I so enjoy it when I go to a restaurant and the following two things happen. First, I am inspired to go home and make a similar dish or type of dish, and second, that I have something that I’d never make at home. Both of these things happened when I joined my husband and two friends for dinner at Tilikum Place Cafe. I had wanted to try this restaurant after attending a “Meet and Greet” event there hosted by the Seattle Chefs Collaborative. Langdon Cook, author of “Fat of the Land” was there discussing foraging food in the Northwest. I was taken by the small bites that were prepared by the kitchen to accompany the talk. Plus, I like to support restaurants that sponsor community food awareness events.
This smallish restaurant with both a homey feel offers a small and interesting menu. It sports an attractive bar, with cocktail specials (we didn’t try any).
We ordered 4 appetizers, and in usual fashion, shared them around: anchovies, a beet salad, a rabbit pate, and a potato, gruyere, and bacon tart. Oh my. Well, I’m not a huge fan of anchovies, but the garnishes of carmalized shallot, curly endive, ground beets and crostini made a lovely bite. The pate was creamy with interesting spices and flavors qualifying this for the “I want to go home and make it” positive restaurant criterion. The comforting savory tart was a great antidote to the pouring rain of the dreary October night.
Given the rich appetizers we shared, I opted for the grilled romaine salad topped with pistachios, feta cheese bits, and oh my gosh, the most amazing roasted grapes. What a surprise – they looked like cherry tomatoes, but when you ate them, your brain did a double-take for the unexpected tender skin and soft sweetness of the grape that lacked (for me, anyway), the often harsh acidity of a tomato. I had to eat two before I was sure they were grapes and not tomatoes. Baking grapes, I think, is something I’ll not likely do at home, thus my second criterion had been fulfilled (however, I later did put roasted grapes on a salad at a dinner party – and they turned out quite nicely!). I also had a cup of celery root soup with pear bits. The soup was creamy with pure flavors, soothing, and not too rich.
Others at the table enjoyed the mushroom lasagne, and the beef short ribs. The lasagned boasted earthy mushroom goodness without too much cheese and sauce, but still rich enough. My husband got the short ribs; the beef was falling of the bone tender and the polenta creamy and satisfying. Both dishes, again, offered comfort for the stormy weather.
We ordered a plate of greens as a side dish. These were my only disappointment. They were perfectly cooked, but for me had almost a briny flavor that I did not enjoy so much.
Dessert? Something I rarely have. But the figs and plums in a (I think) sherry spice reduction with a creamy, tart cheese and nuts, could not be passed up. We ordered two for the table. Perfect amount, and again, a dish I’m quite confident that I’d never put together at home.
To drink we enjoyed a range of French aperitifs and a 2005 Gigondas with the meal.
Service was very friendly and relaxed, but got the job done. I’ll be back.