I can’t believe that Nell’s has been open for six years and I just finally got around to eating there!! I remember when it opened and I added to my "list", places that I hear about that sound interesting and I want to try out. How have I missed it for so long? I’m not sure, but I will tell you that now that I’ve tried it I’ll be back again. Soon.
Last summer I’d purchased a git certificate at a charity event, figuring that would finally get me through the door. The certificate has been calling my name for the last few months and so I made a plan and M and I had dinner there on Monday night.
We were seated promptly at our reservation time at a cozy little table. We were on the upper level where we had a perfect view of the kitchen and all the preparation activity. I was a little worried at the start when we ordered a split of Prosecco and we were told they were out of it but directed to several other sparkling wine/champagne splits they had available. The lowest price on that list was more than twice as much as the Prosecco – I found this to be bad form. We decided to pass on the champagne and wait until we actually made our choices from the menu before making a decision.
Nell’s is participating in the "Dine Around Seattle, 25 for $25" event and we considered that menu for a few moments, especially as the meals being delivered looked wonderful. But then our eyes strayed to the other side of the menu and there was no going back! There were so many wonderful options! We decided to go with multiple first courses, and split everything ordered so that we could get lots of little tastes. Once we had made our selections our wine selection was easy – a Van Duzer Pinot Noir.
A little side note: Nell’s has one of the best selections of half-bottles of wine that I’ve seen anywhere! We had numerous options to choose from. I decided to forgive them for the "Prosecco issue". :-)
Our first selection arrived and seduced us immediately! We’d ordered the Sweet Onion Tart with Fried Parsnip Chips, pictured above. The pastry was a perfect, flaky vessel for the creamy, rich onion filling. The parsnip chips were a thin, crispy, clean contrast to the filling. The overall feeling was of warmth and comfort. We were happy.
Next we’d ordered our own mixed green salads with warm goat cheese and toasted baguette slices. I loved the goat cheese and baguette, as I always do…. And the mixed greens were good, although honestly I don’t remember that much about them. I think my main goal was to get through them so that I could get to the other items we’d ordered!
We asked for the next two courses to be served at the same time. We had ordered Braised Oxtail with Gnocchi, and Mussels and Winter Squash Risotto. The mussels were plump and flavorful treasures hidden in the creamy risotto. M and I talked about how we both prefer our risotto more on the creamy side instead of the "too al dente" side and this risotto was exactly what defines perfect. The one disappointment, if you can call it that, is that the squash wasn’t really present. I mean you could definitely see it but it didn’t seem to add much in terms of flavor. Having made a similar risotto myself, I wasn’t really surprised as I’d had the same experience. I guess it probably adds a background note but just isn’t as assertive as you might like. Still, the overall taste of this dish was lovely and again sort of comforting.
The oxtail was truly outstanding! Over the last couple years I’ve really been getting back into braising and it’s dishes like this that have driven that renewed focus. The oxtail was so very tender and every bit of flavor had been lovingly enhanced. The reduction coating the meat was a little sweet, earthy, a bit tangy, and meaty. It was fragrant with just a bit of cinnamon – not so much as it jumped out at you, just enough to ad an exotic back note and a bit of fragrance. The gnocchi was great swirled in the sauce – perfect little potato pillows to hold the all the liquid gold at the bottom of the bowl.
We decided that we needed to order one of the scrumptious desserts we’d seen at tables around us. We were a bit disappointed as what we’d been seeing were desserts from the 25 for $25 menu, and we didn’t qualify for those items. However, we soon found something on the regular menu that would more than suffice: Pear and Almond Tart with Fresh Pear Ice Cream! We were surprised when our dessert arrived that it was actually dessertS! Along with our pear tart there was another dish with a Pecan Tart topped with Chocolate Bourbon Ice Cream!
The chef felt that we’d had to wait too long between some of our courses and sent us a second dessert as an apology. I love that! A chef that is actually paying attention – one of the benefits of having a glassed in kitchen with a view of the floor. And in all honesty, there was barely an issue. I think we had a bit of a break between the salads and the next course but I wasn’t anywhere close to flagging down our server to ask if they’d forgotten us! Perhaps it might have seemed longer if I was on a bad date! :-)
This was really a lovely and thoroughly enjoyable evening. The food was wonderful and creative without being pretentious. The service was right on – our server seemed to appear when we needed her but didn’t unnecessarily bother us. Nell’s is the kind of neighborhood place that all neighborhoods should have – and that deserve to be patronized on an on-going basis. I’ll be doing my best to help out with that from now on!
6408 E. Greenlake Way N
Reservations through OpenTable