Sunday afternoon in Seattle was a food lover's heaven. I wandered around for far too long, I'm sure, in Fremont's Book Larder. It was their fault, for having a croissant cooking class while I was there, and it primed my belly for the loveliest visit to The Whale Wins. Renee Erickson's newest restaurant is the first I've been fortunate to visit.
My family which lives in Seattle attempted to go to The Whale Wins last year a few months after it opened and was featured as one of Bon Appetit's best new restaurants in America in 2013. They gave up after a three hour wait. Fortunately for my sister and me this time around, some of the fervor has died down, and we were visiting on an early Sunday afternoon. Although they do take some reservations now, we were lucky enough to walk in and sit down without one.
We intended to share a few plates but my sister, who is a vegetarian, advised that I would want to order some meat, as they're rumored to have strong meat dishes. However, for this particular Sunday lunch, the only two meat-based dishes on offer didn't appeal to me, so we ordered two salads to share.
I am desperate to reproduce this salad at home. From the menu: Kale, tapenade, fennel, celery, yukon gold potato, ginger aioli & seven minute egg. Just gorgeous. Gorgeous presentation, gorgeous flavours, gorgeous textures. I'm still trying to work this sort of thing into more definitively into my repertoire: a flavourful dish that is both lush and simple.
Our second salad was the Roasted Carrot & Fennel Salad, with harissa & yogurt.
Again, there's the silky simplicity of the yogurt, with the darker harissa. The carrots were the al dente we work for when we roast or steam them, and the olive oil was really the surprising standout. For dessert, I was torn between a new-to-the-menu yeasted carrot cake, or the butter roasted and salted zucchini bread.
Truth be told, I was tempted by the carrot bread primarily because I've never tried yeasted carrot bread, but the butter roasted part of the zucchini bread made the waiter's job of convincing me it was his favourite dessert extremely easy. Since one always runs the risk of unfortunate raisins in carrot cake, I went with the whole butter roasted and creme fraiche deal. I just... I just cannot manage the proper praise for this dessert. Just be careful to discard any preconceived notions you may have of zucchini bread (even if you think you've had delicious zucchini bread before), and repeat after me: butter roasted.
Yeah, so, I loved this place. The waitstaff was attentive but unobtrusive, and kindly gave me permission to be the annoying client taking photographs. The building was light and simple, but rich in texture and colors, like the food. I had an even more-than-normal outstanding food-based weekend this time around in Seattle, but The Whale Wins has shifted to the top of my favourite Seattle restaurants.