Steelhead Diner - Eclectic Pacific Northwest (4.5 Stars)

Had I known ahead of time that a sunny Saturday in Seattle would lead to the Pacific Place IMAX theater being sold out for hours on end, and had I known about Steelhead Diner before dinner that day, I would have s
uggested eating at *least* two meals there: one before, then after, a movie at Pacific Place. Fortunately, Christopher knew all about it and I was eager to try out his recommendation.

After briefly perusing the "diner" menu posted to the right of the restaurant's entrance, I was excited about how many of the dishes sounded
so good! We entered through two large doors and were quickly greeted by the hostess who informed us they were fully booked for the evening unless we wanted to sit at the kitchen bar or the central bar. We chose central bar which was a slender, 20-feet (or longer) table of shared "bar" seating that ran the length of the restaurant. From one side it offers a great view of the chefs in the kitchen while the other side offers beautiful views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic mountains. (By contrast, the kitchen bar actually runs the length of the kitchen and you sit less than two feet away from the chefs preparing your meal.)

In seeing there were so many dishes we both wanted to try, we ended up order
ing and sharing four. We decided on options from the savory starters, soups and salads, and vegetables and legumes portions of the menu, though they also have sections for sandwiches, field and stream, and sweet nothings (the dessert offerings).

The first dish we started with wasn't ordered: various Homemade Bread with Chilled Herb Oil Butter. I didn't really have high expectations of good "bread and butter" given they're as ubiquitous as chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant. However, the bread was actually amazing and I simply couldn't get enough of the butter. The two breads they served were a cheddar sourdough and a light rye.

The cheddar bread was loaded with herbs and plenty of cheese and was soft on the inside with a slightly chewy crust. The rye bread had an even more chewy crust with firmer innards and lots of rye seeds throughout. Both were fresh and whet our appetites for more, especially when coupled with the large triangle "pat" of butter topped with herbs and olive oil. Not only could you dip your bread in the oil, but the double dose of oil and butter was absolutely perfect and definitely unexpected.

The first ordered item that arrived was the
Jumbo Lump Dungeness Crab Cake. Typically, crab cakes are a disappointment for me as they either have far too much mayonnaise or breadcrumbs. Steelhead's crab cake was a definite exception as it could barely contain the huge pieces of crab meat held together by scallions and Sauce Louis (think spicy chili mayonnaise) and topped with crispy parsley. It is the most expensive appetizer on their menu (a full dollar more than the Caviar Pie), but was easily large enough for the two of us to share. The Sauce Louis is quite spicy and very flavorful, though it managed to enhance and not mask the sweet richness of the Dungeness crab. In all, just perfect.

From the soup and salad menu, we ordered the
La Ribolita. This hearty, chunky, vegetarian Italian soup was chalk full of white beans, black beans, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and spinach, and was circled by fresh and chewy torn garlic bread and fruity olive oil. The vegetables were cooked perfectly as they still had great texture and could be tasted separately. This large bowl was about the same price as the crab cake and more than enough to serve two. This soup would be an excellent choice for vegetarians or anyone who wants a hearty, filling entree replacement that won't weigh you down.

Jumbo Asparagus with Marcona Almonds and Crispy Capers was next. I had never heard of "jumbo asparagus" before and firmly held the belief that asparagus too thick was woody and chewy and bad. These couldn't have proven that theory more wrong. The thick, chunky, diagonal cuts of asparagus were a perfect match to the large Marcona almonds and held up well against the salty, fried pops of crispy capers. Even after trying each dish on the table, both Christopher and I kept coming back to the asparagus as our favorite dish on the table. Christopher even mentioned: "I just want more of that taste in my mouth!"

Our final choice for dinner was something we hoped would be decadent (and we chose it instead of a dessert): the
Baked Macaroni (think macaroni and cheese). Grana Padano and Sharp Cheddar Cheese marry beautifully in a traditional bechamel sauce. The pasta is then baked to caramelize the top and served in a ramekin just large enough to feed two if you're sampling more than one dish.

While the sauce was rich, I felt the flavor was a bit too singular. The Grana Padano offered too much bite and left me thinking "This is Parmesan macaroni". I wish the dish would have been rounded out with Fontina, Jack, or even Gruyere for more depth and less sharpness. Even something like fresh cracked black pepper would have helped. This is the only reason the review is 4.5 Stars instead of 5 Stars. (It's tough for me to award 5 Stars when I happen to like my own recipe for Mac 'n Cheese a lot more than the restaurant's.

With nearly 50 constantly rotated menu items, Steelhead Diner is certainly a "must recommend" restaurant for me. In fac
t, I haven't stopped talking about it and have already recommended it to at least 10 friends.
Steelhead Diner on Urbanspoon


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