I’ve been meaning to do a foodie tour of Seattle for some time now. Last time I was there was just for a day, and I didn’t feel like I made a large enough dent in the food scene. This time around, a friend and I went down for two days of gastronomic adventures. And we even managed to fit in some non-food related touristy stops like the Seattle Great Wheel. Awesome weather, delicious food and a fun weekend of exploring.
Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge
This was our first foodie stop in Seattle. I was hesitant – I’m always skeptical when I suspect quantity > quality, and their Happy Hour menu, which is what they’re best known for is vast (“More Than Fifty Exquisite Preparations Priced Between $4 and $8”) . But Toulouse Petit was mentioned so frequently when I was researching restaurants, that I decided to give it a shot. Plus, I had never been to a Cajun/Creole/French inspired restaurant before.
First of all, I’m glad I have a sense of humour, because service was, uhm, lacking?Everyone was nice enough, but extremely disorganized. No one greeted us upon entering, and we had to wait several minutes before someone came over. We were then told that to partake in Happy Hour, you have to sit in the bar area, and the hostess just pointed to the general direction of the bar. We saw a booth right by the bar and asked the server for that area if the booth’s eligible for the Happy Hour menu. She answered affirmatively. It took forever for someone to clean the table, and then an equally long time for a server to come take our order. And then, midway through the wait for our food, the hostess asked us to move to a different table because that booth had apparently been reserved. While we’re waiting for our food at the new table, the hostess comes back and asks us to move again, back to the booth we were just at because she had unknowingly moved us into a different server’s area. We kind of looked at her, and looked at each other, and I think she realized how absurd her request was, and she backtracked saying that we can stay where we are. She then informed us that she’s new there. After we had waited for our final dish for quite some time, we decided to ask about it to make sure it hadn’t been lost in the shuffle. It took quite a while longer for someone to come back to tell us that the reason we hadn’t received it was because they had run out – no one thought to tell us this, so we just sat there waiting. For some reason, they had given us our bill upon moving tables (perhaps because it was a new server?), so then we had to get it adjusted, which of course meant more waiting. It was all a bit of a gong show.
Happy Hour cocktails cost $8.50 – which I don’t consider to be much of a Happy Hour “special”. I enjoyed the Summer Sangria (white wine, peach schnapps, tuaca, grapefruit juice, sweet and sour), and my friend liked the Toulouse Sangria.
Our first plate was a chicken and duck liver terrine, which was delicious, creamy, and fatty. But the portion was so small! I guess it’s fair for $6, but I thought the whole point was that it’s Happy Hour, so you scale down the prices not the portion sizes!
The spicy steak crudo was also tasty but small. The quail egg presentation was super cute. The steak was well seasoned, but I wouldn’t call it spicy.
The spicy lamb sliders were juicy and and done well. The side order of fries was fantastic – very well seasoned, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
I loved the space – from the high ceilings, to the cute glass lamps and the multitude of tea light candles on the walls, and the antique windows, floor tiles, and wooden tables – this restaurant certainly has characters.
Overall, I shouldn’t have feared this being a quantity over quality type of place. The portions were incredibly small, so there wasn’t really any Happy Hour “deals” to be had. The food was good, well executed. But it didn’t strike me as original (mind you, we never received my friend’s cat fish order). All the items labeled as “spicy” were simply well seasoned, with no heat to speak of. Service was extremely disorganized, and that’s putting it mildly. The space was great. So, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to check this place out – I think it’s much overhyped. But, if you manage your expectations, the food’s tasty and the setting is nice, so it may be worthwhile to stop by if you’re in the area.
Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream Shop
Molly Moon’s is one of Seattle’s most popular ice cream shops, with 5 locations. They use hormone-free dairy, and local, seasonal, and often organic ingredients (their ingredients are 90% local).
My friend and I visited the Capitol Hill location. It was a cute shop and reminded me very much of Salt & Straw in Portland.
We each got a scoop – the portions are generous. I really enjoyed the strawberry sour cream, which tasted just like strawberries. And my friend liked the Stumptown Coffee – there was no messing around here, it was a bold coffee flavour. Neither of the flavours were overly sweet (a good thing). But I wish the ice cream was fluffier/creamier, and frozen a little less solid. Other than that, Molly moon’s is a sound choice for ice cream.
Canon Whiskey & Bitters Emporium
My friend and I had some time to kill before dinner at Lark, and it just so happened that one of the watering holes I wanted to check out was literally right next door – easy decision.
The reason I was interested in this particular spot was that Murray Stenson, who was once voted as America’s best bartender by his colleagues, was said to work there – he was previously at the Zig Zag Café – another target on my list. I didn’t realize that he had since had a heart attack and was no longer there (he is currently still recovering). Regardless, it seemed like a high caliber spot for cocktails.
Walking through the door confirmed I had chosen the right place – behind the bar are two floor to ceiling walls of booze – to say they are well stocked would be an understatement – Canon has one of the largest selections of whiskey in the US. That display makes quite the impression and the whole space is rather handsome, with its dark wood furnishings and small details like the lovely metal coasters (which I kept eyeing – they’d make great props for my food styling!).
The bartender was friendly and service was fast. The ambiance was good, as was the soundtrack.
My first cocktail was their namesake Canon Cocktail (rye, ramazotti, cointreau foam). You’ll notice it’s only three ingredients – they focus on quality, and letting the flavours shine through. I really liked the chartreuse foam – felt like I was eating dessert. But I found the actual cocktail a little too boozy for my liking. But then again, I’m not a huge fan of whiskey, and my friend who is, loved the cocktail.
My friend ordered the Negroni Experiment (three negronis: original, boulvardier, right hand). It was basically a flight of 3 negronis. I liked the fun concept and the negronis were done well. We both liked the boulvardier best.
I also tried the Beuregarde’s Breakfast (bourbon, montenegro, lemon, blueberry preserves, bitters). This one was a little more up my alley.
We munched on the Angostura-Bourbon Nuts (cashew, pretzel, caramel corn). Which means I picked out all of the cashes. I loved the seasoning.
Overall, Canon was a cool spot to check out for drinks – I’m glad we stopped in.
Lark, located in Capitol Hill, is very much a farm to table sort of restaurant, albeit a rather sophisticated one. The dishes are local and often organic.
“We work with local artisans, farmers, and foragers to serve the best of each season, bright and intense with summer and spring, rich and heartening in the winter and fall.”
It was pretty quiet the night we were there. I enjoyed the peaceful ambiance. I really liked the booths – you don’t see those often in a fine dining establishment, but they create a comfortable, intimate space away from the remainder of the restaurant. The surroundings and service make you feel at ease, and there’s certainly no pretension to be found. Service was terrific – professional, friendly, and knowledgeable.
The plates come in small and large sizes, but all are meant for sharing. We shared two small plates, two large plates, and a dessert.
First up, Pleasant View Farm Foie gras terrine (70 brix maple syrup, pickled pecans, cocoa). The terrine was incredibly rich, smooth and creamy. It melted in my mouth and was very flavorful – quite a treat. Interestingly, I did not pick up on the cocoa.
Next came the Mishima Ranch wagyu hanger steak (roasted cherry tomatoes, squash ribbons and porcini butter). The steak was very tender and flavorful – perfectly done. I loved the porcini butter. The cherry tomatoes and squash ribbons complemented the dish nicely.
The Double lamb chop and lamb sausage (fingerling potatoes, ramps, nicoise olive salad) was delicious as well. Perfectly cooked, with incredibly tasty charring.
The Pommes de terre “Robuchon” may have stolen the show. How can potatoes taste so good?! Lots and lots of butter, although according to their cookbook, they’ve reduced the butter amount from the authentic Robuchon version. Not that you can tell – the potatoes are rich are luxuriously creamy. The presentation in the cast iron Staub is pretty – I just wish it was a full sized cocotte – I could have very happily just kept eating them.
The mascarpone cheesecake (graham cracker, Oxbow Farm rhubarb) was decadent. I loved the creamy mascarpone, and the rhubarb was a great accompaniment to cut through the richness. But I do wish the cheesecake was bigger/taller. I appreciated that they were able to serve the graham cracker on the side for us.
Overall, the meal at Lark was awesome. The execution of all the dishes was impressive, and plating was pretty. The food was delicious and bursting with flavour. The service was spot on and the welcoming ambiance makes you want to stick around. And of course, I appreciate the quality, local ingredients. Highly recommended.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Boat St. Café, Spur Gastropub, Pike Place Market, and a factory tour of Theo Chocolates.