With Seattle Restaurant Week starting today, I’ve been thinking about why three courses for $25 ($15 for places doing a lunch deal) is attractive to most people, but somewhat unappealing to me. Part of it is that I’m eating out all the time, and a promotion like this means a fixed menu, larger crowds, and strained service. It’s the same reasoning that, in my mind, New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day perfect opportunities to cook at home. (Indeed, I’ve got a stockpot full of pho broth on the stove as I write.) Another reason is that one of the three courses is dessert, and as much as I like to indulge my sweet tooth, I usually prefer ordering an additional appetizer in lieu of dessert.
Which is why it’s a bit strange that I’d mention Mistral Kitchen as a possible choice if you’re shopping for Seattle Restaurant Week options.
Read the reviews online, and you’ll see that Mistral Kitchen is one of the most polarizing restaurants in Seattle. My experiences with the main menu have been mixed. A lamb dish I coveted was inexplicably sold out one visit; some weeks later, I was thoroughly enjoying a leg so much that I was considering eating another. A bowl of clams one night was divine, but two fish dishes I tried fell flat—cooked perfectly well, but incredibly unexciting. And I’ve had a simple salad delicately dressed, only to find that the highly coveted potatoes Robuchon were needing something, anything, to season them.
So it hasn’t surprised me to hear a handful of other food writers echo my feeling that Mistral Kitchen is actually a place perhaps best-suited for drinks and dessert. Barman Andrew Bohrer serves up some magical drinks and Pastry Chef Neil Robertson puts together some amazing desserts. Sit, if you can, at either of their stations and enjoy the show.
Robertson last wowed me while he worked at Canlis, and he seems to be enjoying a more prominent position at Mistral Kitchen. His desserts tend to consist of three components; at a usual price of $9 each, they make a $25 spend during Seattle Restaurant Week well worth the roll of the dice. Especially if the advertised “Rhubarb Financier, Fromage Blanc Szechwan Pepper Sorbet, and Rhubarb Soup” remains on the menu. I had the chance to sample this recently, and it’s fabulous—right in season, and right on the money in terms of execution. (I only wish there was just a little more Szechuan peppercorn for its numbing effect.) If that dessert disappears, don’t fret; Robertson’s been doing a cream puff preparation lately that is equally divine. (Getting me in the mood, I might add, for my upcoming trip to Tokyo, where I’ll continue my tradition of indulging in Beard Papa cream puffs—much better than the ones available at the Uwajimaya food court.)
(Photo courtesy of Robin Goldstein, www.fearlesscritic.com.)