The waters of the Pacific Northwest are home to some of the best seafood in the world. In addition to high quality wild-caught seafood from some of the world's best managed fisheries, the rich volcanic soils, abundance of fresh water and plenty of sunlight (yes, sunlight!) also combine to make the Northwest a paradise for farming and foraging in addition to fishing. We had the opportunity to sit down with Chef de Cuisine DJ McIntyre at Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar's Seattle location to geek out about the best the Northwest has to offer.
A few moments of conversation with Chef McIntyre in the comfort of the whimsical dining room adjacent the lobby of the most excellent Pan Pacific Hotel make it evident that the Farm-to-Table fad that's buzzed the pages of food writers coast-to-coast is more than marketing hype. The conversation bounced from his experience fly fishing in Montana to the management of fisheries and quality of aquaculture in Alaska and Canada to the chanterelles on the tasting menu, foraged wild from the Eastern foothills of the Cascades. Diners in the Northwest are familiar with seafood, and the waitstaff field inquiries about the terroir of the meals the serve each evening, although a keen understanding of the provenance of the restaurant's food was readily apparent from each server - a fair match for even the most involved sustainable dining guru.
The tasting menu itself, which changes every few weeks so only the best seasonal ingredients are used (and to keep the current of culinary innovation running strong) reads like a love letter to the North Pacific Late Summer in its most recent incarnation. While the specific presentation will inevitably change over as soon as the season is over, there is clearly careful consideration, expert artistry, and thoughtful craftsmanship at the heart of the five course collation that could easily shine through some seasonal variation.
The wine pairing is available for an additional supplement, and the West Coast and European wines are solid selections that betray more than good wine education; there's often plenty of sixth sense intuition involved. Of note was the particularly luscious 2011 Spanish Verdejo that accompanied the halibut - complimentary, but not "matchy matchy".
The Takeaway: For a guided tour through the best of the best of what the Northwest has to offer, look no further than the tasting menu - well sourced, sustainable, and expertly crafted, served graciously in a comfortable setting by friendly folks who know good seafood - we dare diners not to fall in love. Reservations via OpenTable or by calling 206-462-4364. Major credit cards accepted. Full bar. Validated self and valet parking. Mo - Fri 11:30 - 10; Sat 5 - 10; Sun 5 - 9.
Amuse Bouche - Gazpacho
A rich, refreshing gazpacho served chilled was a marvelous amuse bouche to begin a meal on a warm Seattle late-summer evening at this charming eatery in the shadow of the Space Needle.
Pacific Northwest Albacore Crudo
Presented with caper berries, Meyer lemon, pink peppercorn and first-press olive oil. This certainly has it all - the very freshest albacore "cooked" by the acidic sour-sweet lemon, the piquant, fire-bitter crunch of the caperberries and peppercorns and the subtle richness of the olive oil. Accompanied by Roederer Estate Brut from Anderson Valley, California - a light, crisp sparkling wine with plenty of effervescent bounce.
Atlantic Diver Scallops
Presented with Prosciutto, heiroom melon, micro arugula and honey vinaigrette. Sticky sweet melon and salty prosciutto have long been bosom buddies. Here three varieties of melon and a hearty serving of prosciutto envelop a crisp, caramelized scallop. A Joseph Drouhin, Macon-Village 2011 from France holds its own next to the smoky, salty sweetness.
Seared Alaskan Halibut
Presented with corn and chanterelle risotto, sundried tomato vinaigrette. Few (if any) things in this world can best a perfect piece of halibut, and this was a perfect piece of halibut. This mild, firm white fish nestled in a perfect storm of tangy tomato and fantastically earthy risotto. The Kittitas County chanterelles would have upstaged the fish (without any complaints from us!) had it not been so utterly luscious. The 2011 Mantel Blanco Verdejo from Rueda, Spain made our Alaskan comfort food even more comforting.
Butter poached filet mignon and Dungeness crab
Filet topped with claw meat presented with purple heirloom spinach, asparagus, and Bearnaise. One would be hard-pressed to describe a butter poached filet as anything less than "sumptuous" on its own, but add unbeatable local purple spinach (it's heartier than green) and succulent crab and this is a food coma just waiting to happen. A 2010 Stoller Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley with a dark fruit bouquet and legs for days was a matchmaker's match.
Stone fruit tart
Black plum puree, fennel pollen infused honey, vanilla bean ice cream. The star here is the honey infusion - both floral and woody to lighten the mood of the end-of-summer stone fruits. 2009 Chateau De Cosse Sauternes from France was a dessert wine light enough to convert staunch sweet wine detractors.