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Dine & Dish #2: Queens of Cuisine

28-May-2005

Dine and Dish is a new event created by Sarah at The Delicious Life.  Most of the food blog events have to do cooking or creating.  Sarah thought it would be nice to have one that was about dining out.  And so Dine and Dish was born. 

I missed the inaugural event last month and for no good reason except that I was too cavalier about the whole thing.  So this month when the theme was announced I made a plan!  The theme, Queen of Cuisine, requires that you eat at an establishment owned by a woman or featuring a woman chef.  If I hadn’t just eaten at Café Juanita, that might have been my choice of locations.  But having just been there I turned my sight to two other local favorites, Brasa and The Flying Fish.  Both of these places are owned by the women who also head up the kitchen.  I hadn’t been to either of them for some time so I thought I’d do my own version of a progressive dinner. 

R and I were planned to meet at Flying Fish at 4:30, hoping to get in ahead of the after work crowd.  It can get pretty crowded in the bar – there are about a dozen seats.  Well, it was a great idea, except that I forgot to check their hours and it turns out they don’t open until 5:00. :-(  R got there first and left me a vmail so we both wandered around a bit and then reconvened at 5:00. 

Flying Fish opened in Seattle 10 years ago – in fact they are currently celebrating their anniversary.  Christine Keff is the owner and chef.  In 1999 she won the James Beard award for best chef in the Pacific Northwest/Hawaii.  She and the restaurant have received many accolades and awards over the years.  There was a special dinner going on the night we were there and it looked like it was going to be tons of fun!  Many other local chefs had gathered at Flying Fish and were all making one course of a special anniversary dinner. 

At 5:00, I got there a little ahead of Rosanne and as it was a very nice day, I started to scoot past the hostess station and out to the sidewalk seating when a look from the hostess made me pause.  I’ve had cocktails and light bites out there many times and it didn’t occur to me that they had changed their policy, so I said, "I’m just heading out to the sidewalk, is that okay?" Her reply, "No."  Nothing else just no!  I was so taken aback!  We exchanged a couple other sentences, I won’t go into detail, but then I made my way to the bar itself, still at little unsettled by that rather rude "No".

I decided to start with ice tea while figuring out my order.  R arrived and ordered a glass of wine and then we made our selections from the menu. Flying Fish divides its menu by Small Plates, Large Plates and Platters.  We ordered from the Small Plates menu.   Since this was the first stop on our progressive tour we chose the Organic Tomato and Arugula salad and Ahi Tuna Poke. 

Our food arrived and looked delicious!  But there was something odd about the salad… Instead of arugula it was made with spinach! Now we both like spinach but we wondered what was up.  We asked the bartender who checked with the kitchen.  On returning he said the misinformation was probably his fault – the switch was one of those things that would have been covered at the pre-opening meeting but he wasn’t paying attention.  Hmmm. Not a very good explanation but we’ll have to take it.  The salad was still good although the blue cheese was not very assertive.  With the arugula being spicy that would make sense, but with the spinach it was just sort of lost.  The dressing was excellent!  It was fennel vinaigrette and the salad was perfectly dressed – neither too much or too little dressing.  Each spinach leaf was covered but not soggy so that you really got the taste of the dressing without squelching the underlying taste of the salad. 

The star of the night, though, was the Ahi Tuna Poke.  Oh my, this was good!  The base of the tower is a chuka salad.  Sitting on top of the salad is wonderful, fresh diced ahi tuna lightly seasoned with a soy sesame sauce.  The tower is capped with a generous handful of fried wonton strips. 

I feel so lucky to live in a city where fish and seafood are readily available, supremely fresh and treated in such wonderful ways by the local chefs.  This combination was really extraordinary. 

We finished our meal and left with a bit of mixed feelings.  Flying Fish still lives up to its reputation for great food but my experience with the hostess and the lack of attention to detail by the bartender make me a little sad.  I would not ever have been able to imagine either of those things happening in the past.  Because of all my great experiences at Flying Fish I believe this was just an odd combination of events.  I will definitely go back again and soon. 

We then walked the three or four blocks to Brasa.  We made our way into the dimly lit lounge and found a couple places at the bar.  We were a bit surrounded by a large group sitting at several tables near the bar so we had to kind of squeeze in. 

Brasa has been part of the Seattle dining scene since early 1999.  It is owned by Tamara Murphy, chef and Brian Hill, general manager. In 1990 nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award, Tamara was one of four finalists for chefs under thirty years of age. She continued to receive nominations from the James Beard Foundation, and in 1995 was named the Best Chef of the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. In addition, Food and Wine Magazine dubbed her one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America.  Brasa has also received many commendations. 

Brasa has a Happy Hour and I was looking forward to seeing what was on this menu.  Since this was our second stop of the evening our choices here would be more of the entrée variety.  But first things first!  We took a look at the specialty drink menu and ordered a couple of interesting sounding offerings.  R ordered the Capri, a combination of Campari, vodka and fresh ruby grapefruit juice.  I ordered a Purple Haze, made with vodka, loganberry liqueur and fresh lime. 

The Happy Hour menu is the regular bar menu but everything is half-price.  This is a really great deal! 

While waiting for our cocktails we poured over the menu drooling over the various choices.  We limited our selections to three sandwiches:  the Lamb Burger with Frites; the Moroccan Steak sandwich; and a Pork Sandwich.  We whittled that down to two and then enlisted the bartender’s help in making our final selection, the Lamb Burger.   

Our cocktails arrived and were really beautiful – especially mine.  The bartender had been right on when I asked her if the Purple Haze would be sweet – I thought it might be with the loganberry liqueur – and she said no.  In fact, it was a bit on the tart side with the lime floating on the top.  Although I should have mixed the layers, the drink was so gorgeous as served that I instead tried to sip through the lime to the lower layer to preserve the beauty for as long as possible. 

We savored our cocktails while waiting for our burger.  And wait we did.  Remember the large party I mentioned?  Well, their order went into the kitchen just before ours so we waited for quite some time.  In fact, I finally asked about it and that’s when I found out about the large order.  It would have been nice if the bartender had mentioned this to us without having to ask but other than that she was pretty much a perfect bartender. 

The good news is that the wait was worth it!  Our burger arrived, we split it and bit into a tasty, juicy, perfectly cooked (medium-rare) burger.  Besides the lamb, there were seasoned field greens, garlic aioli, tomato and feta cheese (melted into the burger) on the bun.  Along side were pickles, crispy frites and ketchup upon request. 

The burger was really, really good!  The melted feta added a nice tang, the garlic aioli perfectly complemented the lamb and I liked the idea of dressed greens on the bun. It added a nice little twist to the flavor combinations. 

I think this happy hour deal has got to be one of the best in town.  I will be back here very soon to try one of the other sandwiches or perhaps another of the many offerings.   Maybe I’ll make it my goal to try one of everything! There certainly are enough choices to keep me coming back for some time! 

Flying Fish
2234 First Avenue
Seattle
206-728-8595 

 

Brasa Restaurant
2107 Third Avenue
Seattle
(206) 728-4220
Happy Hour 5:00 – 7:00

 

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