Hi Seattle hounds,
Thanks for a great chow- and caffeine-filled week in the Emerald City. I was staying downtown for a conference and didn't have as much time as I might have liked to go on gratuitous deliciousness-seeking treks to the far corners of the city, but even downtown I was impressed at how high the bar was. Quick recaps below:
Coffee roundup - standouts for espresso were Voxx, Caffe D’Arte, and slightly surprisingly, Pegasus. Honestly, though, the bar is just so high here that one of the great luxuries was being able to walk into any shop with a La Marzocco and be confident that it was going to be pretty good. Plenty of good drip too, but nothing that quite knocked my socks off.
Spur Gastropub - the absolute, unequivocal chow highlight of the trip. Swoony deliciousness from start to finish, with the chef in absolutely prodigious command of how to work across the entire palate, with a nice use of seasonal ingredients wherever possible. We opted for the five course tasting menu with cocktail pairings, and everything was just terrific. Highlights were the chicory salad, sockeye salmon crostini (my favorite), smoked pork rillette (DC's favorite), goat cheese gnudi, and baby artichockes with smoked yogurt. I’ll quibble that the MG elements of the desserts overreached just a touch, but they were still a pleasure. And it was a pleasure to walk out of a long dinner feeling sated but not woefully overstuffed. I’d go out of my way to get back here.
Market Grill - salmon sandwich with rosemary mayo. Yep. Went twice.
Shiro’s - fantastic old-school sushi-ya. Perfect rice, delicious fish, everything in balance, and not over-the-top expensive.
Nishino - less impressed here. The straight-up sushi was great, but the more progressive kitchen stuff seemed a little tired to me. It’s only one data point, and we may have misordered (and we may have had a chow hangover after Spur the previous night), but this place didn’t quite dazzle as we might have hoped. Also noteworthy was the fact that the entire staff seemed conspicuously stressed and harried; may have just been an off night.
Wild Ginger - I know this place is polarizing, and I think I see why. Here’s my take: picture the same exact food, but served out of a slightly dingy storefront in the International District. My guess is that people would generally be pretty excited about it. But with its stylish digs downtown, and with fairly expensive price tags to match, the reasonably high quality of the chow is getting drowned out. Everything we had was pretty good, notably the satay and their signature duck dish. But I’m kind of writing this off as a good option for a mixed group of chowphiles and chowphobes, but perhaps not a perfect choice if deliciousness is your primary driver.
Tulio - tasty enough breakfast downtown. My fritatta had WAY too much goat cheese and tomato stuff on top, but DC’s rustic grilled bread (with eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and Hollandaise) was a little better. Good drip coffee.
Macrina Bakery & Cafe - killer Sunday brunch. DC said her croque madame was bar-none the best she’d ever had, aided in no small part by three days’ worth of calories in the mushroom cream sauce. My brioche French toast with spiked whipped cream and praline sauce was a similar caloric splurge and similarly worth it. Lesser points were the drip coffee (dark roast, not enough body), and the Italian plum roll (good flavor, texture not light enough). But a great spot, wish we’d been there later to grab sandwiches for the flight home.
Lowlights (not the CH community's fault, just tagged along with conference cohorts) - McCormick's except for the oysters, and Sushi Kanpai. Kanpai in particular annoyed me with an una don that was just eel clearly intended for the nigiri, slapped onto a pile of rice.
Thanks again for all the great chow info on this board, can’t wait to come back and eat my way through your fine town again!