8 years ago my husband and I, a newly-wedded couple, boarded a plane to Seattle in the midst of summer and arrived here on an August rainy day. I quickly learned why it’s called Rain City. Needless to say I wanted to choke my husband who was the reason why we moved here. “Rain in AUGUST? Where did you bring me?”, I quietly screamed at him (and only because we were on a plane).
As years went by, we grew to love this place. But back it was a culture shock I did not expect. The city, the people, the culture, the food (Pacific Northwest cuisine, more about it here) were more unfamiliar than I was ready for. I hated that feeling. Being a stranger, feeling misplaced. I never even wanted to be here in the first place.
Like most tourists and new comers, during our first year we covered all the main Seattle attractions and restaurants. Dahlia Lounge – a restaurant owned by one of Seattle’s most famous chefs, Tom Douglas – was one of those places. Dahlia was, and still is, a charming restaurant. But back then most of the food – like most other things in Seattle – was new to me (besides a few Mediterranean touches which later on I learned they come from Tom Douglas’s Greek family connection). I knew close to nothing about most of the seafood and other local ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. Although we had a good time at Dahlia, I experienced it from the eyes of a visitor, a foreigner.
Now, 8 years later, I like my life here. I learned a lot about this place and its food as much as I know to expect the next rainy summer day that is waiting around the corner. It feels more like home. This is why I wanted to go back to Dahlia and see what my experience would be like this time. Thanks to Foodbuzz, I am writing about this.
* * This is where I remind you about the new cookbook giveaway! A signed copy of Memorable Recipes. For details click here. * *
What I like about restaurants in Seattle, and Seattle in general, is their causal and a bit laid-back setting. There is always a mix of younger and older people and you can dress up either in casual or fancy clothes. Same at Dahlia where it’s always packed with people, the atmosphere lively and energetic but still cozy with red-painted walls that create a warm look and feel.
As for the food, many things on the dinner menu sounded good and the choices were hard to make. Decisions, decisions… So we started with cocktails: a Pear sidecar and Fresca (Beefeater gin, tonic, yuzu juice over ice with candied ginger).
For appetizers we had Kona Kampachi, gingered carrots, pea shoots. I’ve never heard about Kona Kampachi, a sushi-grade Hawaiian yellowtail fish, before living in WA. Even though I never ate it, I knew what it was when I saw it on the menu and thought it was about time I try it. The fish was served raw and had a mild flavor and delicate texture, while the vegetables were pungent.
We also had Dungeness crab served with kimchee. Same as the Kona, I never ate kimchee before but I knew it was Korean, a cabbage and probably pickled. It turned out to be very refreshing with a clean and light flavor.
The rest of the foods in the menu were familiar. It seems that I have learned a great deal about the local food scene in the past few years.
The Curried vegetables samomsas with coriander (cilantro) yogurt, chickpeas and Dekyi’s sauce was also the first time we had samomsas. They were shaped to look like little chicken drumsticks, the dough crispy and sweet and the filling pleasantly spicy.
For the entrees we ordered Alaskan black cod, braised pork belly, tamarind, pan fried turnip cake, and pok choi (which the waiter said is baby bok choy, a Chinese cabbage). I was so happy with the pork belly and the turnip cake was amazing that I did not care much for the perfectly cooked, soft and buttery with a crispy outer layer black cod. The pork belly was so tender and melt in your mouth and the turnip cake was sweet with a hint of bitterness as turnips have. The pok choi was gently acidic and refreshing and helped cut through the heaviness of the pork fat and fried turnip.
I asked the waiter for the turnip cake’s recipe (always worth asking. Sometimes restaurants share their recipes), I loved it sooo much. I can’t remember what happened next. I only know I don’t have the recipe. Maybe by that time the pear cocktail and the lovely Sangiovese wine I had after have kicked in and made me a little tipsy?
Next, Rotisserie roasted five spice duck, stir fried pea vines, sweet n’ sour apricots, sesame seed buns. I was so pleased with my entree that I didn’t even ask for a bite of my husband’s entree, but this is what he says: “it was nice, the skin of the duck was crispy and the meat tasted good, the apricots tasted like jam, the bread was like pita and it was a little undercooked”. The portion was huge, that’s for sure, and he had leftovers for next day’s lunch.
For dessert we had Doughnuts with jam and vanilla mascarpone. The doughnuts – who doesn’t love doughnuts?! – were pillowy and delicious and the mascarpone cream was smooth, airy as a cloud and vanilla sweet.
Millionaire shortbread with crunchy cocoa nib ice cream was wonderful too. Smooth and silky chocolate layer with a sprinkle of salt that gave it a good contrast and wasn’t too salty.
The service was wonderful, friendly, knowledgeable, professional, and helpful. At one point I consulted with the waiter about a wine that will complement my entree. He brought two bottles and left them at the table. That’s what I love about Seattle, there’s a system based on trust.
And a lot of other good things.
Stay tuned for the legendary triple coconut cream pie…
Categories : Seattle/Pacific NW