Seattle Restaurant Week has returned to town, this year adding even more restaurants to bring the total to over 160 participants. This week and next (Seattle Restaurant Week is actually two weeks), Sunday through Thursday (April 7-11 and 14-18), diners can indulge in a three-course menu (appetizer, entree, and dessert) for just $28. (Drinks, tax, and tip are extra.) An even better deal, in my view, is that many of these restaurants offer a three-course lunch for just $15. (Note that Sunday brunch is excluded.)
My caveats are the same as in the past. The three-course menus are limited—typically to three choices in each category, with the option to order additional items from the regular menu. And the restaurants tend to be especially busy for this two-week period.
To the first point, I still believe that Seattle Restaurant Week is a great (and affordable) way to check out a place that’s been on your must-try list for too long, and to know that some of the dishes will be the restaurants’ signature dishes. And to the second point, I’d say to simply adjust your expectations accordingly. Recognize that kitchen crew and waitstaff might be a little more stressed than usual for these two weeks. Though if the restaurant is already popular, you probably won’t see much difference in service or overall quality.
If you’re still concerned, go early. I did. I kicked off this go-around by grabbing Anchovies & Olives’ first seating of the very first night of this Seattle Restaurant Week. My dining companion and I got a nice table and great service from an unhurried staff. It was our first time to the restaurant together, and the food was terrific—definitely a bargain for the price.
We thoroughly enjoyed three courses each, plus a pasta dish (the signature bigoli—we wanted anchovies to go with the olives in one of our other entrées!) for good measure. Dinner started with fried oysters and salmon crudo for our first courses, then grilled Spanish mackerel and cioppino for our second courses (prompting a discussion about “regular” mackerel vs. horse mackerel vs. Spanish mackerel), and finally buttermilk panna cotta and gianduja terrine for our desserts.
Read on for photos and information about each dish, as well as a little more about mackerel.
Starter of fried oysters with Napa cabbage, goat horn chili, and tarragon aioli. Perfectly fried with great texture to the batter, these oysters were briny and delicious. One of the best versions I’ve had of this dish. Cabbage offered nice contrast. I’d be worried about anyone who eats this much aioli, though.
Another starter: salmon crudo with frisee, horseradish, and citrus. While I’m normally a big believer in eating all components of a plate together, I actually preferred the salmon on its own to enjoy the fish flavor, followed up by the frisee.
Bigoli with anchovy, garlic, chili, mint, and pangrattato (pan-fried breadcrumbs). This big pasta is one of three entree choices on the Seattle Restaurant Week menu. As we were each leaning toward the seafood choices, we decided to order the pasta on its own as a side dish. Bigoli makes for a BIG side dish.
Cioppino with mussels, Manila clams, spot prawns, and Controne beans. The broth is so good that you’ll be begging for more bread. Small-ish portion.
Grilled Spanish mackerel with baby artichokes, navel orange, and olive tapenade. Nice portion, nicely prepared, with nice flavors. But made me look at the Seattle Times’ website for SRW, where the dish is listed as mackerel instead of Spanish mackerel. “Regular” mackerel is known as saba in Japan, where saba shio (grilled salted mackerel) is a popular dish. I think I actually prefer saba (and aji, which is horse mackerel in Japanese) to Spanish mackerel (sawara in Japan), as it’s more oily and more “fishy,” whereas this Spanish mackerel might appeal more to many Westerners. (I’m glad to see any mackerel on an American menu.)
Gianduja terrine with hazelnut brittle, blackberry coulis, and gianduja gelato. This dessert is quite the contrast to the panna cotta, and ultimately appealed more to the chocolate lover in me.