Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Palace Kitchen @ Fifth Avenue, Seattle

They say you can discover a lot about a city by it's architecture. And while that statement may hold water, (so says the architect from a former life) I truly believe that the way to understand a city's true colors is to immerse yourself into it's dining culture and eat your way through it!

I've found that some of the greatest dining experiences are not in the obvious metropolitan urban hubs that you would expect; sure, New York, San Francisco and Chicago will have the finest dining available, but I've come to the conclusion that the finer the dining, the bigger the distraction from the essence of food in its efforts to compliment the event of dining with good company..

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In doing research about Seattle's culinary scene, one name kept popping up again and again: Tom Douglas.  He's a multiple James Beard Award Winner as well as an Iron Chef Winner and Restauranteur of the Year, (he's got nine underneath his belt, and they're pretty vast in range of dining level and service).  Now, I'm not Celebrity Chef Starf*#ker, but it peaks my interest when I see the success of a regional entrepreneur and to be honest, his restaurants all looked imaginative and captivating... (Tibetan Dumpling House anyone? anyone?)

So the first restaurant we picked in the Douglas empire was Palace Kitchen. I don't know why, maybe it was the rave online about their Palace Burger Royale or the Goat Cheese Lavender Fondue; there was something really attractive about the melange of menu items that exuded gourmet as well as comfort, (the latter which, has become a key decision maker in dining selection and...alas, a dying breed).

Housed on the corner of colloquial and quaint street of Belltown, (very close to the Cinerama Movie Theater) the atmosphere can only be described as easy going, unpretentious and comforting!

As you enter, you are immediately enveloped in a romantic rustic interior, an ode to it's original architectural structure with it burnt red brick walls, high wood beam ceilings and an gigantic three sided bar.  The rustic quality that preserved it's previous iterations is a theme that kept popping up during our travels in the Pacific Northwest, and it is one that I am passionately fond of. In the midst of stark, jail-like restaurant interiors, (in slit-my-wrists gray colored walls that have no ability to insulate any sound whatsoever) it is a relief and instant comfort to be immersed in a warmness that opens your psyche for the feeding the senses...

Bartender is like, 'no paparazzi pleaze'!

We started the evening with the House Sangria- a murky fuchsia colored concoction that surprisingly, tasted flavorful with a combination of tart fruitiness and wine tannins.  Rick has now become a Sangria aficionado, (it's the sweet fruit/alcohol mix with the festiveness....) and now, if he sees Sangria on the drink menu, he cannot help himself - he has to order it! (which he often regrets afterwards...)  On this occasion, it was delicious and actually unique with a stronger citrus component that was sweeter rather than tart, and had less of a cider flavor, an appealing attribute when one is trying to avoid the curly fruit adornments ever present in a mixologist's arsenal, (it's a battle having to navigate these fruit icebergs while avoiding a massive red wine spill all over your John Varvatos burn out Henley)

Bread and Olive Oil...Hey did I pay for that?!

For appetizers, we had the Goat Cheese and Lavender Fondue-it sounded so exotic, and yet the thrill of ordering it was that it could go horribly wrong! (like Laura Ashley threw up in your mouth or something)...

It was super cool- really just a hint of the lavender and mostly a creamy liquid-like goat cheese fondue that you could cover generously onto the bread and apples, which were presented unpretentiously in their natural form.  It was refreshing in it's airy solidity (not too heavy as an app, but still substantial without much guilt) and we were happy to have sought this dish out!

Tagliatelle with Flowering Broccoli, Garlic Anchovy, Pancetta and Mama Lil's Hot Peppers

For reasons unbeknownst to my conscious mind, whenever I see tagliatelle on the menu, I must order it....maybe it's an Italian thing, but the flat noodle is has such a hold on my carb craving with a high satisfaction ratio that even though it may not be an Italian Pasta shop, it demands my fealty....

Palace Kitchen serves a Homemade Tagliatelle with Caramelized Beacon Hill Flowering Broccoli , Garlic, Anchovy, Pancetta and Mama Lil's Hot Peppers with Shaved Parmesan on top.  Dry Pasta dishes are one of my all time favorite, and we have her a well executed dish; the Olive oil mixed with the anchovies gives it a nutty flavor, (rather than fishy) while the hot peppers give the pasta the right amount of heat. The crisp Broccoli goes so well with the chewy pasta and with eat bite, the combination is instant oral gratification. We split the dish, which was a double edge sword,because both of us could have had one whole order to ourselves.....

It was inevitable that somewhere along this trip, we were to order a Burger. Just can't help ourselves, it's the way it is.  And there are a lot of raves about this one: The Palace Burger Royale - half pound of Handground Chuck with thick juicy cuts of Bacon with Beecher's Cheddar (you MUST visit Beecher's if you're in Seattle-it's dairy heaven) on an Onion Bun from Dahlia Bakery (another Tom Douglas venue).

With all the condiments on the side, you had all the fixins for a loaded Burger; but I like to bite first and add later, (sometimes Lettuce, Onions.. etc. is a distraction) I found the Burger to be well juicy and flavorful, a quintessential mouthwatering sandwich
with the Bacon and Cheddar complimenting the flavor profile. The bread was delicious, if not a little big, giving the Burger a larger than life perception.  As gourmet as get all without being overly complicated, it stands up well against all the over hyped Burgers proliferating F&B venues across the country catching up to the American Comfort Food revival trend.  Fries cooked to perfection and served with Mayonnaise as well as Ketchup...enough said, you had me at Mayo...

Getting full is such a drag....your soul wants to eat more, but your stomach is already protruding over your belt, gurgling with opposition to one more bite.  But there was no negotiation, we had to get dessert!
And the dessert on our radar: The Triple Coconut Cream Pie!!! It had received rave reviews, fluffy, creamy Coconut Creme filling with White Chocolate Whipped Cream and Toasted Coconut flakes on top. It has forever ruined any other creme pie for me, I will use this dessert as a measuring stick to all others..(and they will lose).  I even loved the crust, which is usually the low point in most pie dishes for me-this was crumbly and light without any heaviness that usually weighs down the filling.   

Thoroughly satisfied, it marked the beginning of our delicious Seattle journey that would take us to other Tom Douglas restaurants.  We discovered some dishes that blew us away and more importantly, enjoy the culture of Seattle and it's ability to set the right mood culinary consumption!!!  We will be back, and next time, we're ordering dessert first!!!

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)

Food:            4
Ambience:     4.25
Service:         4

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