for Canlis, but it has an old-school touch to it--that's part of the charm. The menu's meant to walk the line between doing modern food, without pissing off regulars who have been going there for decades. I really like it but it might not be what you're looking for.

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        Canlis Restaurant
        2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

        2 Replies
        1. re: christy319
          a
          albatruffles Sep 20, 2011 04:24 PM

          I actually want to go, it's my girlfriend that I would need to convince. I do worry that some of the newer places in Seattle would have better food and we're leaning towards that. Thanks for the feedback.

          1. re: albatruffles
            b
            Booklegger451 Sep 21, 2011 02:10 PM

            I have to agree with other posters here... Canlis is old-school, classic, perfect fine dining. Dated is not the term I would apply. I don't think there is a fine dining restaurant in Seattle who's food is as good, and the service is top notch.

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            Canlis Restaurant
            2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

        2. p
          pusherman Sep 21, 2011 09:42 AM

          I hear nothing but good things about Canlis...let's say classic, not dated.

          The same could not be said for Herbfarm, which I have heard is not only dated but stuffy. However- Corson Building has a similar culinary offering with a much more modern atmosphere, you might want to check it out instead.

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          The Herbfarm
          14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072

          The Corson Building
          5609 Corson Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108

          14 Replies
          1. re: pusherman
            t
            tsquare Sep 21, 2011 02:37 PM

            I don't think there is much of a comparison between the food at The Corson Building and at The Herbfarm. They are not trying to be the same at all. The atmosphere at The Corson Building is actually quite rustic, but spare (if that is what you mean by modern?) I will agree that the atmosphere at The Herbfarm is a bit over the top in an almost rococo country way and the presentation of the meal over the many hours isn't something I'd want to do often. Sitting at the group table is pretty interesting - you'll find yourself talking to people who have travelled long distances to eat here, and some from just up the road who are back for their umpteenth visit. Those people will wonder why everyone in Seattle hasn't tried the place at least once.

            The food at The Corson Building is served family style (or is for the full experience) even when you are sitting with strangers. It's very well prepared, with some interesting twists, but pretty rustic. Dinners at The Herbfarm are carefully executed, multi-plated, high service affairs utilizing primarily locally sourced foods - much foraged or handcrafted on site. But rustic, it isn't. The food is not dated at all, but the service is unlike anything I've ever experienced and it won't agree with many people.

            I may be mistaken, but I think S&S owner/chef Matt Dillon spent some time in the kitchen of The Herbfarm, along with a number of other local chefs who have done well on their own. I find it sad that such a ground breaking and continually evolving establishment continues to receive such hearsay.

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            The Herbfarm
            14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072

            The Corson Building
            5609 Corson Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108

            1. re: tsquare
              babette feasts Sep 21, 2011 04:03 PM

              I think the problem with the Herbfarm is that it's not groundbreaking anymore, and the 'rococo country' (prefect description btw) interior hasn't evolved. And agreed that the banquet style service is not for everyone.

              1. re: babette feasts
                t
                tsquare Sep 21, 2011 06:54 PM

                The interior hasn't evolved, but the food does. For their 100 mile dinner, they made their own salt, vinegar, and baking powder. They do more herbal infusions and elixirs than the hippest cocktail lounges. The food getting high praises on Lummi at the Willows Inn? The Herbfarm has been doing very similar preparations and combinations for the last few years. The owner does stuff like going to Noma in Denmark, to see what is going on in the world. If the Herbfarm opened within the last year with the food they serve today, it would be on many best lists. Is it just the decor and service style that keeps it from being groundbreaking?

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                The Herbfarm
                14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072

                1. re: tsquare
                  Tom Armitage Sep 21, 2011 09:27 PM

                  The food was always good at The Herb Farm, at least under Jerry Traunfeld and Keith Luce, but the huge turn-off for me was the big production that accompanied the dinner, with the garden tour, introductions of everyone from the chefs to the bussers, the long, boring, self-congratulatory history of the Herb Farm, plus the hard sell of all the “souvenir items” for sale and the rooms at the Willows Lodge. Has this heavy-handed production format changed?

                  1. re: Tom Armitage
                    babette feasts Sep 21, 2011 10:04 PM

                    The heavy-handed format has not changed.

                    1. re: Tom Armitage
                      c
                      cocktailhour Nov 2, 2011 10:49 AM

                      I have been to Herbfarm a number of times--not the original, but when they were in the winery and now, albeit always when Traunfeld was there. I really do think the food is terrific. But I have to agree about the production of it all. I don't mind the intros and I wouldn't quite call the service banquet style, but it is a big commitment. Also I think they have become more stingy on their wine pours, and I don't like that they now really push/upsell their better wines as an add-on. I still this it is a must for "foodies," although not necessarily on a first trip to Seattle.

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                      The Herbfarm
                      14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072

                    2. re: tsquare
                      babette feasts Sep 21, 2011 10:03 PM

                      The farm-to-table, as local as possible concept was groundbreaking 20 or 25 years ago, or whenever it was when they opened. Now they may still be doing it more intensely/commitedly than a lot of other restaurants, but a lot of restaurants are doing it to some extent. Corson Building, Bastille's rooftop herb garden, Local 360, Tilth is mostly local, isn't it? So the concept has become common.

                      The food has progressed, I'm sure. I've only been there once, earlier this year for the 'taste of trees' menu, and my only complaint about the food was that they could have pushed the herb flavors a little farther, but it seemed like they wanted to make sure they didn't offend anyone. Didn't care for the desserts, but that was personal preference rather than execution.

                      If I could have the food without the overwhelming pink flowery clutter, the banquet service, and the 'production' that Tom describes, I may go back. So yes, for me it is the non-food aspects of the experience, as well as their expectation that you want to buy into their whole 6 hour experience, that keeps me from wanting to do it more than once.

                      1. re: babette feasts
                        t
                        tsquare Sep 22, 2011 12:18 AM

                        Thanks Tom and Babette. I actually agree with both of you on the heavy handed presentation and decor, but so often the comments from people, especially ones who haven't been, is that the food is dated or "not good since Jerry left" and those comments I can't agree with. At home, we've often discussed how much we'd like to try some of the stuff they are offering, but are not up to the overall experience and time commitment (even if the $ wasn't also an issue.) Thanks for teasing this out with me.

                        By the way - you know they have their own farm, chickens, pigs, etc out there now? Much more than lip service. I don't have any stake in the place (other than the herbs I bought and planted from the original location that I left behind when I moved a few years ago!) but I really enjoy reading what they are up to and the generosity with which Ron Z responds to questions about, pretty much everything and anything!

                        1. re: tsquare
                          a
                          albatruffles Oct 31, 2011 12:30 PM

                          Just got back from our trip and had a great time. However I can now answer the question myself. Canlis is definitely dated. Although, the setting and history are intriguing, I would not recommend it to a foodie.

                          We ordered the Canlis Salad, Dungeness Crab Cake, Gnudi, Smoke-Cured Salmon, Grilled King Salmon, Gleason Ranch Ribeye, Twice Baked Potato, Pumpkin Pie, and Grand Marnier Soufflé. Of the more modern dishes, the ones we enjoyed we cured salmon and the pumpkin pie. But, the preparation of the rest of the dishes left us both wanting more. I didn't feel sauces were done well and meats were on the dryer side, even the ribeye. The best part of the meal was guessing which Pop songs the pianist was playing.

                          I would send foodies to Sitka & Spruce, Walrus, or Spinasse instead.

                          -----
                          Canlis Restaurant
                          2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

                          Sitka & Spruce
                          2238 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102

                          Spinasse
                          Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

                           
                           
                          1. re: albatruffles
                            d
                            dagrassroots Oct 31, 2011 02:01 PM

                            Tasting menu is the way to go at canlis.

                            1. re: dagrassroots
                              a
                              albatruffles Oct 31, 2011 02:19 PM

                              I would completely agree. We got a couple things off the menu and they were the better dishes of the night. It wasn't until we left that we both said we should have done the tasting menus.

                              1. re: dagrassroots
                                h
                                HungWeiLo Dec 12, 2011 10:03 AM

                                Do they pair wine selections with the tasting menu there? I'm guessing that's not part of the prix fixe tasting menu.

                                1. re: HungWeiLo
                                  t
                                  tsquare Dec 12, 2011 01:13 PM

                                  Two choices of tasting flights are offered with the tasting menu, at different price points.

                    3. re: tsquare
                      gingershelley Dec 9, 2011 04:56 PM

                      Yes, Matt did do time at The Herbfarm, during the period just after they moved to the then-new Woodinville location. Wow, that was - like, coming on 15 years ago... I think the food can still be seasonal and inovative, but man, Ron Zimmerman and Co. should really close for a remodel - stripping away all that calico,fake plants, etc. and while they are modernizing the dining room, modernize the service plan.
                      All that said, I had one of the best evenings of my life there with three BFF foodie friends while oggling Dave Mathews and his friends at a nearby table! A night I will not forget, for food, company, and our favorite rock star:)! And of course, we were all ignoring the decor:)

                  2. ritabwh Dec 7, 2011 07:45 PM

                    i've never been to Canlis, but i've been to the Herb farm 3 times now within the past 3 years. i don't think the food at the Herbfarm is dated. as described in another post, Herbfarm's Country Roccoco decor is just fine with me. is it dated? i think i prefer it to the currently popular industrial-chic decor that is deafening and cold and comfortable.
                    the first visit was on a whim with a friend and we were wowed. 2nd visit, i still remember the cured egg served with one of the courses. yes, the 30 minute meet and lecture was awfully tedious, but so is the 10 minute lesson at Andaluca between every course; and by the 3rd dinner, we knew to arrive late to miss the Herbfarm history lesson.
                    i like the Herbfarm for the incredible service and every course is a pleasant surprise for me.
                    on our second visit, they kept skipping our table for the 2nd pour, until we grumbled a tad bit more loudly than sotto voce, and suddenly everything was fine. i;ve been at Herbfarm dinners with guests dressed in hoodies and shorts to a couple dressed in ballroom gown and tails. it is a destination dinner. i wowed my sister for her birthday. but i would go once a month for each theme dinner if i could.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: ritabwh
                      clubtraderjoes Dec 9, 2011 09:32 AM

                      I've been to both places and I would call Canlis "classic", but not cutting edge. Great food and service, but probably not going win awards for originality.

                      The Herbfarm on the other hand is kind of a weird place. Ron and Carrie are a bit of an odd couple. The place is decorated in frills and lots of draperies and curtains. You feel like you are the most kitschy place in the world, but the food is crazy good and cutting edge. The Herbfarm experience is very long so be prepared for several hours for dinner.

                      1. re: clubtraderjoes
                        gingershelley Dec 9, 2011 04:58 PM

                        And if you are smart, stay next door at Barking Frog, or arrange for a town car ride home with all the wine pairings and after-dinner wine!

                        1. re: gingershelley
                          a
                          acgold7 Dec 9, 2011 11:14 PM

                          I think you mean the Willows Inn. The Barking Frog is just a restaurant, as far as I know.

                          1. re: acgold7
                            gingershelley Dec 10, 2011 05:58 AM

                            Correct, I mixed that up.

                            1. re: gingershelley
                              f
                              FoodDee Dec 10, 2011 04:09 PM

                              Actually its the Willows Lodge. The Willows Inn is on Lummi Island and the restaurant there is getting way more rave reviews than either The Herbfarm or Canlis.

                              1. re: FoodDee
                                clubtraderjoes Dec 12, 2011 03:51 PM

                                I've heard the Willow's Inn has like a 6 month waiting list to get in. That could be rumor. Barking Frog is excellent American cuisine. The Herbfarm is highly seasonal, very local. All make excellent food. Much of the Herbfarm is their goofy service and oddball owners that make it such an interesting experience. The Willows Lodge is an ultra luxury inn and spa. Dirty little secret is that there is a wine bar in the Willows Lodge and you if you ask nicely you can get the full Barking Frog menu (just across the parking lot) and not have to wait to get in the regular restaurant.

                                1. re: clubtraderjoes
                                  f
                                  FoodDee Dec 12, 2011 08:04 PM

                                  I find the Barking Frog to be inconsistent and certainly not on the level of the other 2 restaurants mentioned - though I must admit to not having been to Willows Inn or Herbfarm.

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