Monday, June 23, 2008

Seattle trip - Steelhead Diner

Steelhead diner is in the greater Pike Place market area. That is, it's in one of the market buildings, but not in the building where you can only sell what you grow or make yourself. I knew I wanted at least one meal in a restaurant that sourced most of its ingredients from the market and, when I was poking around I found that one generally considered well above the rest is Mel's on the Market. However, Mel's is tiny, hard to get into without a reservation (I didn't know quite when the interview I went to see was going to end) particularly a half hour before closing (the most likely time I'd find my way back downtown), and also harder to find as I wandered through most of the market and never stumbled across it despite having it clearly marked on the map I got on my tour.

But, hey, nothing wrong with Steelhead Diner. It's commonly cited as the first runner up and it was recommended by Salumi's owner earlier that day. I wouldn't have called Steelhead a diner if it wasn't in the place's name. I suppose you can see some hints of that focus in the sandwiches on the dinner menu, but the decor is more upscale casual. I ate out on the patio which was a mixed experience. Thankfully, there was a closable door between me and the drunken singing inside (not the Harvard Glee Club this time, unfortunately). On the other hand, I got to listen to skateboarders rattling down the cobblestones at the end of Pine street nearby. On the third hand, the sound of an unmanned board rolling away after a failed trick was distinctly identifiable and pleasantly common. I neglected to bring my phone/camera so no pictures of food or skaters wiping out this time; sorry.

One dish Steelhead is known for is it's caviar pie. It's not described on the menu so I was figuring a little tart mounded with local salmon roe. Instead, I got what looked like a thin slice of cheesecake striped with dense rows of brightly colored caviar--yellow, red, crimson, orange and black from the outside in. The whole pie must have looked like an archery target for someone who really doesn't like fish eggs. The slice was surrounded by piles of crumbled hard-boiled egg, capers and diced onion along with maybe a dozen slices of thin crisp toast. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't a savory cheesecake, just a layer of whipped cream cheese and even more disappointed to discover how the mild the all the caviar save the bullseye of salmon and sturgeon roe was. The substantially more flavorful garnishes, cream cheese and toast crisps completely overwhelmed them. Impressive presentation, though, so you should encourage someone else to order it so you can take a look.

For my main dish I had an oyster po'boy made with local oysters. And I have to commend my waiter for taking it back to the kitchen and having them fry up a new batch instead of letting it sit under a heat lamp when he saw that I wasn't quite done sampling the various bits of the caviar pie. It was a pretty good po'boy. I'm looking for whatever's inside the deep-fried breading to be flavorful enough to be identifiable through a spicy breading and remoulade. And there shouldn't be too much of that remoulade; too many places spread it on thick. Steelhead did add sweet pickles which I don't think are too traditional, but it's not like I was dining in New Orleans so I'm not going to be too picky so long as the flavors work which I think they did.

No dessert so that's it. Frankly, if it wasn't for the caviar pie I may not have bothered writing it up. Next post should be more interesting.

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