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Burke and Wells Report on Seattle

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Burke and Wells Report on Seattle

Burke and Wells | Nov 13, 2001 08:54 PM

Hi Seattle-area Hounds!

We two SF-Bay residents spent a very pleasant weekend visiting a friend in Seattle, and we came armed with suggestions and recommendations from this board. Thanks again to all!

Turns out our host had the restaurant lineup already reserved, so we couldn't exercise any of the suggestions--no problem, more to try next time. Burke and I found the Seattle area picturesque and friendly. We were each reminded of our homes back east (I'm from New Jersey, and Burke is from Toronto). We got the grand tour from our host, including an affable visit to the Experience Music Project and a trip to a salmon ladder--both had a fishy element, but both were entertaining.

We had three meals of note:

Accka Bell: This is a new restaurant, only open a couple of months. They're a Japanese/French fusion place our host found and wanted to try. Modern, clean-lined decor reflected modern, clean-lined presentations: the toro sushi appetizer was nice, if slightly overpriced, as was a Japanese mushroom broth served piping hot in lovely earthenware. Burke and I both had the steak, served on a vast banana leaf: good flavor, a hint of soy and miso, but my steak was far too tough. Our host had the duck, which was complimented by an orange sauce that had an Asian flare. Dessert was a catastrophic failure--the mango mousse had to be sent back, and how our host managed to swallow the brick-like chocolate cake they gave him is beyond me. Service was very friendly, but misplaced: the menu argued for a higher level of formality and the prices set a higher level of expectation than the food could deliver. On the whole I think Accka Bell is merely going through growing pains. They need a dessert chef desperately, and they need to educate their staff slightly. If they do, and get a little quality control in place, they have the makings of a fine place.

Brunch the next morning was a crowded, friendly buffet on the water at Salty's on Alki. They had a good spread, lots of nice seafood, though precious little breakfast food (it was eggs benedict or muffins for you breakfast seekers), but lots of solid lunch entries. Nothing was remarkable except dessert. This was the best dessert offering I've had at a buffet since the Belagio in Vegas (before it went downhill). The flan was very good and the "chocolate goop" (sort of a cross between a Mississippi Mud Pie and a trifle, I couldn't find a nametag for it anywhere) had a deep, rich chocolate taste I wasn't expecting. The real treasure was a little matchbox-sized square of pistachio confection, very like a home-made newton. Absolutely wonderful! I don't think a dessert counter can justify an entire buffet, but this one came close. And since dessert is served last, we left with happy feelings.

Ray's Boathouse: A lovely view of the sound just outside your table window, complete with your own seagull (okay, we got a seagull, but the restaurant doesn't guarantee you one) sweetened the dinner experience of Ray's Boathouse, a professional place with solid seafood not far away from the price point they set. Low ceilings and thick but not rustic light woods give a nice feeling, the lighting is natural and diffuse, bouncing right off the water, and portions are generous. My clam chowder appetizer was less than successful (too thick, and loaded with clams without much clam flavor--I suspect some extra "clam liquor" from cooking would have done this soup a world of good), but the big smoked fish platter was quite good. The smoked scallops stood out in particular, a sweet smoke gave them a richness akin to a sauce. The main courses hit the mark, but did not exceed them. I had a broiled halibut over rice, Burke the same, and our host some massive king crabs legs. We weren't in Seattle long enough to test it, but I suspect truly mind-boggling seafood is available for the price of Ray's Boathouse, so I can't say I'm aching to return, despite the view and Jonathan (that's what we named the seagull).

All in all, a perfectly wonderful trip to the Pacific northwest. The two hours we spent in the big market (you know, where they throw around fish and tourists) was rewarding as well: I had a great chocolate chip cookie from one vendor, and a selection of jams to take home from another (golden raspberry!). Finally, I'll remember the farmer's market where we had a sampling of the first of the year's apple harvest. Heavens, what apples! Candy from trees.

Peter
wells@emusic.com

A Burke and Wells review

Link: http://www.burkeandwells.com

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