Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wrap-up: Seattle Restaurant Week - Fall '12

After a long Sound+Bites hiatus, I'm back to blogging! I don't have much an excuse. This is it. It's a nice diversion, but I've missed food blogging, so here we are.

Look who's back?
Ann and I finished up another Seattle Restaurant Week bonanza last Tuesday; our 5th together (slow-clap). We make five reservations at restaurants that we haven't been to yet (or haven't been to in a long time) and then invite our friends to join us, binge-eat, and meet new people.

This season, we hit up new restaurants Belle Clementine (Ballard) and Rione XIII (Cap Hill), the not-as-new Cicchetti (Eastlake) and Art of the Table (Fremont), and perennial standby Poppy (Cap Hill). 

And a programming note: I'm over doing the full-on review of each dish at each restaurant. It's nit-picky and meandering, and isn't fun to write. So we're going to change things up. 

The Out of the Gate Award (best starter course): Tie! Art of the Table and Poppy.
Poppy's Thali
This one was pretty close, so we'll cheat a bit and award it to both restaurants. Art of the Table (AotT) served up a really smoky and savory salad featuring treviso. Treviso was the de rigueur ingredient this fall: a winter radicchio named after a town in Northern Italy. It's a more mellow salad base, especially when grilled, and you should definitely look for it this winter. 

Poppy featured a delicate salad of oil-poached albacore with avocado and fennel that didn't overwhelm the palate while being totally satisfying, which can be difficult with starter salads.

False Start Award (worst starter course): Rione XIII 
Rione XIII's starter
A pretty uninspired charcuterie plate for two? Olives, some tuna, carrots, romanesco, a rabbit & pork terrine and prosciutto. I understand that they're going for Roman street food, but I have an Ethan Stowell cookbook, and there's plenty of starter recipes that would have been superior for a restaurant that just opened two months ago and is looking to establish some new regulars. 

My Main Man Award (best main course): Art of the Table
I seriously enjoyed the grilled pork loin with smoked bok choy, pepper jam, and pickled ramp vinagrette. AotT really impressed, going from a northern Italian starter to an Asian-inspired main without it being awkward or ham-handed. 

Why You Do Me Like That Award (worst main course): Cicchetti
That sauce tastes familiar..
A potato ravioli in tomato cinnamon ragu. It tasted like SpaghettiO's sauce. I'm not one for hyperbole, but it seriously was like SpaghettiOs. Just really underwhelming.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Award (best ending course): Poppy
Really great desserts for both Ann and myself. Chocolate truffle torte with jasmine sauce and sesame brittle for me. Hot date cake with banana ice cream and butterscotch. Poppy never fails, so if you visit, save room for dessert. I will say Belle Clementine's buttermilk cake with homemade preserves was also very good, but didn't beat out Jerry Traunfeld's genius. 
Belle Clementine's cake

That'll Do Pig Award (worst ending course): Cicchetti
Marcona almond brownies were pretty much standard fare for a church bake sale. They can, and should, do better than that.

Sotally Tober Award (best drink): Art of the Table
The "Winter is Coming" -Woodinvile rye, fernet, Cocchi di Torino, lemon and chili bitters, with lemon twist. Holy crap, I would have ordered seven of these if I didn't have to drive. Make this drink, now.

Is the Chicken Local? Award (best service): Belle Clementine
Belle Clementine's uber local salad
Really accommodating service that was willing to work with dietary restrictions while doing a family-style serving. The chef even came out and talked to all of us about the meal, describing how he walked 1 block to the Ballard market to purchase most of the ingredients we'd be eating that night.

Best Dished (overall best restaurant): Art of the Table over Poppy in a close one!
Besides an awkward seating arrangement at their large table, not one problem with the meal. Friendly staff, delicious food and drink, and intimate setting. We highly recommend AotT to anyone looking for a cozy late evening date night. In a close second, Poppy still delivers a premium dining experience that I'd rate in the top 10 in all of Seattle. We also think Belle Clementine made a nice rookie appearance, if you enjoy family-style, communal table dining experiences.

Worst Dished (overall worst restaurant): Cicchetti narrowly over (or under) Rione XIII
Surprising failures, considering their pedigree. It's even more disappointing considering we had wonderful company at both restaurants. Cicchetti's starter of Moroccan-spiced chicken wings and Rione's dessert of maple panna cotta with hazelnut brittle were the only saving graces for each. Rione's cacio e peppe, a simple Roman street dish, was way too heavy and over-portioned. But the potato ravioli at Cicchetti was arguable the worst pasta I've had this side of the Spaghetti Factory. The dessert was boring too. Complete faceplant by Cicchetti.

Great company, so-so nosh joint

Rione's tasty Maple Panna Cotta

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