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My Thanksgiving meal at Aqua by El Gaucho

Yep, as there weren't that many fine dining options for thanksgiving other than Ruth Chris' and El Gaucho, it seemed like the best place for an out of towner, especially with the waterfront and seafood. I dined at Canlis the following day which was totally worth it's price, even though I paid just slightly more as I was more than generous with gratuity due to it being a high caliber dining institution.

Jan 19, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

My Thanksgiving meal at Aqua by El Gaucho

Yeah, really overpriced. And you know what? It was a full house that day. In addition, plenty of whole, large families booked tables that day and I can only fathom of thinking about the cost for a large party like that.

Definitely appreciate the info about frozen crabs. Yeah, although the service was very friendly and attentive, it's certainly for those who totally have money to burn without actually caring much for the food.

Sorry as I gotta ask, why does the corn photo give you nightmares? Just curious.

Jan 19, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

My Thanksgiving meal at Aqua by El Gaucho

As I had made my decision to spend my thanksgiving away from the family in Seattle, I ended up choosing Aqua by El Gaucho for my Thanksgiving dinner as I made reservations since it was one of the few restaurants open on that day along with it being packed on that day.

Located on the beautiful Seattle Waterfront on Alaskan Way next to the Port of Seattle, the restaurant was nested on an ideal location for the extremely wealthy to blow out chunks of cash for simple preparations of Seafood and Steak. Don't get be wrong: although I'm the type of a person that avoids a restaurant if their menu offerings are too safe, I can definitely appreciate and savor the bold flavors of a broiled lobster tail with only melted butter or a medium rare 35 day aged ribeye only seasoned with salt and pepper. But because I'm a person who generally is hesitant against restaurants with simple menu offerings mainly those serving Traditional American cuisine, the moment I walked in and gazed briefly at the clientele, I've immediately realized that these aren't the bunch that have discerning palates (by this point, either you're empathetic towards me or labeled me as a snob). If you log in on Instagram and look at all the pics tagged to the physical location of the restaurant, you'll see that the majority of pics are either selfies or just photos of people, not food.

With that aside, the interior looked very nice and the hostesses were extremely pleasant and polite while offering to take my coat immediately with warm smiles. Seated, I was immediately assisted by my friendly and attentive waiter. After ordering and tasting my first drink of a Knob Creek Manhattan, I've made the realization that this was the best simple preparation of the cocktail I've had as the bartender was extremely skilled. In addition, I've ordered the Barents Sea King Crab Leg. After the immediate bread service, the beautiful King Crab Legs arrived ten minutes in front of me with Lemon Butter and Black Truffle Aioli. In addition to mentioning that the hefty price ($89, freaking wow) included two legs, they came with their shells precut with sheers. After popping open the shell of the first leg, the crab of course was decadent in flavor. The Lemon Butter was too an amazing complement for the dish. However even though it was nice that it provided an acidic zing of a different flavor once after every few bites, the Black Truffle Aioli wasn't really necessary as I prefered the flavor of the rich and not too sour Lemon Butter much more. On the side as the waiter said that the restaurant can do half orders along with not seeing the Lobster Madhed Potatoes on there, I went for the Sweet Yellow Corn with Chipotle Lime Butter. As I've noticed that it was cooked with Bacon/Pancetta as it was really rich, it was a tad too salty albeit still delicious.

I do apologize for the low lighting as it was pretty dim and I didn't want to be so conspicuous when taking the pics with my phone.

Jan 19, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

My Review of Canlis during Chef Jason Franey's Last Days

Believe me, I know they will be.

Jan 14, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

My Review of Canlis during Chef Jason Franey's Last Days

Yes, the salad is definitely worth trying once at Canlis. Although a great salad, I wouldn't say that it's close to being anything revolutionary. Besides as a great, refreshing palate cleanser (no disrespect to the Canlis family, just saying it's a great way to bridge to the heavier main course), it's there to preserve the nostalgia of when Canlis first opened in light of Franey's modernist cuisine taking the lead.

Jan 13, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

My Review of Canlis during Chef Jason Franey's Last Days

That was the first question I've asked to my waitress (who was extremely wonderful, btw if I hadn't said that enough already, lol) after acknowledging that Jason Franey was there managing the kitchen during my visit. Unfortunately, they hadn't decided then and from the recent Yelp reviews of Canlis, they haven't been able to offer their tasting menu as there's no head chef. I hope they'll find one soon and keep continuing towards the more modern direction as Seattle really needs to have restaurants of this caliber and style as the area's growing affluent can't just be having overpriced steak and seafood all the time.

Jan 13, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Sitka & Spruce: Modern Pacific NW Cuisine and Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar

Hi firecracker, It's been 9 years since I've been back to Washington State, let alone Seattle. I actually was a Huskie at UW for my freshman year but transferred to the UC system as out of state tuition really killed it; been missing this wonderful city since then. Definitely brought flashbacks after seeing all the people wear "The North Face" clothing, even at the departing gate before my flight, lol. Yes, that Seabass was the best dish I had for my Seattle trip with the Brussels Sprouts dish from S&S being second and a great surprise. I hope to return soon :)

Jan 13, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Capital Hill Restaurants - Low Carb

I second Sitka & Spruce, especially to enjoy some of the finest produce the Pacific NW has to offer. Something that will also surprise your husband: their Brussels Sprouts dish with Borani (Yogurt Sauce) and Chili Vinaigrette, an all vegetarian dish, was my favorite dish at S & S while being my second favorite dish of my recent Seattle trip. I also recommend going to Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar next door for some awesome oysters at very reasonable prices (vs $19 for a half dozen at other restaurants) and also going to The Calf and Kid for some awesome cheeses, including the Briar Rose Creamery Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles that Bourdain enjoyed during his past visit on one of his shows (The Layover).

Jan 08, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Sitka & Spruce: Modern Pacific NW Cuisine and Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar

Earlier, I had been initially hesitant of how the dishes at Sitka & Spruce were small and overpriced in addition to being overrated. However, I was very glad that was disproved as I had a wonderful meal with an all-vegetarian dish being my second favorite dish of my Seattle trip (The Sea Bass at Canlis being my most favorite). If you're visiting out of town and want to try one of Seattle's trendy restaurants serving modern Pacific NW cuisine, Sitka & Spruce should be on your list. They even open during lunch if you have other restaurants on your itinerary. The next day, I went to the Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar next door within the Melrose Market in Capital Hill which is a short walk from downtown.

Jan 08, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Solo Business Travel to Seattle - Looking for Seafood

Although I sat by myself at a table during my Thanksgiving meal, I went to Aqua by El Gaucho. Although expensive, it serves some of Seattle's finest seafood in an upscale setting and along the beautiful waterfront. In addition to Taylor Oyster bar in Capitol Hill which is a very short walk from downtown, I would recommend having lunch at Sitka & Spruce where you can enjoy modern Pacific Northwestern cuisine utilizing some of the local high quality seafood and produce. It too is very solo-dining friendly as they have a unique counter setup. Afterwards is when I would head over, or before, for a few oysters at Taylor's as they're within the same building, the Melrose Market (or next door).

Jan 08, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

My Review of Canlis during Chef Jason Franey's Last Days

A couple months ago, I've posted that I would be dining at Canlis for my post-Thanksgiving meal in Seattle which was also during Chef Franey's last days at the helm of the Canlis kitchen.

Overall, my experience was phenomenal. Along with the amazing food, what really made Canlis shine against the other fine dining restaurants in America besides the breathtaking views were the service and value. At $100 for a 4 course menu, it was definitely one of the most bang for your buck fine dining establishments out there. And along with the elegant ambiance, I've received the most finest service ever from the waitstaff. Michelin-starred restaurants should take cues in this regard.

I've ordered the four course menu with the Canlis Salad as a supplement. In regards to selecting which dish to charge as the supplement, they would choose the cheapest one. For my amuse bouche, I've received a Morel Tart, Rice Crisp with Wasabi-infused Tobiko, and a Tater Tot.

For my First Course, especially with me being from California with the Foie Gras Ban (just recently repealed), I went with the Foie Gras Torchon served with Dehydrated Cinnamon Meringue and Washington Apples. It came with a warm slice of Cinnamon Brioche. The Foie Gras Torchon was loaded with more meatier flavors of the duck liver which differs from my other foie gras experiences of the fattier flavors being more of the forerunners. With that being said, this distinction played well with the refreshing apple component of the dish while the Dehydrated Cinnamon Meringue served as the sweet bridge that brought them together.'

Next as it was Franey's last days at Canlis, I went with the more modern Pork Collar. The collar was sitting on Polenta and Chorizo with bits of popcorn on the top. Cutting it through, the Pork Collar was cooked beautifully. With it being moist, it had deep flavors while the polenta served to keeping them restraint while delivering another flavor profile for the dish.

After the heavier first and second courses came the famous Canlis Salad. Now, what I have to note is that the salad is meant to be more straight-forward as it existed since the beginning of the restaurant; nothing utilizing molecular gastronomy or fancy ingredients like white truffles from Italy. As I was dining for one since I knew a head of time that I wouldn't receive a presentation meant for two, I was fortunate enough to witness the waiter (who happened to be also my waiter) making the salad for the table of two next to me. As all of the components were separated into their own individual tiny bowls, the waiter then tossed all the components together in one giant wooden bowl. By the time I received mine, it came on one plate neatly presented before me as another server applied the pepper. No doubt, this is certainly one of the most freshly prepared salads I've ever tasted. The romaine lettuce and the mint were definitely crisp while of course proving their roles to cleanse the palate. In addition, the lemon juice added provided the refreshing acidity to counter the more savory bacon and Romano cheese that was used to give the salad a savory element. My only issue was that the salad may have had a tad bit too much salt. Be that as it may, it was quite fulfilling while greatly serving the purpose as an intermezzo to refresh the palate for the upcoming main course.

For my main course, I had the Pan-seared Sea Bass with Parsnip, Quinoa and Preserved Lemon. Pan-seared beautifully with a nice golden crust without the slightest blemish; the thick, moist piece of Sea Bass looked decadent as it sat on top of the other components. The moment I sliced through the fish, I immediately was able to tell that the fish was cooked to perfection (I rarely use that word) as my knife went through it consistently without encountering much resistance. And when the fish itself made contact on my tongue, a rush of emotions and thoughts when through my conscience. This is certainly not only the best cooked Sea Bass I've ever tasted, but I knew right then that this immediately was the best dish of my Seattle trip. Seasoned to the right point, the butteriness and the meatiness of the fish, in terms of flavor, were balanced at the right point especially with how generously thick the piece of fish was that greatly contributed to this effect with, of course, the fish being such skillfully prepared. Not only cooking the Sea Bass to perfection but consistently doing it for many orders is astonishing as cooking seafood, especially cooking such a thick piece as such, takes immense talent, skill and the utmost strain of one's cognitive abilities for doing so. The Quinoa definitely provided another element of texture to the dish while the Preserved Lemon provided the acidic component that's needed to invigorate the senses in order to enjoy such a beautifully prepared fish.

After that wonderful main dish, I had as my dessert the Apple Tart with Hazelnut Cremeux, Caramelized Apples and Cider Granita. Although I was excited with the dish as it had the icy granita which I wanted and needed as it seemed refreshing, I was unfortunately quite disappointed with this dessert. Let's start with what was good: it certainly looked beautiful and vibrant as the colors of each component popped out and the Washington Apples tasted splendid as my waitress mentioned of them being harvested at the peak of the season. Be that as it may, the hazelnut cremeaux was quite heavy; not only in terms of flavor but mainly in consistency of almost that of peanut butter which overwhelmed the dish. What was the main offender was the part that I was the most excited about: the cider granita. Unfortunately, it tasted more like apple vinegar rather than cider to which it soured the dish (sorry for the pun). I hope next time that I choose a dessert that completely makes up for the one I had.

Afterwards, I was given from a box two kinds of Macarons: Hazelnut Coffee and Red Velvet Cake (not pictured). They were really delicious although I was quite full from the meal.

In the end, I was given a Peanut Butter & Jelly Chocolate Bar to take home as the flavors for their chocolate bars change periodically.

Once again, it was a great meal that surpassed expectations. Without a whiff of pretentiousness, this was genuinely the most empathetic and warm service I've ever experienced from the waitstaff of a fine dining establishment. Without any sort of written reference, they memorize everyone's names listed on their reservations and no tag was necessary as they checked your coat which was quite impressive. I definitely recommend dining here for the most special of occasions here in Seattle. If you live in the area and consider yourself as someone who partakes in the culinary scene of Seattle, it is imperative that you must dine at Canlis at least once in your lifetime.

Jan 08, 2015
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Birthday Dinner 2014

Hi There,
I actually came back from an amazing meal at Sitka & Spruce. Truly wholesome, modern Pacific NW cuisine made beautifully. Although I went for lunch, it was one of the best meals I've had for the year, especially with their vegetable dishes. Although I was actually quite full which contradicts other people saying "it was so little food for the price", you can always walk next door to Taylor Shellfish Farms Oyster Bar for some awesome, unpretentious oysters. The Service at Sitka & Spruce was great while the decor is quite tasteful.

Dec 02, 2014
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Breakfast and Lunch Places Open on Thanksgiving Day

Hi Everyone,

I would like to ask the Seattle Chowhound board if you know of any restaurants in Seattle worth going to that are open for Breakfast and Lunch on Thanksgiving day. I've already locked in a place for dinner, Aqua by El Gaucho, but am concerned for the times I've just mentioned. Particularly anywhere in Downtown Seattle, especially at Pike Place Market is appreciated.

BTW, I will be dining at Canlis, Sitka & Spruce and Taylor Shellfish Bar for my culinary vacation up in the city. Thanks!

Nov 25, 2014
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

"The Getaway" Season 2 on the Esquire Network (Executive Producer: Anthony Bourdain)

Premieres on Oct. 15 at 9/8c

Here's the link to the Season 2 Trailer:
http://tv.esquire.com/videos/71446-th...

List of first 5 episodes:
http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/09/05/the...

Oct 11, 2014
mlbartender in Food Media & News

Question with the re-edited version of No Reservations: Tokyo, particularly with the Sushi/Sukiyabashi Jiro scene

As a few episodes of No Reservations are back on Netflix as the Travel Channel decided to bring it back, I've noticed that with the Tokyo episode, the Sushi/Sukiyabashi Jiro scene was edited out. I ask of you knowledgeable people of Chow Hound why did they take out the best scene of the episode as it's being distributed by Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, etc.? I couldn't find an answer elsewhere nor did I find anyone asking of this. It's funny as the description of the episode mentions that Tony was looking for the best sushi in Tokyo when that freaking scene was taken out.

Oct 11, 2014
mlbartender in Food Media & News

Need help for Seattle Thanksgiving itinerary

Definitely agree that they serve food that's suited to the typical palate. However, those are the only few places that seem worth considering that are open on thanksgiving. I definitely wished Sitka & Spruce or The Walrus and the Carpenter would be open on that day.

Oct 01, 2014
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

20somethings in Seattle need recos!

Bar Sajor: lots of small plates while serving great cocktails

Although in the Ballard district: The Walrus and the Carpenter - Amazing seafood and small plates

Sep 30, 2014
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Need help for Seattle Thanksgiving itinerary

Thanks for sharing your experience!

For my future meal at Canlis, I would definitely like to experience their classic dishes the restaurant's originally known for while also enjoying the opportunity of eating Chef Franey's dishes of modern cuisine developed from his experience of cooking at Eleven Madison Park in NYC.

I should definitely reconsider in selecting my main dish at Canlis and also plan on enjoying King Salmon somewhere else.

Sep 30, 2014
mlbartender in Greater Seattle
1

Need help for Seattle Thanksgiving itinerary

Thanks Mary! Their menu looks awesome with their Pacific NW fare while being relatively affordable.

Sep 30, 2014
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Need help for Seattle Thanksgiving itinerary

Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. When I first read about Elliott's closing on October, in my head, Tom Haverford/Aziz Ansari was screaming "Noooooooooooo!". Be that as it may, I greatly appreciate the heads up.

In regards to Open Table, I actually had already looked it up for restaurants available on Thanksgiving day. As I want to get away from tradition of eating Turkey on Thanksgiving, I definitely want to lean more towards seafood as it seems more unique of the area. What I had in mind are: Aqua by El Gaucho, El Gaucho, Daniel's Broiler, and Chandler's Crabhouse. From Reddit, I found out that the Five Point Cafe is open on that day offering a Thanksgiving feast. However and evem though I should feel comfortable saying the following on Chow without judgement: I would like a more upscale experience for dinner. In the meantime, which out of the mentioned restaurants would you guys recommend?

Sep 30, 2014
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

ANAHEIM -- Anything Chow-ish near the Convention Center?

If it's not too far for you, I would recommend Ohshima in Orange, CA. They have some of the most authentic sushi in the area although I still haven't got around to trying it. If you're willing, I would highly recommend going to Ikko in Costa Mesa as it's my favorite sushi restaurant in Orange County. Also, there's a great upscale bar next door, Mesa, which is great for after dinner drinks.

Sep 28, 2014
mlbartender in Los Angeles Area

Hillstone/Houston's -- excellent service

I've been frequenting the Irvine (Orange County) location these past couple of years and I've also had a couple visits at their Pasadena location. They are both amazing for solid American fare. Granted, I have an issue of calling them a steakhouse as they don't seem that exclusive towards steaks as some people have been considering Houston's as. Be that as it may, their food is always top notch and comes out quick for the price you're paying. Even though some people might consider it to be somewhat pricy, the quality you're getting, such as their steaks, beats out any other typical chain.

Houston's/Hillstone's business model is quite solid and efficient which is how it greatly transcends other chains in addition to serving high-quality dishes and offering impeccable service. They keep their menus short and simple, therefore eliminating unnecessary upkeep of wasted ingredients and effort of preparing them. Speaking of service, I love how they replace your cocktail glass with a freshly chilled one if it has been sitting out there for a bit. Only complaint is how they have you charge you for individual bottles of Coke or club soda instead of having a soda dispenser/fountain built into their bars.

I hope it's fine if I can provide a link to a YouTube video that isn't mine, of course. Here is a video of a Check, Please! Bay Area episode of Hillstone in San Francisco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrpD_R...

Sep 28, 2014
mlbartender in Chains

Need help for Seattle Thanksgiving itinerary

Hi All,

I plan to arrive in Seattle on Thanksgiving day. In addition, I have dinner already planned on the following day at Canlis. So, I'm definitely excited for that. For Canlis, I plan on having the Foie Gras, the Peter Canlis Prawns, the Canlis Salad and for my main course, either Sea Bass or King Salmon (depending on what's available but leaning towards Salmon as it reflects more of the local product).

On Thanksgiving, which Seattle dining institutions do you recommend and/or know of that are open for dinner on that holiday? I want to eat dishes that are more uniquely Pac. NW.

Also, for lunch on the following day, the New American/Pacific NW cuisine restaurants I have in mind are Sitka & Spruce and The Whale Wins. I probably would have chosen The Walrus & The Carpenter if it were open during lunch. Be that as it may, I've narrowed it down to those two restaurants unless if anyone has a better suggestion for modern Pacific NW food.

For my lunch before I head back to SoCal, I actually plan on eating at Elliot's Oyster House albeit touristy. Be that as it may, I've always wanted to dine here as it seems like an iconic Seattle restaurant, aside from Canlis of course.

If you have any recommendations, whether it be for my menu at Canlis or any other subjects I'm asking for help on, please feel free to chime in.

-Thanks!

Sep 28, 2014
mlbartender in Greater Seattle

Tokyo Itinerary...Thoughts and Suggestions?...

Hi There,

As someone who lives in SoCal as well, I do understand you wanting to settle your craving for high end French gastronomy as the area is lacking in that department relative to the SF Bay Area and NYC. Tokyo is the the best city outside of France for French cuisine.

I would definitely recommend Pierre Gagnaire as I was there for dinner in June 2012. The great thing about Pierre Gagnaire's restaurants, unlike say Joel Robuchon, is that each location is unique by incorporating the ingredients and cooking techniques of the region the restaurant is in. There will be a huge Japanese influence present in the cooking and his chefs execute it so well of welding the two cuisines together to make an ideal harmony. Along with great food, sitting high up on the 36th floor overlooking the Tokyo Tower and the city is another great perk about the restaurant.

Another restaurant that I would suggest is L'As in Omotesando, Tokyo. Although much more casual, it has an enticing price of 5,000 Yen for both Lunch and Dinner of set menus only. Even though I haven't eaten there yet, it is on my list for my next Tokyo trip. It should have rave reviews for their French-Japanese cuisine. Here are some links along with their main site:

http://www.las-minamiaoyama.com/en/in...
http://tokyoeater.blogspot.com/2012/0...
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012...
http://foodfile.typepad.com/blog/2012...

Aug 07, 2014
mlbartender in Japan

Ukyo in Azabu Juban

Thanks for the info! I've found out from your postings that you operate bento.com in which I'm a big fan of. I hope that maybe in the future that you could cover this place on your site :)

Aug 07, 2014
mlbartender in Japan

Ukyo in Azabu Juban

Thank you for your post. I hear that it was pretty popular from the blog post but then again, that's the only information in English that I could find. They do have a facebook page so maybe I hope that someone might communicate back in English. It's good that you've pointed out how there are more fruitier sake variants as I'm more either into very dry (Otokoyama) or subtle/complex ones (Kubota Manju). If you don't mind me asking, how was the food over there?

Aug 07, 2014
mlbartender in Japan

Ukyo in Azabu Juban

Hi, it's shown in the tabelog link I provided in my self reply. A slab of Foie Gras on a bed of rice; maybe even with truffles

Aug 06, 2014
mlbartender in Japan

Ukyo in Azabu Juban

Here is the Tabelog link for the restaurant: http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1307/A13070...

Aug 06, 2014
mlbartender in Japan

Ukyo in Azabu Juban

Hi Everyone,

As I was doing some research for a future trip to Tokyo, I came across a restaurant called Ukyo in Azabu-Juban in Tokyo from another person's blog: http://www.eataku.com/post/9125191870... . From the looks of it, it looks very delicious and obscene (in a good way with the overwhelming usage of amazing ingredients such as Truffles, Uni, Caviar and Foie Gras.

Have any of you guys dined there? How was your experience If so as they're nearby Roppongi, do they have an english menu and/or english speaking staff?

Aug 06, 2014
mlbartender in Japan

Orange county must eat

Hi there,
I know this other amazing hole in the wall restaurant if you're into sushi. At first when I started to live in Orange county, I was surprised how besides Mexican, Japanese and Vienamese cuisines are big in OC. The place I'm referring to is called Ikko in Costa Mesa. Besides some of their fusion dishes, they serve mostly traditional preparations of pre-seasoned sushi that calls for immediate eating when served and don't carry American-style rolls. They've even posted on their chalk board in the front where they would used to post specials saying that they don't serve these sort of rolls as many people would just flat out leave after looking at the menu. The first pic is a citrus vinaigrette carpaccio (must ask sushi chef directly for this as they've taken it off) with a fish imported from Kyushu, Japan called "chicken grant" (i know, weird name). Second pic: Maguro (tuna), Third: Albacore, Fourth: Toro (I think it's Chu-toro instead of the fatty O-toro). I've taken many friends to this place and they all love it. Even people who used to not like anything raw change their perspectives on sushi. Here's their address and reservations are highly reccommended: 735 Baker Street Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-7822

Jul 25, 2012
mlbartender in Los Angeles Area