Dishin’: Getting Saucy at Sazerac

Maybe it’s the springtime snow that’s got us savoring the South—or any taste of it we can get. Last time it was Waterfront Seafood Grill. This time, when Sazerac asked if we wanted to sample some “damn good food” from its Southern-inspired menu, we said “damn right we’ll be there.”

Sazerac’s had a bit of a makeover, with red and amber shades and new lighting creating a chic atmosphere. Tables and table settings have changed; we especially liked the new pig napkin holders. (Then again, we like anything pig.)

Chef Jason McClure sent out 16 dishes. Sometimes-underloved dishes like oysters and oxtail shined in the simplest of preparations, whereas the liver and geoduck were over-adorned in a way that made them safe but lost as ingredients. This liver lover missed the liver taste and texture when crisp-fried in cornmeal and topped with red pepper marmalade and garlic aioli, while the geoduck (which is all about texture) crudo was sliced too thin (impossible to pick up—chopsticks, please?) and overwhelmed by okra pickles, olives, and Fresno chile.

But, what stood out were smoked, saucy dishes. The applewood smoked pork back ribs were cooked perfectly, meat falling off the bone and the cider-glaze finger-licking good. The smoked Oregon quail was the standout dish, offset nicely by springtime rhubarb and a white barbecue sauce made from aioli, crème fraiche, honey, and cider vinegar that was unique and, well, yummy.

With the upcoming He Said, She Said event in mind, we turn to Seattlest Audrey. She agreed on both the quail and ribs, but felt that the chicken liver dish was just fine. Few people (save a gourmand like Jay) enjoy the iron-rich flavor of liver to begin with, but deep-fry it and add a generous amount of aioli, and we’ll eat just about anything in that form. A similar standout was the crispy Idaho catfish. Normally, we’re not a catfish fan at all, but when accompanied by lemon-whipped potato and jalapeno-lime brown butter, the heavy bottom-feeding flavor was offset by all that deliciousness. Meanwhile, the hominy dumplings—not dumplings in the Southern sense, but much more like gnocchi—with duck confit, artichoke, leeks, and truffle grain mustard sauce was so delightful that we could’ve eaten the entire plate. That’s a dish to watch for when it’s added to the menu in the next few months.

As to dessert, well, Seattlest Audrey says you just can’t go wrong with the ooey gooey chocolate cake with designated pouring cream—the restaurant’s most popular dessert. The chicory pot de cream, with its smooth and light coffee-like flavor, was good too, which prompted a debate on what exactly is chicory (as it turns out, a flowering plant, the root of which can serve as a coffee substitute). The warm gingerbread cake was underwhelming, but as always, the day was saved by cheese—specifically the three locally produced artisan cheeses (one goat, one cow, and one sheep).

Originally posted at Seattlest (where “we” = me) on April 7, 2008.

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