This is a “jacket suggested” type of restaurant and we had intended just to go for dessert. We started with a bottle of modest processo in the lounge while the details of our table were being finalized. Well, I actually started with a cranberry ginger lime cocktail BEFORE starting on the bottle of processco, but hey . . . semantics. In the meantime, we were treated to classic jazz stylings being played by acclaimed pianist Walt Wagner on an equally classic Steinway Grand Piano.
From the restaurant’s perch on the hill, we were able to overlook the Seattle Harbour and the lights on the opposite side of the water. This is a magnificent view, and we were only on the first floor (which oddly is referred to as the Penthouse).
The main dining room is the typical seating arrangement with individual tables all placed to gain the best vantage point looking out of floor to ceiling windows. The second level is the Executive Room, a private dining “living room” area with wrap-around views that seats up from 12 to 30 people, perfect for an engagement dinner or an anniversary party. The third floor offers the best of the best: the Caché: an exclusive dining suite for two to four guests. Like dining in a very, very upscale tree house, this single table is hands down the most sought after table in Seattle. The spectacular view offers a panoramic of Lake Union and the Cascade mountains beyond. There is only one reservation per evening for this room, and the room requires a $150.00 reservation rental. But since the restaurant is kind enough to provide you with a telescope and your own private server, I would think it’s money well spent . . especially if a proposal of sorts were in the works.
Did I mention the plan was just to have dessert? Of course, this meant there would be no harm in looking at the dinner menu, right? WRONG! I am a sucker for Chef’s Tasting Menus. Let me rephrase that: I am a sucker for tasting menus that don’t just mish-mash from the regular menu and act as a cash grab. A good tasting menu should work as an outlet for the chef to highlight his skills and provide the guest with something other than what is popular and normally offered. Usually, I will find one or two dishes on a tasting menu that appeal to me, and then the rest is take-it-or-leave-it. And if the dessert doesn’t intrigue me, then it’s a definite “leave it”. The tasting menu at Canlis that evening was a definite “take it”; each course looked like it would be enjoyable. So at $115.00 US for seven courses, we both said “why not?” and prepared to be wowed. Our server Jackson was quick to let us know that the Rack of Venison on the tasting menu was not available, and he offered instead the Muscovy Duck for 2. Now, on the regular menu, the Duck for 2 is listed at $96.00 US, so this seemed like a bargain.
First up was a little Amuse Bouche. . . I adore a good amuse bouche. Sunchoke soup and white truffle ice cream. Ice cream as an amuse bouche? Clearly Executive Chef Jason Franey (Food and Wine Magazine's Best New Chefs 2011 and The People's Best New Chef Northwest by Food & Wine) was intent on toying with us.
A’u Lepe Tartare en Roulade . . .sushi-grade Hawaiian sailfish wrapped in braised endive, with apple, pomegranate and steelhead roe. The differences in textures and contrasts in flavours are what stood out in this dish. My mother found it a little salty, but then she finds everything salty because of her low sodium diet. This was mentioned to Jackson, who ensured that the remaining dishes would not be salted for mom.
Of Earth & Ocean . . okay, this was amazingly good; I had to keep myself from wiggling with delight in my seat. Braised octopus, lobster, calamari, and Blue Hawaiian prawn with mango, green papaya, avocado and lime. The concept was simple, the execution was complex: how to keep each of the flavours unique while still presenting them as a cohesive whole.
Oxtail Ravioli . . . I have to give kudos to our server Jackson here. This is the point where the evening could have gone south. Deep South. Mason Dixie Line south. I cannot eat mushrooms. Or bell peppers. It’s not an allergy in the way a bee sting or peanuts are allergies, but my body does not accept these items. I have tried and I have failed. Miserably. On my reservation request, I had stated that I could not have mushrooms or bell peppers, and my mom was on a strict low sodium diet. The menu description for the Oxtail Ravioli made no mention of the cute little shimeji mushrooms floating in the broth. I had to send it back. I hate sending food back. It was quickly replaced with a non-mushroom edition. No, they didn’t just pick the mushrooms out; it was a new dish with Chef’s apologies. So . . ..hand formed oxtail ravioli in paper-thin pasta. . carrots, bone marrow and veal consommé . . .I could have had two more bowls.
Muscovy Duck for 2 . . .drum roll please! Jackson brought out the whole bird, beautiful golden brown, crispy skin, on a bed of fresh herbs. He then brought it back to the kitchen to be carved and plated for us. It was amusing to see the faces of other guests as they eyeball and salivate over what was happening at our table. Dude, get your own bird!
I need to mention that Jackson never once pressed us for alternate wine pairings or to order another bottle of bubbly. He understood implicitly that we were comfortable, and if we needed something more, we would ask. On to dessert . . .
But first, we cleanse the pallet. A little pear sorbet with parsnip and vanilla pureé, pumpernickel streusel and preserved Meyer lemon. Sweet and savoury on one plate, in one bite. Oh Chef, how you tease!
Ice Cream Sandwich. This could have gone sideways. I was intrigued at how this was going to be pulled off. It didn’t read as being decadent. Oh wait, . . . mint ice cream and warm chocolate ganache with Branca Menta and pistachio. .there, that’s better.
At the end of our meal, Jackson asked if he could call us a car. As we were waiting, he presented us with a plate of petite fours . .handmade truffles and caramels. So unexpected and even though we were completely full; so yummy. And after helping us with our coats and opening the door for us, we found complimentary car service: a Lincoln Town Car with driver waiting to take us back to the W Hotel. The driver was kind enough to take the scenic route, and we ended the evening with a wonderful drive around Lake Union.
I have had a lot of fine dinners out, but this one topped them all. It wasn’t just the great food or the atmosphere; it was the level of service that ensured we felt we were guests in the Canlis home and had us wishing to return soon.