Dishin’: A Big Pay-Off at Tulalip Bay

Admittedly, we were skeptical. We thought about turning back. In fact, we felt almost forced to turn back by the smoke in the casino.

“Isn’t that where the outlet mall is?” we wondered, when Tulalip Bay invited us in for dinner. Not exactly our crowd. Nor was the gathering of somewhat zany, frequently zombie-like people playing the slots and such, puffing away at their cigarettes. This was starting to feel like a big gamble. We held our collective breaths and made a run through the casino, looking for the doors to the restaurant. Once inside and past the effects of the tear-inducing smoke, we opened our eyes to find ourselves in a steakhouse-like inner sanctum of sorts, with wood paneling, a fireplace, and nearby wine room featuring a huge, Chihuly glass-blown chandelier. And smells from the grill (there’s an open kitchen) that had us hopeful again.

A fried wonton filled with edamame puree, topped with lomi lomi tomatoes, and served with aioli sauce amused the bouche. And stimulated the mind. What followed was a cornucopia of dishes, bold and beautiful—and surprisingly delightful. Even the butter accompanying the sesame fire bread was interesting, spiked with pickled ginger, lime juice, sake and chives.

While Tulalip Bay smacks of a steakhouse in terms of fine dining (service includes a tableside intermezzo of pineapple flambéed with Grand Marnier, fresh mint, and ground pepper—a nice palate-cleanser—as well as offerings from an after-dinner liquor cart), the experience is far more satisfying. That’s because Chef Dean Shinagawa brings Hawaiian and Asian influence to Pacific Northwest cooking, resulting in flavors and colors that are intriguing. And while most entrées range from $25-$50, you can combine a variety of appetizers, soups and salads into a meal. Also worth considering is the “Chef’s Tour of the World” menu, which offers a 5-course dinner for $50 (add $35 for wine pairings). Chef Shinagawa clearly likes to experiment with different cuisines; this month’s Korean menu sounds promising, and upcoming months include German for Oktoberfest and American Harvest for Thanksgiving.

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, the gallery’s got 17,000. Check the photos for more commentary. A solid performance; we’re still savoring the salmon entrée, and are still surprised that every dish was worth space in the stomach! Bottom-line: If you can make a mad dash through the smoky casino, Tulalip Bay is worth the gamble.

The amuse bouche, described above.

The amuse bouche, described above

House Smoked Salmon with foccacia toast, cucumber fennel relish, and scallion sour cream: makings for nice finger sandwiches

<!–[endif]–>House Smoked Salmon with foccacia toast, cucumber fennel relish, and scallion sour cream: makings for nice finger sandwiches

Curry Seared Sea Scallops with lima beans, prosciutto ham, radicchio, leeks, and potato chips: nicely spiced scallop (though it could have been cooked slightly less), and loved the “pork and beans”

Spiced Beef and White Bean Soup with crispy onion rings: good soup with depth, but would have liked a little spicier and with larger pieces of beef

Walla Walla Sweet Onion and W.S.U. Cougar Cheese Tart with Wenatchee fresh peach jam: this was a pleasant surprise, with great balance of onions and cheese

Coconut Crusted Shrimp with tropical fruit salsa, chili sauce, and Asian slaw: good coconut taste, and liked the slaw of carrot, daikon and kaiware

Penn Cove Mussels “Arrabiata” with oven roasted tomatoes and garlic toast: enjoyed the spicy bite, though almost overpowers the mussels (maybe larger mussels would be better?)

Dungeness Crab and Avocado with fresh mango, cucumbers, tomatoes, taro chips, and wasabi horseradish vinaigrette: like the “avocado maguro” of Japan that we love, but embellished

Columbia River King Salmon with watercress greens, cucumbers, apple miso dressing, and toasted brown rice: maybe the best salmon dish of the summer (the marinade was fabulous), and also enjoyed the apple miso dressing – but a little too much, making the salad a bit soggy

Intermezzo service (described above)

The pineapples from the intermezzo (described above): refreshing!

Crab Crusted Alaskan Halibut with wok vegetables, wasabi mashed potatoes, and Sriracha chili sauce: excellent fusion of Asian and Northwest flavors with good pickled ginger (and, of course, wasabi and chili are winners)

Applewood Grilled Wild Striped Bass with turnip mashed potatoes, crimini mushrooms, and roasted Anaheim pepper sauce: enjoyed this fish preparation

Oregon’s Carlton Farms Pork Tenderloin with turnip cojita cheese cake, grilled Northwest nectarines, and fresh herb pan jus: was excited about the idea of this dish, but prefer meat on the bone, and wish the nectarines had been riper

Chocolate Mousse with phyllo dough, raspberry sauce, chocolate cookie and vanilla ice cream: chocolate-y goodness

Coconut Cream Pound Cake with tuile cookie and tropical salad: yes, tropical and again refreshing

Mt. Vernon Blackberry Turnovers and Lemon Panna Cotta with late harvest gelee: favorite of the desserts, with nice variety of flavors

Cross-posted at Seattlest, where “we” = me.

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