Splurge Birthday meal? Prefer a tasting menu.
I will be taking the day off from work and would like indulge myself to a memorable dinner. A daytrip to a destination restaurant would be most welcome. For my birthday last year, I drove down to Oregon (had an itch to go see the ocean) for Pok Pok for happy hour, followed by Le Pigeon for dinner.
I've already gone through about 80+ restaurants in Seattle, including all of the top local spots. Also have done tasting menus at Rover's, Herbfarm, Canlis, Willow's Inn, Altura, Spinasse, and RN74. Rather than go someplace familiar, I'd like to check out something new.
I'm looking at the following three which I've never visited:
1) Inn at Langley
3) Salish Lodge
Thoughts on any of those?
(W42- Apologies for the delayed response. I knew I had a lengthy write-up to tackle and didn't want to start until I had a decent chunk of free time.)
I planned on going to Copperleaf for my bday but decided at the last minute to go to Cirque du Soleil which was in Redmond... and coming from SeaTac, I didn't want to risk getting stuck in rush hour traffic on the 405 and miss the show. So instead, I ended up going to John Howie for the first time. The clincher was that I learned from glancing at their online menu that they also serve their steaks "oscar style"... with dungeness crab on top. Dinner was a semi-splurge of surf & turf -- I opted for a sinful melt-in-your-mouth tender filet mignon with crab. If I hadn't committed myself to the show afterwards, I would have certainly tried a number of their signature sides.
As luck would have it, an old friend from high school came up for a weekend visit recently, and I suggested the splurge dinner at Copperleaf to her (her bday was coming up also)... and she jumped at the idea. We went for a 7pm dinner at Cedarbrook, which really is a marvel of a place... a great gem of a hideaway in SeaTac. Walking around their grounds and peering into some of the garden suites, I convinced myself that I had to find a reason to book a weekend vacation there pronto.
As for the restaurant, the place really doesn't feel like one, as some have mentioned here and on the various online review sites. The dining area is located in a double-height lobby type room, with lots of windows all around. After being seated, the hospitality of the staff was simply impeccable. Throughout dinner, we even chatted with the formal yet personable servers and sommelier. I'd say the service was on par with Canlis and Rovers in that they would go all out to make sure all of your needs are taken care of.
My friend and I both ordered the tasting menu, and she also opted for the wine flight. The whole dinner was made up of five courses plus an amuse and intermezzo... not as long and varied as other places... but every dish was substantial portion-wise and we were both very full and happy at the end.
The dinner consisted of the following:
Amuse Bouche - some sort of chicken salad. A bite-sized portion served with a nice cracker/crisp and a berry smear.
First Course - Ozette Potato Soup. Plating was gorgeous. Imagine a nice bed of prepared black truffle and pickled chanterelles in a bowl, with the servers then pouring the creamy silky potato soup over that.
Second Course - Poaced Wenatchee Bosc Pears. This was the salad course, served with Parma Reggio, Banyuls Vinegar, Swiss Chard, and Soubise.
Intermezzo - Oysters served with a lemon sorbet in a shot glass. The shot glass sits in a bigger glass carrying orchids. Everything was see-through. And both sit on a bed of seasonings and fancy salt. The oysters in lemon sorbet were out-of-the-ordinary and quite a refreshing palate cleanser. We weren't quite sure if the salt was supposed to be added to the mix.
Third Course - Caramelized Diver Scallops
Served with Rhubarb, Toasted Cashews, and Celery Branch. Two perfectly seared scallops over two different purees. One was a cashew puree, the other was derived from potato, I think. Solid dish.
Fourth Course - Snake River Wagyu Brisket
Served with Broccolini, Roasted Beets, Horseradish, Creme Fraiche, Garlic Toast. The brisket portion was huge for a tasting menu course... maybe as wide as half my palm and as long as my wrist to middle finger.This was generous and quite filling.
Dessert - Bourbon Chocolate Cake
Served with Caramel Ice Cream, Toasted Pecans, Cascade Huckleberry Preserves. Surprisingly, I had room left at that point, and I quickly gobbled this up.
We were both quite happy and I certainly would love to go back. I thought the food was quite elegant... presentation-wise, probably on par with what I've seen at Canlis and Herbfarm... which I both consider to be solid but not knock-your-socks-off. Judging by execution and technique, again, everything was lovely but I found the dishes not as complex and creative as what I've had at Book Bindery, Rover's, Altura, or Cafe Juanita.
It's hard to compare any local places to The Willow's Inn because their food is so "exotic" presentation-wise. (Case in point... one of the "courses" or bites that I had there was this hand-sized piece of what I first thought was an enormous pork rind, only it was a halibut skin that was nicely crinkled... and they placed little bits of truffles and other flavors within the nooks and crannies. Visually, I thought wowie zowie!!) Granted, you will get a smattering of hyper-local flavors... I wouldn't call it a "feast" as it's more like a series of fifteen bites, some bigger than others. You can definitely tell that chef's technique has a bit of an experimental gastronomy slant; while I was there, I certainly wondered if that experience was akin to dining at Noma or Alinea.
Spinasse is creative if you compare them to the countless other Italian joints in town. I've been there twice and their dishes tend to seem one-note... I'd rate them lesser than Altura or Cafe Juanita.
RN74 was a colossal disappointment considering the amazing experience I had at Michael Mina's flagship resto in SF.
I do hope to make it to both Salish Lodge and the Inn at Langley soon and will report on those when I do. A few others on my tasting menu wishlist are Crush, Mistral, Spur, Nishino, Nell's, and Matt's in the Market (as someone had suggested).
So I haven't been to Inn at Langely, but based on what I know of it here's my thoughts. Salish lodge has more 'hotel-y' food--the food is not the main draw, and it sort of shows? I think it's getting better since I was there...but not a 'food' destination, more of a 'food+view+spa' destination.
Copperleaf is very good, I'm a big fan, but it's more Altura, Spinasse/RN74 in terms of a menu you can do a tasting menu of, but without the formality/all in-ness of Rover's, Herbfarm, Willow's. I'd think that for that, you're looking at Inn at Langely, though again, I haven't eaten at that one.
Thanks, dagoose. Your tips are exactly what I'd read about the places so far, and I'm definitely leaning towards the top two choices.
Copperleaf - I certainly wouldn't mind ordering four or five items from the menu and measuring the chef's talent that way.
Inn at Langley - I've read that the food there is in the same vein as Willow's Inn (which I tried and enjoyed last month). I can't seem to find any photos of the food online, unfortunately.