So many in Seattle are atwitter with Canlis’ menu contest. And rightly so. In hiding 50 menus in 50 days (Sundays off, generally), Canlis is providing 50 lucky Seattleites the chance to dine (with a guest) at 1950s prices. It’s all part of Canlis’ 60th birthday celebration.
The contest is brilliant on many levels. First, the clue-giving is a fantastic use of social media. Second, it’s intellectually stimulating, as the answers often emerge from riddles, plays-on-words, etc. Related to that, the contest connects Canlis and all the contestants (and that’s anyone) to Seattle, teaching a lot about regional history in the process. And finally, it’s hip, bringing a new generation of fans into the Canlis fold.
For those not fortunate enough to find a menu, I always say that you can enjoy the splendor of Canlis by enjoying a bite (maybe teriyaki, or dessert and a drink?) in the bar area. Better yet, instead of a $2.75 salmon steak or $3.85 filet mignon from that 1950s menu, see how Canlis has changed by checking out the chef’s tasting menu. Here’s what Jason Franey is serving up this fall:
Amuse Bouche: Sunchoke soup and white truffle ice cream (this connected to the amazing white truffle menu that I enjoyed the same night)
A’u Lepe Tartare en Roulade: Sushi-grade Hawaiian sailfish with endive, apple, pomegranate and steelhead roe (so texturally interesting, and one of my favorite courses of the night, with the endive wrapped around the sailfish, and the roe adding its bursts of flavor)
Of Earth & Ocean: Braised octopus, calamari, and Blue Hawaiian prawn with mango, green papaya, avocado and lime (my “Sexy Feast” dish of the night, with more description here)
Oxtail Ravioli: Tender, hand-formed ravioli with carrots, bone marrow and veal consommé (the broth was captivating)
Rack of Venison: Dry-aged and encrusted with juniper berry, served with Saskatoon berry and Manjari chocolate (hearty and earthy)
Pear sorbet: parsnip and vanilla purée, pumpernickel streusel and preserved Meyer lemon (I loved the savory aspect of the purée, as well as the unique streusel)
The menu specified one dessert, but my table was site of a parade of treats:
Greens of pistachio and mint…
That last one was my favorite: a crème fraiche parfait. With all its savory elements (why don’t more desserts incorporate savory elements?), it reminded me of the fabulous desserts I ate at Portland’s Fenouil last summer. (Pastry chef Kristen Murray has since moved to Paley’s Place.) Just some of the elements: the tube of parfait with wasabi and grapefruit glass on top, candied almonds, olives, fresh grapefruit and grapefruit gel, celery root and cream, candied grapefruit peel in simple syrup, and fresh shiso.
Like my whole meal at Canlis, I found this dessert to be creative, playful, sophisticated, thought-provoking–and absolutely delicious.
First published on TheSunbreak.com on November 17, 2010.