Thursday, May 6, 2010

The happy cook at Emmer & Rye

My husband and I had dinner at Emmer & Rye for date night. I took the bus downtown, walked to south lake union to meet him  and then we took a bus up to Queen Anne. We try to bus it on date nights and living in Capitol Hill makes it pretty easy.

The restaurant is in an old house and I felt like I should have loved it but I didn't. It works but it isn't anything special anymore. There are lots of restaurants that inhabit old houses in Seattle. We had a reservation and were seated immediately. Nobody asked us how we were or smiled and it felt very "Seattle".

We shared one appetizer, one small plate and two entrees. For our appetizer we had the Farro Fries. This sounds like a good idea but it wasn't. There were 5 of them and we ate three. They weren't horrible but they didn't really have much taste to them. They were soft and kind of chunky on the inside (think thick fries) and fried golden on the outside. I liked the texture (inside and out) but I am trying to make it a point not to eat fried foods unless they are totally worth the calories. These weren't worth it. When we didn't finish them the waitress asked us if we wanted them boxed up in this way that indicated that we would be insulting an artist if we didn't. We were both silent for a minute and then agreed that it was a great idea to box them up.

Our small plate was the grilled sausage, rapini, crostini with salsa verde. The sausage was delicious, the bread perfectly toasted and fresh. The rapini. Well, it was kind of hard to chew. I'm not sure why it was there except for adding some color. We both gave this a thumbs up.

For our first main course we had a salmon special that was served with fiddlehead ferns and morels. When the plate was set down I thought it looked kind of sad. Army colors with the skin side up on the salmon (brown), cooked fiddlehead ferns (darkish green) and morels (more brown). The salmon was perfectly cooked and super fresh but uninspiring. The fiddlehead ferns were flat out boring and a bit too salty. The obsession with fiddle head ferns at Seattle restaurants that serve seasonal, locally inspired food is getting kind of old. I am fine with fiddlehead ferns but they should taste good. Sometimes I feel like restaurants feel like just putting something like fiddlehead ferns on the menu is itself enough. We did our job! We delivered something unique that you don't cook at home that is local and seasonal. I have eaten fiddlehead ferns that were delicious but these weren't them.

Our second main course was grass fed beef bolognese, red wine sausage and orrechiette. This was hands down the best thing on the table (until it tied with dessert). It was delicious, the pasta was perfectly cooked, the meat sauce was super flavorful and the meat reminded you why grass fed is just better. There was also a touch of spiciness in the sauce that added that special something that gave it a perfect balance of flavor, texture and zing. It came in a big friendly generous bowl. I could have eaten the whole thing myself but not because it was a small portion, just because it was culinary genius.

For dessert we had cheesecake with huckleberry sauce. It was the best cheesecake ever. It was the perfect texture, the crust was crunchy and sweet without being too sweet. It came as a round instead of a slice which made it interesting and beautifully presented with the colorful huckleberry sauce in a circle surrounding the cheesecake.

So the cook would bring our food out and he looked really happy and excited to have us try it. I liked that part. I think with that sort of attention and interest the kitchen could consistently turn out dishes like the bolognese and cheesecake. The rest of the staff just seemed kind of mechanical. They would set out drinks down while looking at another table (away from ours) and move on before they made sure that they had delivered something the diner actually wanted. Our glasses were always full, we never had to wait too long for anything but I felt a little like I was overstaying my welcome in a house that I was a guest at. As for the Farro Fries,  she never brought the box out and we weren't going to remind her.

 Emmer & Rye on Urbanspoon

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