Jim's brother and sister-in-law had business here for the last few days, so we had an opportunity to eat our way through it. My pick for their first dinner in Seattle was the Dahlia Lounge. For me it was an easy choice. I'd been here a couple times before and the food was always very good - different enough to be interesting yet familiar enough to be safe. I ask you: What's not to like, ever, about pork chops and coconut cream pie? Jim ordered the halibut but got the crab cakes. Even the waiter said, "Well, if we're going to make a mistake that's the best one to make!" We agreed, especially since Jim also got his halibut very shortly thereafter. I was seriously tempted to try Serious Pie, Tom Douglas' newest venture next door, but tomorrow's another day. But instead...
The second night out, our visitors chose Cascadia. I'd never been, and fretted since I was going there straight after work (i.e., dressed like a slob). But hey, this is Seattle, right? Also, I seemed to recall chef Kerry Sear had a reputation for weird combinations and being kind of a Nazi about it. I also might have early senility. Anyway, I totally scored right away by finding a parking spot on Battery St. and arrived early. The hostess was nicely hospitable despite my attire. Once everyone else showed up, we were seated immediately and the cool, intellectualish waiter came over with recommendations for appetizers and entrees. I decided to test his mettle by asking about a couple entrees he hadn't suggested: the Goat in Some Kind of Strange Sauce and one I'd already decided on, the Squash Strudel on Seaweed. He did his best restaurant-speak about the goat. "People either hate it or love it... I'm not saying it's bad, I mean, everything's good here... it's earthy." To which I asked, "In other words, it tastes like dirt?" Now the goat intrigued me, because dirt is exactly what burdock root (aka gobo) tastes like... and it's delicious, albeit an acquired taste for most non-Asians. The waiter recovered quickly by waxing poetic about the strudel. And it was excellent, though I'm convinced if you put lots of butter - or bacon - on anything, it'll taste good. My companions safely ordered grilled Lamb Chops with Fries, and grilled Wild King Salmon on a bed of Lobster Mashed Potatoes. The appetizers we shared were grilled blue prawns, tomato-mozzarella salad, a basket of crackers (drizzled with balsamic vinegar and toasted) and assorted breads, and hummus with a kick. Dessert was small torpedo-shaped lemon sugar beignets and the chocolate "catch of the day": a dense chocolate tart complete with embedded angler and fish cookies. Every dish was beautifully presented. It was a marvelous dining experience for which I'm glad I didn't see the bill.
The last stop on our foodfest was good ol' Wild Ginger. We ordered crab cake and potsticker appetizers, Chicken Angor Wat and Kung Pao, Seven Flavor Beef, Baby Bok Choy w/Garlic Oil, and Duck with Steamed Buns. Our guests exclaimed that they wished there was a restaurant like this in DC. In the past, my opinion of Wild Ginger was that of a better-than-mediocre Asian smorgasbord; if you really wanted good versions of their dishes, you'd go to the country-respective restaurant. I still hold that dopey monoculture opinion, but on this particular occasion, Wild Ginger was perfect. Plus, I actually detected a hint of wok har (translation: pan tar flavor). If you entertain visitors who don't have good Asian restaurants back home, it's great. It beats PF Chang's and Big Bowl handily.
On our way home I proposed to Jim that we check out more new restaurants before the next onslaught of guests. Over the last few years Seattle's really added some interesting dining options. Tonight I scribbled a list of places to try and it was twice as long as a list from six years ago. Maybe it's because I don't find myself missing and hunting for New York-style pizza and authentic Mexican as much. Maybe it's all part of Seattle becoming a world-class city, at least in the restaurant department.