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Apr 15, 2013 02:35 PM

Best lox (SEA)?

Who makes really exceptional lox (just lox, to take home)? This isn't something I normally crave but I just had some at Willows Inn on Lummi that was out of this world. The homemade creme fraiche and rye toasts didn't hurt either. I am dying for more but am looking dubiously at the packaged stuff I see in stores.

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  1. I really like Gerard & Dominique, and being they're based in Anacortes, it's pretty easy to find...packaged in stores.

    10 Replies
    1. re: jlbwendt

      I think I need to read up on different kinds of lox. I looked at G&D''s website, and it looks like they do smoked salmon, but I'm looking for lox that's been cured but not smoked. I think. It didn't taste smoky, anyway.

      1. re: christy319

        Well, there's two ways to smoke a salmon.

        One is with a dry cure and then hot smoking (around 200 deg). This is the kind of smoked salmon that seems drier and flakier. You can usually taste/sense the smoke.

        Then there's wet brining and cold smoking (80 deg or less), which results in a fish that has more of a silky, raw texture - though it isn't raw. I can't always taste the smoke here.

        Then there's gravlax...which is dry cured and not smoked.

        Hope this helps. I'm sure if you emailed Willows Inn, they'd be happy to tell you which kind you were served.

        1. re: jlbwendt

          I did and they tell me that their lox is not smoked, but it is "weighted and flattened." So maybe it's closest to gravlax, though they don't call it that? It did have a silky raw texture.Any chance of finding something like this in a store?

          1. re: christy319

            Sounds like gravlax. I've found it at Whole Foods before.

            1. re: Brunhilde

              Was it good? Gravlax seems to be hard enough to find that I guess I better just start buying and eating...

              1. re: Brunhilde

                Whole Foods sells "lox tips" at a very good price. They are basically the trim pieces from a producer of the neat slices we think of as "lox." The pieces are irregular in shape and thickness, but taste fine. When I was growing up in NY, my grandmother always bought tips unless company was coming for Sunday brunch.

                I always ask at WF if they are from wild salmon and, so far, the answer has always been yes.

            2. re: jlbwendt

              And then there's kippering at 143F. And wind drying, with or without smoke. Goes on and on...

            3. re: christy319

              most definitely try G&D. though called smoked, it is the best easily(not having to be shipped from outside WA) available lox. fantastic flavor. most QFC stores have it in the seafood section. plus, Gerard and Dominique are great folks running a local business with outstanding quality. Boy do I miss his restaurant!
              you can also get it in a bagel sandwich at Blazing Bagels in Redmond. so ggod!
              this is directly from the website-
              Our European Style Smoked Salmon (a traditional preparation similar to "nova", "cold smoked" or "lox") is silky, succulent and mild, with complex layers of flavors and a long, well-balanced finish.

              1. re: bighound

                The European style is farmed Atlantic salmon. G&D also has an Alaskan (therefore always wild) smoked sockeye they describe:

                --- This is the classic ""cold smoked" preparation – often referred to as "Nova style" or "lox" – which comes pre-sliced in thin, tender, silky smooth slices. ---

          2. Best Lox that I have found is at Freshy's on Mercer Island.

            1. Christy, Try this:

              I have been making gravlox for at least the past 15 years. I have tweaked my recipe . I reduce the salt to 1/2 the amount of the sugar, and I sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of Vodka on the fish first, for a little acid to get things going.
              Also, I wrap it up in 3 or 4 layers plastic wrap, place it in a plastic bag , then a second incase the first bag leaks and tie it up. In the fridge for at least 24 hours, usually 48 hours, skin side down. When you remove it from the fridge and remove all of the wrapping, just rinse all of the ingredients off in the sink. Slice and serve!

                1. re: Gizmo56

                  They buy their fish from a local manufacture called service smoked fish. Also a bit pricey.

                  1. re: Gizmo56

                    Gizmo...They buy their fish from Service Smoked Fish in Brooklyn. Go to their website, and Mr. Zabar himself gives testimony to their product. @ $50 bucks a pound from Zabars, You will pay half for the same product !

                    1. re: PHREDDY


                      Unfortunately, there is something wrong on their website (looks like their web site building company is still working with them on content), and there is nothing listed under products to order.

                      A phone call and detailed discussion will need to happen to get anything from them currently.

                      1. re: PHREDDY

                        A few things to consider:

                        Belly lox is simply very salty lox, nothing to do with the part of the salmon. I grew up in NY loving it, but no more. Now to me it kills the best of the lox flavor.

                        "Nova" or "Nova Scotia lox" is just less salty. It doesn't come from Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Atlantic salmon fishery was overfished and destroyed long ago.

                        Having an experienced cutter make wafer thin slices from a big salmon in front of you gives you a different feeling from thicker slices out of a vacuum bag.

                        As noted in this thread, we have excellent lox made locally.

                        I expect that since neither Zabar's nor Service Smoked claims their salmon is wild, it is likely farm-raised Atlantic salmon. Personally, I like wild Pacific salmon a lot better. Plus, there are important environmental reasons for avoiding farm-raised salmon.

                        1. re: RandyB

                          I thought about Zabar's or Russ and Daughters since I'm going to be in NYC next month, and they have gravlax. I too suspect they use Atlantic farmed, which, I can't imagine is going to top the reef net Sockeye I had at Willows. I'd be interested to try it, though.

                          1. re: RandyB

                            I'm afraid I have to correct you, Randy. I grew up in my parent's appetizing store in Brooklyn and worked there every weekend slicing lox, et al. 1. Nova Scotia "lox" is not lox but smoked salmon. It is cold smoked and not cured. 2. Then you have regular lox which is cured and is the full side of the salmon (many times mislabled Belly Lox). 3. Next you have Belly Lox which is the belly cut from the regular side of lox. The belly is fattier and milder than regular lox because it does not contain the back. The backs were used for pickled lox. I hope this clarifies this for you.

                            1. re: Alfred G

                              Alfred, thank you for the corrections. I do think, however, that the definitions are not universally accepted. For example, much that is sold as Nova is at least lightly cured before the cold smoke. In fact, if you look up the definition of Nova, almost everywhere there is a reference to curing or a light brine.

                              I have seen many delis in NY use the whole side of salmon when cutting Belly Lox, not just what might be called the belly cut. But more important, at least, is that Belly Lox was very salty. At least, that was what we always called it in my family in Brooklyn.

                              I guess I just don't remember what was the less salty lox that was not called Nova. You call it "regular lox," I think, since you say it is mislabeled Belly Lox. Was it just the same cured salmon as for Belly Lox that was rinsed and soaked to make it less salty, or something else?

                              1. re: RandyB

                                Regular lox is the whole side of salmon. Belly lox was the section of that side that was the belly only. Traditionally, the belly is fattier and more delicate than the back of the lox thereby making it slightly less salty.

                              2. re: Alfred G

                                Thanks for the clarification . Do you remember "Nova" would cost more than "Belly" and why?

                                1. re: PHREDDY

                                  That's correct. My only assumption is that it is lightly cured and then smoked rather than just cured which is an extra step and cost.

                                  1. re: Alfred G

                                    What I recall my appy man telling me, Nova costs more than Lox because it has less moisture, and therefore you get more product when sliced. Not sure if this factual, but seems to make sense.

                                    1. re: PHREDDY

                                      I think you might mean less product when it is sliced. That would make some sort of sense although that has not been my experience.

                              3. re: RandyB

                                "Smoked salmon: Smoked salmon is typically a filet of salmon that’s been cured in a sugar, water and spice mixture. Then, it’s cold smoked over wood chips, such as hickory, which helps it retain a smoky flavor.

                                Lox: Lox is salmon that’s bathed (or brine cured) in a salt solution for up to 24 hours. Unlike smoked salmon, it isn’t smoked. It’s often whiter than smoked salmon because it sits in a salt water and gets bleached. It’s also much saltier because of that. Berk advised against thinking pinker salmon is better. “The color is not important,” he said.

                                Belly lox: Belly lox is a fatty part, from the belly of the salmon, and it has a very full, delicate and salty flavor. A lot of people who consider themselves traditional lox connoisseurs for it, Berk said.

                                Nova: Nova is the mildest of the smoked salmons. At Zabar’s, “Zabar’s Nova” is the most popular smoked salmon by far, he said.

                                Scotch-cured (or Scottish) salmon: This smoked salmon has a much smokier flavor than nova and is a bit drier. In Scotland, salmon is smoked using oak.

                                Pastrami cured salmon: This smoked salmon is rubbed with the spices similar to those used to make pastrami, so it’s reminiscent of the deli meat.

                                Trimmings: Most people don’t even know these are available, because they have to be asked for, and aren’t listed on menus. Trimmings come from the very bottom of the fish, right on top of the skin, and is separated from the more prime cuts. Chewier and made up of darker meat, Zabar’s sells them for $7.95 per pound compared to $34, an option for the cash-strapped New Yorkers who need their smoked salmon fix.

                                Gravlax: Gravlax is cured but not smoked. It’s cured in sugar, salt and dill and covered in dill. People often serve it with a mustard dill sauce."

                                per http://www.amny.com/urbanite-1.812039...

                          2. I am eating the G&D Gravlax with rye toast and creme fraiche right now. I don't love it. It's smoked, for one thing, and from everything I read gravlax is not supposed to be (and I'm looking for un-smoked). I've had a couple really fishy bites. It's Coho. I dunno, maybe this is as good as packaged stuff gets but it's not like what I had at Willows Inn. The search continues.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: christy319

                              Like so many other things, it is a matter of taste and style. There is no patented or written-in-stone definition of gravlax. It is similar for Nova. AlfredG's family store sold an uncured version, while more typically Nova is lightly cured before cold smoking.

                              However, "fishy bites" does not sound good. Regardless of the definition or style, it shouldn't taste fishy unless it is old or was left unchilled for too long.

                              Now, to get back to your original post. I believe that Willows Inn gets its salmon from Lummi Island Wild. They make both smoked salmon and lox. Here's the lox description:

                              ---- Traditional Nova Lox Style Smoked Wild Salmon
                              Some call it "lox", "Nova", or just "smoked salmon" [talk about confusing - randy] - thinly sliced with a silky smooth texture.Ours is created by award-winning Chef Dominique for high-end restaurants and hotels, using his proprietary brine, hand craftsmanship from start to finish, and a blend of fruit woods and hardwoods for small-batch smoking. ----

                              1. re: RandyB

                                Yes, I do think they get their whole salmon there, but they told me they make their own lox, and it is not smoked at all. I think I am probably out of luck for finding anything similar unless I want to undertake the project myself.

                                1. re: christy319


                                  Don't be intimidated by making your own Gravlax. We get such high quality salmon here in Seattle, it's worth mastering the dish, and while it takes considerable (idle) time, the preparation is not onerous. I like Julia Child's recipe personally, though there are lots of good ones out there,

                                  1. re: Booklegger451

                                    I have made this prep a couple times (once with aquavit, once with vodka i think), and liked it:


                                2. re: RandyB

                                  so if this description is from the willows inn directly, the chef Dominique mentioned is the D in G&D salmon. so it appears in some capacity they are using that product. makes sense when you look at the proximity of Anacortes to the inn.
                                  what Christy probably had was a preparation of cured salmon the inn does. maybe even a lack of understanding on what she was asking about by the employee she spoke to. confusing certain terms possibly.
                                  Christy, contact the inn and see if they can sell what you want in bulk to you.

                                  1. re: RandyB

                                    Hi, Randy: "... using his proprietary brine, hand craftsmanship from start to finish, and a blend of fruit woods and hardwoods for small-batch smoking."

                                    Sounds daunting, but it's what any respecting D-I-Yer does. IME (40 yrs at the smoker), salmon is a canvas, and everyone's an artiste. It just takes some play time...


                                  2. re: christy319


                                    Sadly, I don't think ANYTHING is going to be like what you had at Willows Inn.... considering it is one of the 'top 10 restaurants worth flying to eat at in 2013", and Blaine W has that amazing Lummi Island reef net salmon to use for a product, and they are carefully small-batch producing it just for their dining room - well, you aren't going to find much to compare.

                                    Buy the best freshest fish you can, and make it yourself. You might email the Inn and ask for his recipe, he might share it with you(if he does, please share with us!).

                                    1. re: gingershelley

                                      I've unfortunately come to that same conclusion, gingershelley. I was hoping I could find something close, and maybe I'll stumble across something someday, but I think you're right--if I want anything like this, I am going to have to make it.