Before I left for Florida to visit my family, I was able to participate in Seattle’s Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week is basically a week where tons of local restaurants agree to offer a three-course lunch for $15, and a three-course dinner for $28. Mikey and I try to go to at least one restaurant every time it happens because it is a great way to sample a bunch of dishes, and try out at a new restaurant. Lucky for us, our good friends Helen and Kai are pretty big foodies, as well, and suggested we go before I left. We decided on Tilth because it is a restaurant that both Helen and I have been dying to try for years.
Tilth’s executive chef, Maria Hines, has received numerous accolades for her food, including a James Beard award, New York Times mentions, and a win against Iron Chef Morimoto on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. Her laurels alone are impressive, but even more so is that Tilth uses only certified-organic and wild ingredients to prepare dishes. And yet, despite all of this, I somehow never got around to eating at Tilth until just recently. Let me just say that I am sorry that I waited so long.
Tilth, itself, is located inside a building that was once a house. There is a cozy dining porch in the front. Then, you walk inside to a skinny foyer area that has been outfitted with thin, ledge tables and high, bar-style chairs; right in the middle is the host stand.
We were greeted almost immediately, but it was a bit busy so we had to wait a few minutes to be seated for our reserved table—not a big deal at all as we spent the time chatting. The inside of the restaurant is quite small with lots of tables packed in, in the best, coziest way. The lighting is soft and warm, and the wooden tables are set with simple place settings. The Restaurant Week menu came with four options each for appetizers, entrees, and dessert. Since there were four of us, we decided to order one of each so that we could try everything.
The first thing we were presented with was an amuse-bouche of a butternut squash soup with pickled something-or-another on top that I can no longer recall:
It was a tasty, slightly sweet, creamy mouthful that certainly left me excited for the food to come.
We were also served some amazingly soft bread with butter and flaky salt that I probably could have eaten a loaf of, given the opportunity.
Our appetizers included:
Smoked Yogurt Flan: pickled green garlic, mustard green, lemon charcoal
This was highly anticipated by Helen and me, but it fell kind of flat. The mustard greens were excellent, but the flan itself just tasted exactly like it sounds…like smoked yogurt. It certainly wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t very interesting or exciting.
Spinach Salad: green goddess, spring radish, blue cheese
Reading about this salad beforehand, I wasn’t really at all intrigued; however, this was a super delicious salad! It had the best radishes, ever, in it! They were crisp, fresh, and not at all bitter or “dirty” tasting.
Carnaroli Risotto: pecorino, wild mushroom, english pea
This risotto was a favorite among everyone, and I think Mikey even said that it was his favorite dish of the entire evening! It was creamy and rich with a zip of freshness from the peas and fresh basil.
Chilled Pea Soup: crème fraiché, espresso gingerbread, pea shoot
The cold soup was my favorite of the appetizers. I missed my photo opportunity before the soup was poured into the bowl, but on the bottom were the pea shoots and crumbled gingerbread espresso. The crunchy, deeply, rich gingerbread was an excellent textural and flavor contrast to the creamy, cool pea soup. To me, it was a perfect Spring dish!
Next came the entrees:
Carlton Farms Pork Rib: polenta, kohlrabi, rhubarb sauce
The pork was my second-favorite entree. The ribs were succulent and sweet against the earthy greens and slightly sour rhubarb. The polenta cake at the bottom was a perfect vehicle to sop up all of the flavors.
Roasted Penn Cove Manila Clams: chorizo, cilantro, cauliflower
Now, I am not a huge fan of shellfish (aside from crab, lobster, scallops, and sometimes prawns/shrimp), so I didn’t actually have a clam, but I did have the chorizo/cilantro/watercress?/cauliflower mixture, and it was phenomenal. Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite things ever, so it’s hard to go wrong there. Everyone else did say that the clams themselves were quite tasty, though!
Smoked Heirloom Bean Cassoulet: foraged mushroom, brioche, oven dried tomato
This was my absolute favorite dish of the night! It was sooooo freaking tasty! It was the ultimate umami dish. The brioche breadcrumbs on the top were truffled, which married beautifully with the mushrooms. The beans were creamy and rich against the sweet, tangy, chewy (and slightly juicy) oven-roasted tomatoes. It was pure bliss for me. My sweet dining companions allowed me to down a large portion of this dish all on my own, and I am still grateful for that 😛
Washington Chicken Confit: fregola, arugula, apricot glaze
While this dish was good enough, much like the yogurt appetizer, it wasn’t very exciting.The apricot glaze was so sweet that the dish became too one-note. It overpowered the could-have-been spicy arugula and the nutty fregola (a pasta similar to Israeli couscous in shape and texture). The chicken was perfectly juicy and cooked well, but it just didn’t “wow” us.
We also went ahead and ordered two sides from the regular menu, because we were really going all out:
Lacinato Kale: spicy saba, olive oil, garlic
Anson Mills Hush Puppy: honey, sea salt, chive
Kale is one of my very favorite foods, so I was al over that like white on rice. It was as good as sautéed kale can be, and I probably ate about half of it myself!
The hush puppies were ammmmazing! They were crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle, and tasted like the most delicious, grainy cornbread, sweetened with a drizzling of honey that pooled at the bottom of the crock—perfect for dipping.
As you all may have noticed in the past, I seem to be an especially harsh critic on desserts, and I usually find that places with excellent savory fare tend to have less-than-stellar sweets. However, that was so not the case here. Our desserts included (along with a great cup of coffee):
Maple Crème Brulée: candied tarragon, bacon shortbread, maple sugar
This was the dessert that I liked second best. The crème brulée was silky and rich, and perfectly smooth. The bacon shortbread was delicious, but it was wayyyy too tiny. Not only too tiny due to the fact that we were sharing it 4-ways, but tiny for one person, even. It was actually kind of silly.
Carrot Cake: pickled golden raisin, walnut, cream cheese
I liked this dessert, but I didn’t find the cake itself to be anything too special. I also though the frosting to cake ratio was off; there could have been more cream cheese frosting, for sure. It probably would have done better as a mini layer cake or cupcake, as opposed to a mini bundt. The pickled raisins were super delicious, though. They were sweet, but also slightly tangy.
Theo Chocolate Pudding: rhubarb, pistachio, shaved chocolate
This was probably the most disappointing dish of the night. The pudding had a very odd texture. You would hope and expect it to be smooth and creamy, but instead it was pretty darn grainy. It also was rather bitter, and not quite sweet enough for my liking. It wasn’t terrible, by any means, but I didn’t go back for more after my second bite.
Grapefruit Panna Cotta: mint, citrus reduction, candied ginger
To me, this was the perfect dessert: light, refreshing, creamy, and zippy from the grapefruit. It was the ideal end to a big, rich meal. That being said, I could have pretty easily eaten two full serving of it after all of the food I had just eaten. It was *that* good.
All in all, the service was amazing, the food was amazing, and the company was amazing. Along with our bill, we were served a few cocoa-dusted almonds, and two coupons for $25 off our next $50 visit (score!). Before we had even walked out, Helen and I began planning our next brunch date out on their front porch! Our Tilth experience was the absolute best it could have been, and yet, it didn’t end after we left. Later that night (we’re talking like midnight here, people) Helen and I received an email from the General Manager thanking us for coming in and for our comments on the comment card. If that isn’t above and beyond, I don’t know what is!
(By the way, it incredibly hard to get good, in-focus, well-lit photos in a very dark restaurant, so I apologize!)