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My Seattle Bites: The Walrus and The Carpenter

November 28, 2012

The Walrus and the Carpenter was a hard to find restaurant, tucked away behind a long hallway next to a bicycle shop in a rather deserted portion of Ballard.  It took me a few tries before I finally made it to my destination.  Even at 6.30PM on a Monday, this popular Seattle restaurant was packed with diners.

With the bar reserved for diners, there was very limited waiting space inside the restaurant if you didn’t want to be a hindrance.  Luckily, we were able to grab a drink from a mostly gin based cocktail menu and wait outside in the lobby area of the building.  The smooth and mellow Black Magic for me and the tart and bright Huckleberry Fizz for LZ.

Thirty minutes later, we were offered two seats at the bar.  Of course, I jumped at the chance as I much more prefer a bar seat whenever available.  The seats at the bar were a snug fit, encouraging conversations with your neighbors in between dishes.  With a little bit of juggling, we were able to fit our coats, bags and umbrellas and settled in comfortably with an amazing view of the large open kitchen.  The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable with a warm glow from an overhead chandelier.  It felt like someone’s home kitchen with the open cupboards and cake stands, so different from a typical sterile industrial restaurant kitchen.

The menu was divided into oysters, pantry, fish, vegetables, cheese and meats.  Everything looked so delicious that when our waitress suggested sharing only 4 dishes between the two of us, it made our decision a little bit difficult.

Of course, oysters were a must.  Instead of picking and choosing, we went with one of each of that day’s selection.  All oysters were from around the Pacific Northwest, arranged on the plate from mildest to brinier mollusks.  My favorites were the Fish Hook Fjord and the Treasure Cove – both a beautiful balance of salinity and sweetness.

We debated between the grilled sardines and the smoked trout.  The trout won out in the end and you would not hear a peep of regret from either of us.  Firm filet of smoked trout sat atop a mixture of lentils, walnuts and creme fraiche.  The lentils and walnuts made the dish feel hearty and the pickled onions on top were not just for show, adding a nice kick of acid.

Whenever here is steak tartare on the menu, I find myself having a very hard time saying no.  This was a mainstay on the menu, just like the smoked trout, for a good reason.  Light yet satisfying, the flavors were well balanced and the onions made the tartare quite refreshing.

While I was happily devouring my tartare, LZ dove into the fried oysters with cilantro aioli, another favorite at the Walrus and the Carpenter.  These were some of the best fried oysters I have had.  Each were plump and juicy with a light crispy exterior, delicious when dipped in the cilantro aioli.

To balance the meal of meats and seafood, we threw in a bowl of fried brussels sprouts.  The freshly fried sprouts were pretty much at every table, making them hard to resist.  While we appreciated the simple preparation with sea salt and chives, the execution was a little uneven with some unfortunate overcooked and mushy pieces.

The light meal left us enough room to share a dessert.  The baked apple with pecans, oats, honey and creme anglaise was the perfect Fall dessert.  Even though this took longer than we anticipated to appear, it was well worth the wait.  The fragrant combination of spices hit our noses and carried through with each bite.  The tender apple, creamy creme anglaise, and the crunchy oat filling – this was Fall all in one bite.

Thirty minutes was probably the longest I have ever waited for a restaurant in Seattle but after our delicious dinner, I am happy to report that it was very worthwhile indeed.  With a seasonal menu and rotating dishes, I would definitely try to pay another visit to the Walrus and the Carpenter to see what else this warm and embracing restaurant has to offer.

The Walrus and the Carpenter | 4743 Ballard Avenue Northwest  Seattle, WA 98107 | http://thewalrusbar.com/

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