(This post is a little different than my usual posts, and is very image-heavy. I apologize in advance for the less-than-stellar quality of the photos, but they were taken under VERY low lighting!)
Canlis, a local (and pretty dang famous!) Pacific Northwest restaurant, had been calling out to me since I moved to Seattle years ago, but for some reason, I had yet to dine at the swanky, waterfront establishment. When Mikey asked me last week if there was anywhere in particular that I would like to go for my birthday dinner, only one word excitedly escaped my lips, “Canlis!”
On Wednesday night, we met two of our very good friends, Helen and Kai, in the dimly-lit (hence the poorly-focused photos), white table-clothed restaurant for a meal that I think I will remember forever.
As we drove up to the front, we were immediately greeted by the valet—an indication of the outstanding service yet to come. As we were led inside, the spectacularity of the restaurant’s insides unveiled itself. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it looked so much different than I had anticipated! Warm wood lined the walls and ceiling, giant stone columns stretched upwards, simple brush strokes decorated panels above, and a flickering fireplace illuminated the hostess stand and waiting area.
We were seated at a corner table with the most amazing view of the waterfront, and, thankfully, it was a perfectly clear evening. We started with a few drinks while we discussed how we were going to decide what to eat off of a menu where everything sounded incredible.
I’m not completely sure I am getting all of the drink right here, but I’m nearly certain they were as follows:
The pink drink (mine) was the Sassari– Gin, Campari, vermouth, Coco Lopez and lime, the one with the floating flowers was The Wagner Remix– A tribute to our very own Walt Wagner. Macallan 12 year old Scotch served with vermouth and orange, the glass behind that one was the Lasky– Gin, Arrack punch and Pinot Noir grape juice, and the last was A Prince in Disguise– Buffalo Trace Bourbon, spiced apple shrub and a splash of soda.
They were extremely tasty! I was especially surprised with my own as it looked nothing like it tasted! One would imagine it to be a bit creamy from the Coco Lopez, but that really wasn’t the case. The beyond gorgeous presentation of the drinks made me more than a little excited for the food.
For dinner, we decided to go about it in a way that we could all try as much food as possible. We ordered a number of appetizers to share, and one entree (that is supposed to feed two).
Before our food came out, we were brought a couple rolls. Helen and I split one of each, a Honey and Milk Roll, and a Whole Grain Sourdough Roll.
My favorite was the Honey and Milk Roll. Now, this may not sound very shocking, but it quite literally tasted of honey and milk, which was beyond intriguing for a seemingly simple roll. (There was also a Kalamata Olive Roll that they brought out later on that I scarfed down too quickly to photograph.)
Not long after, we were served an amuse bouche of Watermelon Gazpacho topped with pickled watermelon rind and dill oil (I think?). It was IN-credible and left us all craving more.
Our gourmet buffet began with two very tasty salads, the classic Canlis Salad– Romaine, Romano cheese, bacon, mint, oregano and a dressing of lemon, olive oil and coddled egg , and the Summer Greens– White balsamic, aïoli, and bibb lettuce purée.
The Summer Greens was especially beautiful to look at because the poured the bibb lettuce puree tableside. Both were extremely tasty and heavily featured acidity, which I am very fond of in salad dressings. The bacon in the Canlis Salad and the pickled radish and edamame in the Summer Greens were my favorite parts.
Next came the quintet of appetizer dishes:
Hamachi– Sashimi, Granny Smith apple, serrano pepper, and yuzu
The hamachi was tender and slightly sweet and tangy with a bit of heat on the finish—basically everything you could ask for!
Steak Tartare– Peter Canlis’ recipe, made with raw, Wagyu tenderloin
The tartare was expertly prepared, and made a perfect bite when scooped onto one of the perfectly crisp crostinis with a pinch of greens and a couple capers. My only complaint would be that there was a bit too much tomato.
Peter Canlis Prawns– Sautéed in dry vermouth, garlic, red chilies, and lime
I’m not usually a huge shrimp/prawn fan, but these were fantastic. The sauce was basically a beurre blanc made with vermouth instead of white wine and I could have eaten that on a shoe and been happy.
Pork Belly– With peas and carrots, mint, and huckleberry jus
The pork belly was tender and fatty and completely melted in your mouth. Pork paired with fruit is one of my favorite things, so I was all over the deliciously sweet, yet slightly acidic huckleberry jus. The still slightly crunchy vegetables on the side were a nice textural contrast to the soft pork.
Foie Gras– A terrine served with blackberry, chamomile, and toasted oats
This was one of my two favorites of the meal. As a serious liver lover, this was the pinnacle of delicious liver. The creamy foie was set atop a crunchy toasted oat cracker, with blackberry in various states (gelee, pate de fruit, foams, and more) set around it. It was also served with a toasted oat brioche that was pillowy soft. Though we each only got about a bites worth, we all agreed it was pretty freakin’ incredible.
Somewhere around here I ordered a glass of wine that I thought would go well with our final savory component. I chose the Barbera (Scarpetta, Barbera del Monferrato, Piedmont, ITA, 2010)– An energetic, fresh-faced rendition of this rustic, Piedmontese grape variety. Sour amarene cherry, blackberry, and raspberry remain buoyant and lively on the palate, finishing juicy and clean.
The entree that we decided to share was the Muscovy Duck– 14-day dry-aged duck breast, roasted whole and accompanied by orange chutney, fennel and caramelized cipollini onion
Before carving and plating, they brought the perfectly browned duck out to our table so that we could see it:
When it came back to out table, it was plated with a wickedly good orange chutney, a beautifully-reduced sauce, a super sweet cipollini onion, a bit of soft and sweet fennel that at first glance appeared to be green onion, and a GORGEOUS, crisp duck croquette filled with unctuous pulled duck meat.
Our server warned us beforehand that this duck would ruin all other duck for us, but I didn’t quite believe her until I had my first bite… It was everything I could ever dream of for a duck breast. The skin had been perfectly crisped to the point where if you hit it with your silverware you could hear an audible *tap*, the fat was all but completely rendered, leaving just a very thin amount between the skin and meat that added an amazing richness, and the meat was cooked to the most flawless medium-rare. It was tender and juicy and crisp and… and… The Best. And, by the way, the wine did go amazingly well with it!
Because our server could read my mind, she brought out some Truffle Fries-With fine herbs and fleur de sel.
They were crispy and warm and not overly truffle-y, and I had no problem using them to sop up ever last drop of sauce on my plate.
Now, it could be because the savory fares were so tasty that the sweets simply couldn’t compete, but I actually was not very impressed by the desserts. We ordered their renowned Grand Marnier Soufflé– the classic soufflé with crème anglaise, and the Chocolate Fondant– with ginger, milk crumble, and toasted rice.
Apparently, our first soufflé didn’t rise, so we had to wait a bit longer than normal, but that was no big deal as we were having a great time just chatting. Not to mention, I was very much enjoying my coffee that was served with cream and vanilla sugar! The soufflé itself was quite delicious, though I think it would have benefited from a raspberry or chocolate crème anglaise for a better contrast. The fondant is what I was most disappointed in as I felt it wasn’t sweet or chocolatey enough. The other components on the dish, like the milk crumb, were quite amazing, but there didn’t seem to be enough of them to even out the bitterness of the fondant. All in all, though, it was still fairly good.
At the very end we were given complimentary Lemon-Poppyseed Macarons, and Blueberry Truffles. I LOVED the truffles, and the macarons were pretty great too, though in my opinion, they could have used a bit more filling.
Desserts aside, I already can’t wait to go back to Canlis (I’ve heard they have an awesome happy hour in their bar!), and I would recommend it to anyone. I had an extremely memorable birthday dinner surrounded by unforgettable food and people I love; you can’t ask for much more than that!