Last night we went out to a very nice dinner at Dandelion, a little 26 topper in Ballard on 24th NW that opened fairly recently. Since I haven't read anything on this board, I thought I would take a few minutes to comment.
First, the complaint: There is nothing in the small, nicely remodeled area to absorb sound, so it gets incredibly loud and noisy in there, to the point of needing to shout at times to be heard by one's dining companion. The kitchen is open to the dining area, which is fun if you want to sit at the small bar and watch the beautifully comptetent chefs in action, but unfortunately for the dining area, one is also able to hear everything that is happening in the kitchen, from the whisk beating against a stainless steel bowl to the occasionally dropped pan.
But, we are there for the food, oui? And that is where Dandelion really delivers. The menu changes weekly, and the focus is on the seasonally fresh, so last night's menu featured dishes with heirloom tomatoes, grilled sweet corn, fresh figs, slices of lovely melons, you get the picture. Starters included sweet corn and okra soup, a grated beet salad, a plated arrangement of fig, melon and proscuitto that looked divine at the table next to ours, the requisite mixed organic greens, and a steamed mussel offering. The menu also featured four exceptional cheeses, as an assortment or served individually.
We skipped all the starters since we have our own organic garden (and fig trees). Amongst a tempting variety of fish, prawns, roasted chicken, pork, beef and vegetarian pasta entrees, my handsome companion selected the seared albacore tuna served with orzo salad and green and yellow beans. I chose the sea scallops served over sauteed spinach, saffron rice and buerre blanc sauce. We liberally shared each other's dinners.
Totally out of order, let me first talk about the orzo pasta salad. I really consider this as a strong possibility for THE feat of the kitchen that night. Who knew it was possible to make pasta salad taste so sublime? I normally hate any type of pasta salad because everything about how it is usually made (no matter HOW it is usually made) is just plain horrible. I spent the entire evening trying to figure out how the hell they made a pasta salad taste so sweet and fresh. Discernible ingredients were orzo, cherry tomatoes, grilled sweet corn kernels, and just a bit of some incredibly delicous salsa.
Now, his alabacore tuna. Yes, it was perfectly seared, and yes, it was a sizable chunk, but that doesn't say enough about how delicious it tasted. Was it marinated first? Maybe, but I don't think so, I think it was just the fish that was absolutely top notch. Every bite was better than the one before.
My sea scallops were seared to perfection, and tasted buttery and sweet, melt in the mouth. I normally am not all that wild about scallops but these were heavenly. The sauted spinach was fresh, the buerre blanc was served with a light hand, and the saffron rice the perfect carb for the plate.
But all of this was a lead up to the molten chocolate cake I have been craving since I first heard about it. I have craved good chocolate cake for the last 3 months, but I just hadn't found the right moment to spend the calories. Last night was it. Baked to order, the plated individual cake is served with a fat blackberry and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I had to work hard not to moan audibly after every bite. (For a monent I was grateful for the noisy room). Sweet companion chose the blackberry and peach crisp, also wonderful.
Not to be forgotten, meals are served with little slices of bread. The term manna from heaven should have been reserved for this bread. Call me crazy, but the bread they served with the meal was so good I considered asking if I could just eat a baguette of that with olive oil and a glass of wine for dinner. Origin? Tall Grass Bakery, a few doors up from Dandelion. Waiter said his favorite time of the day was 5:00, when he went on a hot bread run. Will go to the bakery next time I am in Ballard and it is open.
Wine list is small, but obviously carefully chosen. I had a glass of chardonnay, just because it was the only offering by the glass that was a french white wine, but I could have chosen better if I wasn't in such a francophile kind of mood.
Reservations only for tables of 4. We arrived at about 7, just as a couple was leaving so we had no trouble being seated. The place was full until about 8:30, when it started to thin out a bit.
C'est tout! Enjoy!