A few years ago while visiting Los Angeles I was invited to dinner. The host prepared salmon and I asked her: “what type of salmon is it?” She looked at me somewhat puzzled: ”what do you mean what type of salmon?”. “Is it a Sockeye? A Coho? A Chinook?” I tried again. “It’s salmon. I don’t know what kind of salmon. I bought it at the store”, she replied starting to lose her patience. I always ask hosts a bunch of questions about the food and irritate them…
I come from a place where salmon is only… salmon. But after 8 years of living and traveling in the Pacific Northwest, I learned a thing or two about this magnificent fish, about fresh seafood, and the Pacific Northwest cuisine which I knew nothing about before. I fell in love with it. Crab cakes, scallops, fresh berries… salmon… local wines… oh, and freshly brewed coffee… This is heaven.
However this is not a tutorial about salmon. What I really want is to tell you about the fantastic meal that The Husband (TH) and I had last night at Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle thanks to Foodbuzz editors who were interested in a post about this restaurant. Thank you Foodbuzz!
March 6th update:
After the current Secret Stash Artisan Sea Salt Giveaway ends on 3/15, there is going to be another exciting giveaway of 3 copies of Ray’s Boathouse cookbook! I tell ya, you want a copy of that book. Stay tuned…
Well then… big inhale… finally, a night out. We so deserve a quiet dinner in a charming restaurant with dim lights, watching the water of Shilshole Bay, drinking local wine, waiting for our order of fresh seafood, without the kids. We so do deserve it. I love my kids! Tremendously! I want to squish them and squeeze them and constantly kiss them… and, of course, a family dinner at home is #1 on my list of priorities.
That being said, while most of our dinners at home feature great food, sometimes the kids don’t want to eat it, and one of them is usually crying, or whining, or… have to go poopy… I’m sure some of you can relate to that experience. (See my previous Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: 5 Stars Dinner at Home… But Will the Kids Eat It?). So last night was for our Couplehood.
About Ray’s Boathouse
Ray’s Boathouse restaurant is a Seattle icon since 1973. It is well-known for its Northwest seafood and waterfront view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. We have dined there several times before when we moved to Washington and when celebrating special occasions. It’s always been excellent – the ambiance, the food, the wine, the service. It is a tourists’ must-do attraction as well, but of the good kind (not the tourist trap sort). It’s a place everyone needs to know about and visit at least once.
It’s been a while since our last time there, so we thought we should go back and see what’s on the menu. One of the things I like about Ray’s is that they are serving and supporting as much as possible seasonal, sustainable, organic, free-range, and local food.
A few words about the Pacific Northwest Cuisine, to those of you who are curious.
Pacific Northwest Cuisine refers mainly to the states of Washington and Oregon and its style of cooking is inspired by the cold and rainy weather and waters and of this corner of the continent. The Northwest offers an abundance of fresh seafood, including salmon, Dungeness crab, trout, scallops, mussels, clams, and oysters, and is famous for produce like apples (Washington produce about half the nation’s supply), berries, pears, grapes, and let’s not forget coffee (Seattle started the coffee obsession that has spread to the rest of the country).
A typical menu will include fresh local ingredients such as fresh seafood, herbs, wild mushrooms (thank you, rain), fruits – especially berries, as well as wine. The preparation methods emphasis simplicity with Asian and Native American culinary influences. For example, some restaurants plank roast salmon (using a board of cedar or alder wood) in the tradition of several Native American tribes of the region.
I asked Lori, Ray’s PR, about the Asian influence on the cuisine, and she explained it this way:
“the proximity to Japan (geographically we are part of the Pacific Rim) and the large influx/influence of Asian immigrants in this region have played a major role in shaping Northwest cuisine… Certainly our owners made a conscious decision to honor this influence while sourcing the bounty of products available from Northwest farms and waters”.
So what was on our plates?
The Dinner at Ray’s Boathouse
We arrived around 7 pm. It was already very dark so although we had a table with a view to the water, we were able to mainly see the reflection of the restaurant in the window. I advise that you go earlier to be able to enjoy the water view. How about sunset?
We started with a cocktail, Doug Fir Drop. Made of Douglas Fir eau de vie, vodka, lemon, and lime. The Husband (TH) says it’s not a girls’ drink. A bit dry, sweet, lemony sour and pine-y as if you stuck your nose into a big tree.
Next, for appetizers TH ordered Heirloom Tomato Consommé with tarragon, saffron, and Dungeness crab. It was lovely. Light, perfectly clear, and teasing for more. I had Slow Roasted Skagit River Ranch Organic Pork Belly which was served with sweet and perfectly cooked Alaskan scallop ‘larded’ with vanilla bean, very fresh watercress (as if it was picked only seconds ago), and an orange vinaigrette that lifted this dish from heavier to a lighter appetizer.
I totally forgot to take photos of the appetizers. I never take photos of food in restaurants. And this is my first time writing a review about a restaurant. I’ll tell ya, it’s work! It’s one thing to eat out and discuss the food with your family/friends, and a completely different experience when you are going to write/report about it and post it so other people can read it.
Next, the entrees.
TH had Seared White Golf Prawns served with red potatoes, prosciutto, mustard greens, and walnut-miso sauce piled in a tall stack. Although a seafood entree, it would satisfy every steak addict who usually refuse to give up their hunk of meat. A very hearty dish.
TH chose a Chardonnay from Chinook winery at Yakima Valley, WA to drink with it.
I ordered Dungeness Crab Cakes with green papaya-carrot salad, jasmine rice,
green curry remoulade. The crab cakes were perfect, crispy on the outside and a bit spicy. The green curry remoulade was spicy and creamy and complementing the cakes. As for the side dishes, I did not like them as much. While the carrots had a nice spicy flavor, the raw papaya strips were somewhat bitter and gummy, with a hint of anis flavor – which you might like or not – but the rice was plain and boring.
I could not make up my mind about wine – white or red – after the cocktail and asked our knowledgeable and friendly waiter for advice. He recommended a Pinot Gris from Milbrandt Vineyards at Columbia Valley, WA.
Moving on to desserts, TH had Sour Cherry Almond Cake with toasted almond ice cream, sour cherry coulis. This was a light cake with a fluffy vanilla frosting, and perfectly toasted almonds.
I ordered a Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart with ricotta and cream cheese filling, served with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis. I thought it was an OK dessert, but was mainly disappointed by the soggy tart dough. The ice cream was excellent! Real vanilla flavor.
Overall, it was a wonderful dinner. I would definitely go back again, only next time we will go earlier while there’s still light to enjoy the beautiful views (during summer it can be as late as 9 pm), and bring the kids. Where else can one find Grilled Salmon, Dungeness Crab Cake, or Steamed Clams on the kids’ menu?
A Recipe from Ray’s cookbook
It was hard to pick only one recipe from this cookbook. Everything looks so good. But I chose the one that symbolizes more than anything the big ordeal people here make about salmon. It features Copper River Salmonwhich is considered to be The King of Kings. I have cooked this pricy fish once at home and was… speechless. It was so surprisingly soft and buttery and melt-in-your-mouth fish. I’ve never had anything like it before, never ever.
This is something you must try at least once in your life. I said bye-bye to $24 and bought a pound of fillet, cooked it simply, and was heaven on earth. (It can cost even more, up to $40/lb. and some say even $70, unless you want to buy a whole fish for less $$). To read more about this fish, click here.
Grilled Copper River King Salmon with Pinot Noir sauce
Slightly modified and copied with permission from Ray’s Boathouse cookbook
Makes 4 servings
4 6-ounce Copper River king salmon fillets
Pinot Noir sauce
Prepare mesquite or charcoal coals. Baste flash side of fillets with olive oil and place flesh side down on grill (it’s not in the recipe but I know I could not resist to sprinkle a little bit of salt – N.). When marked, turn fish 90 degrees to achieve a crisscross look. Baste skin side with olive oil and turn over. Cook just until the translucency is leaving the center of the thickest part of the fillet. Total grilling time is approximately 10 minutes, depending on thickness of fish.
Place on plates and drizzle with Pinot Noir sauce and garnish with blackberries. Serve immediately.
For Pinot Noir sauce:
Yield 1 cup
1 cup pinot Noir
1 shallot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
½ cup fish stock or chicken broth
¼ cup heavy cream
½ pound unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine wine, blackberries, shallots, thyme, and stock and reduce, stirring, until sauce is thin and glossy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to scorch. Add cream and reduce by half, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Slowly whisk in butter one piece at a time until thoroughly incorporated. Do not boil or sauce will separate. After all the butter has been added, immediately strain through a fine-mesh sieve to remove solids. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.