Restaurants & Bars

Pacific Northwest

Place Pigalle in Seattle


Restaurants & Bars 1

Place Pigalle in Seattle

Tom Armitage | Feb 18, 2002 12:09 PM

Place Pigalle has only been mentioned a couple of times on Chowhound’s Northwest Board. A recent lunch there made me wonder why it isn’t recommended more often. My memory of Place Pigalle, which is located in Seattle’s Pike Place Market overlooking Elliot Bay, goes back to the time when it was a funky tavern with live entertainment in the evenings. There is nothing funky about the restaurant now located there. The tables are covered with white tablecloths. The exterior walls are lined with windows to take advantage of the terrific view. Overall, a comfortable and inviting environment.

My wife and I started our lunch with parsnip-apple soup. The soup was thick, almost a “wet puree.” The rich parsnip flavor was nicely balanced by the crisp, sweet flavor of the apple. Curry cream was floated on top of the soup, giving a nice visual accent, as well as adding complexity to the flavor. Next was a salad of sautéed duck and rabbit livers served on a bed of frisee, arugula, watercress and Belgian endive with pickled red onions, pancetta, and kumquats. The greens were lightly wilted, and the salad was drizzled with a warm malt vinaigrette. Absolutely fabulous! We devoured the salad, interrupted only by bites of the wonderful crispy rolls.

I am always happy to see calamari on a menu that is prepared other than as calamari fritti. Not that I don’t enjoy calamari fritti (especially the version that used to be served at Adriatica with skordalia sauce, during Adriatica’s glory days in the ‘80s). But calamari fritti has become ubiquitous. Place Pigalle’s Calamari Dijonnaise was described on the menu as “squid sautéed with garlic, ginger, spinach and mushrooms in a mustard cream sauce.” It raised hopes of sautéed calamari that might be roughly on a par with the sautéed calamari that was prepared at Saleh al Lago, now carried forward on the menu at Nell's. Alas, the calamari at Place Pigalle it lacked oomph. The flavors were all there, but were somehow muted and dissolved into a homogeneous muddle, in contrast to intense flavors that, while joining hands, stand out by themselves and accent each other. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad dish, and my wife and I ate all of it. It just wasn’t up to the extraordinarily high standard set by the other dishes. Accompanying the calamari at Place Pigalle was a delicious roasted tomato tart that drew raves.

The piece de resistance of the meal was the duck confit placed over an incredibly smooth and flavorful butternut squash puree. The confit and squash puree rested on a bed of sautéed collard greens and thyme jus. Rarely do I wish that my wife and I ordered the same dish, but this was one of the rare instances in which my wife would have preferred not to share with me and vice versa. The luscious, rich, intensely flavorful duck, with its crisp skin, was an indictment of the “nouvelle” preference for lean Moscovy duck breast, served rare, that, by comparison, is tough and lacking in flavor. The nouvelle style of low fat and minimal cooking has its place, but when it comes to duck, I’ll take a traditionally prepared duck confit, with the tender meat virtually falling of the bone, anytime. The two cultures that have mastered the art of cooking duck are Southwestern French and Chinese. Hooray for Place Pigalle for including such a masterful version of duck confit on its menu.

The meal was nicely complimented by a bottle of 1999 Cotes du Rhone, Domaine La Garrigue, a well-priced suggestion of the maitre d’. For dessert, my wife had a well-made pot au chocolat. But the standout was a warm chocolate-bourbon cake that was intense with rich, bittersweet chocolate flavor, made all the richer and more complex by the bourbon. Another dish that, like the duck confit, drew raves, sighs, and swoons.

The meal ended with a question by my wife. “When can we come back?” I shared her sentiment. Totally satisfying food, with many high points, at a reasonable price. We’ll be back soon to sample other tantalizing menu items, such as the pan-roasted pork medallions served with a compote of dried plums, preserved lemons, ginger, and walnuts.

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