Copper River salmon arrived at Twenty21 yesterday. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I got there for a late lunch today.
In offering Copper River salmon Twenty21 is continuing the tradition established by its predecessor restaurant at Commerce Square, Cutter's Grand Cafe.
Copper River salmon comes in all the varieties of other Pacific salmon. Most common are chinook (a.k.a. king) and red (a.k.a. sockeye). Both are excellent fishes, but the king is the richer-tasting of the two and the more prized. The season for Copper River chinook started May 15 this year and lasts for only about three weeks.
Twenty21 did it up simply, since this is a fish that, although it can stand up to strong flavors, stands out when it is relatively unadorned. SWMBO ordered it done medium, I went for medium rare; both were perfectly cooked. Just a nice, six-ounce slab of juicy, meaty grilled filet with adequate but not overpowering seasoning.
It was served with shitake mushrooms in a not-overpowering soy-based sauce, and a small, quite satisfying serving of lobster mashed potatoes. Both were ideal accompaniments -- the shitakes were like having another piece of meat on the plate and the potatoes every bit as luxurious and rich as they sound (lots of butter, for sure).
I skipped dessert, but SWMBO pronounced the chocolate mousse cake equal in luxury to the salmon and potatoes (she doesn't like mushrooms). I tasted it and agreed.
The service did not start out well -- our server seemed to be talking a mile a minute and had much too much caffeine. However, he slowed down to our speed and timed the meal to our desired leisurely pace. (We purposely arrived at 2 p.m. to avoid the lunch crowd, which is when Twenty21 is busiest.)
The old Cutters was always one of our favorite restaurants, but we'd been apprehensive about returning after reading Craig LaBan's review last year in the Inquirer.
Based on today's successful lunch, we'll be back.
A little further note on how I first met Copper River salmon.
Cutter's introduced it to Philadelphia soon after it opened in the mid-80s. I had first tried the fish, at the insistence of friends, at Ray's Boathouse on a visit to Seattle in 1988. A year later, SWMBO's boss took her for lunch there and she saw it in the menu. At the time, Ray's Boathouse, Cutter's Grand Cafe and a number of other restaurants were owned by the same restaurant group, Restaurants Unlimited. Current management and owners of Twenty21 were managers at Cutter's.
The price of our salmon at lunch was $24. Twenty21 is located in the courtyard of Commerce Square office complex on Market between 20th and 21st streets. In nice weather there is outdoor dining by the fountain.
Other restaurants may be offering Copper River salmon (Devon Seafood at Rittenhosue Square has in the past, though I've never tried it there), but you can't go wrong by trying it at Twenty21.
Twenty21 web site: http://www.twenty-21.com/
Link to Copper River Salmon Producers Association below.