Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that we are huge Top Chef Sluts. So it should come as no surprise that one of the restaurants we first looked into upon planning our honeymoon that was starting in Seattle was Canlis, a restaurant prominently featured on Episode 4 of Top Chef Season 10 (Seattle).
We were intrigued by the fact that it had been around for 50 years and then as we read more, we knew it was a primary destination for dining. Chef Jason Franey was a finalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest (stay tuned for our Portland Honeymoon write-up coming soon to read about who actually won) and the executive chef won Cochon 555 Seattle this year.
Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted by name (mind readers) and wished a very warm congratulations on our honeymoon. They asked us about the details of our honeymoon trip (Mike didn’t even remember telling them about our road trip). They informed us that our table was not quite ready but we were welcome to get a drink at the bar, next to the (very good) piano player. Our drinks were not only tasty, they were also absolutely beautiful.
The flower petals really made it look that much prettier.
We were sat the moment our drinks came out. The dining room is timeless.
With a nice view of the water (even in the fog and pouring rain).
We sat down to a lovely note from the Canlis family and two glasses of champagne on the house.
We hear the menu changed recently, ever so slightly. Here was the menu when we were there at the end of June, 2013:
We decided on the 4 Course menu because we both had heard great things about the duck and wanted the opportunity to try that.
We started with 3 amuse bouche (bouches? is bouche a plural?)
From left to right, it was a morel mushroom tart (nice, rich flavor), black olive coronet with salmon mousse, pickled rutabaga, and wasabi tobiko (which was packed with flavor and textures that mixed together perfectly), and a fried egg yolk, which we were advised had a liquid center “So don’t try to take a bite. You have to commit.” And commit we did. Great flavor and a nice middle ground between a hard boiled egg (which would be way too solid when fried) and a poached egg (which would be too runny).
The holders were also lovely and showed off each bite as if it were artwork.
The wine was a local Pinot Noir (from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, a place we were soon to visit) that the sommelier picked (and we really loved).
Our first of 4 courses arrived:
Mike chose the smoked Copper River salmon which came with yellow and purple potatoes. (Salmon is very popular in this part of the country and was on nearly every menu. I believe it was also salmon season, though every day could be salmon season up there for all we know. Funny thing… I usually don’t like salmon, but every time I had it up in the Pacific Northwest, I really loved it. Totally different flavor and none of that gross salmony-fishiness I hate).
The salmon was smoky and light but filled with flavor. Both Mike I said that we wished there were more (not because the portion was small, which it should be with a multi-course tasting menu) but because it was so good.
I chose the foie gras with cherry beet puree, cocoa brioche, dehydrated milk with pistachio.
The brioche had a great crunch and everything combined perfectly. There was tarta and sweet to pair with the rich and dense foie and brioche. One of the best preparations of foie gras I’ve had.
As we were awaiting our next course, we noticed a manager-like looking man come to our side of the restaurant and look around as if observing his flock. Mike went totally out of character and struck up a conversation with him, only to find out that he is one of the owners (and grandsons of the original owners), Brian Canlis. Brian was warm and genuine and we instantly liked him. We had a quick discussion about where we were from and Brian asked us our favorite restaurant, to which we answered in unison, Eleven Madison Park. He got very excited at this and asked us if we knew about the connection between Canlis and Eleven Madison Park. We did not, so he told us he went to Cornell with William Guidara, business partner in Eleven Madison Park. (And now the presence of a special Ithaca Beer on the EMP menu made much more sense!) I told him I went to Ithaca College and we had a great moment reminiscing about the lovely town of Ithaca, NY. Brian then excitedly asked if we ordered the duck and when we confirmed we had, he said he thought it beat EMP’s duck (sadly, we didn’t try the duck, we chose the beef when we were at EMP, but the friendly competition was quite adorable). He then kindly excused himself and we went back to our meal, but not before the waiter was kind enough to take a lovely picture.
For course two, Mike chose the famous Canlis Salad (which is prepared table-side, but only for bigger parties from what we observed). This was one great salad. The inclusion of mint was fantastic without being overpowering. It tasted like it was all picked fresh moments before hitting our plate.
I went with the pork belly, which came with an almond vanilla sauce with huckleberry. The pork belly could not have been cooked better. The creamy fat, the hammy pork, the crispy top. A great balance of flavors and textures with a slightly sweet sauce to compliment the pork and bring it all together
And then they showed us the duck.
A few minutes later, it came out fully prepared and ready to be tasted. They had carved up the breast (which included seeds a black peppercorns) and made a duck leg confit croquet, which they plated separately for each of us. There was also an orange marmalade, fennel puree, and bruleed onion. The flowers were grown in their garden.
The crispiness of the seeds on the duck were great, and I really loved the way the spicy black peppercorns mixed with the orange marmalade, which was tart yet sweet. I was enamored by the marmalade, but, sadly, Mike is not a fan of orange/marmalade/tart sauces so it wasn’t his cup of tea. Luckily, since it was all separate, he could enjoy it just fine without while I lapped it up.
Our eyes were much bigger than our bellies, and we ordered an additional twice baked potato when we first put the order in. As we finished up the duck, we realized that the potato never came. We were commenting about how this was a very good thing because we were FAR too full and still had dessert to go, but just as we were concluding that, a huge dish of fries came out and our very concerned waitress. She informed us that she forgot to put the potato in and it takes a bit of time to prepare, so as soon as she realized her mistake she put it in and had them make us fries (which are much faster to prepare) to make sure we had something. Service was impeccable until this moment, and I always say that mistakes happen, but it’s about how you fix them. Talk about a fix! Not only immediate response but a solution of fries to boot.
We informed her that we were just too full so we didn’t need the potato and we requested she wrap up the fries. Though not before trying a couple, and WOW! What fries! Sadly, we didn’t have a fridge in our room so the fries couldn’t be saved. (I nearly cried as I set them in the trash the next morning.)
But I couldn’t be too sad for very long since the dessert menu was in front of us.
Mike chose the Mille-Feuille and I chose the Pistachio Génoise.
The Mille-Feuille was absolutely delicious with lots of textures and flavors.
But I really loved my pistachio dessert. The cherries on it were just fantastic.
The pieces of gelee were great.
And the crisp of the pistachio was great with the flavorful ice cream.
And we loved the extra touch of writing “Congratulations” on both our plates.
We were also given macarons in two flavors: negroni and apple pie.
They were both great but if I could spend the rest of my life eating those apple pie macarons, I would be a happy lady.
And just when we thought they couldn’t make the meal any better, they gave us a chocolate breakfast brioche for the following morning (which wound up being absolutely sensational, even without a lick of butter to add… we just tore into it and it started our last morning in Seattle perfectly). I absolutely love this touch. It leaves such a great lasting impression on a diner to give them something to eat from the restaurant the next morning. Classy.
The entire meal was special. Absolutely special.
The service was some of the best we have ever seen, but not in a mechanical way like some fine restaurants seem to specialize in. This service was warm, personal, and made us feel like we were the only ones in the entire restaurant. And just as we were wrapping up to leave, Brian came back over to see how our meal was (and of course we gushed) and then he offered us a tour of the kitchen. (BUT OF COURSE!)
He excitedly showed us pictures of his family and the restaurant. One was of opening night and had all the women of the day wearing hats, drinking whiskey, and smoking cigarettes. Such a time-specific moment. He was kind and warm and told us he just enjoyed having some drinks at the bar and being in the restaurant that evening. You could tell he absolutely loves this place and what he does. We talked about how much we envied that he got to grow up and come to own such a place. His enthusiasm was infectious. He was excited that we were so excited to be there. For half a moment, we felt like part of the family.
And boy what a family that would be to be part of!
I would say that if you’re in Seattle, be sure to go here… but the truth of it is that you should just be sure to go here. Make a special trip to Seattle. Canlis is one of the best of the best of the best.
Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10