ginger and salt

restaurant week edition: anchovies & olives.

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I have a love-hate relationship with Restaurant Week (in Seattle, DC, or anywhere for that matter).  I love that it gets people in seats during a time that is typically slow for many restaurants in the lull between summer and the holiday season. I love that it gives people a chance to try new restaurants that might otherwise be intimidating without the $28 pre-fixe menu.  What I dislike about RW is when dishes start to feel mass-produced and servers are short on service.  When I’m eating out, I want it to be a special experience, period.  Special doesn’t mean refined or fancy or over-the-top (no gimmicks, please). It means genuine, thoughtful, and of course, delicious.

Celebrating my friend Kelsey’s birthday a few days early, I was really hoping for the ‘special’ factor to come through at Anchovies & Olives.  I must start by saying that our bearded server was one of the kindest servers I’ve had in this city in awhile.  He was patient, accommodating, and attentive without making us feel rushed.  As is typically the case with most of my girlfriends, we need at least twenty minutes to get some basic catching up out of the way before we’ve even had a chance to look at the menu and he totally picked up on this.

With our hunger creeping up on us and the Barbera taking its toll on our empty stomachs, we started strategizing about how we would cover as many bases as possible on this pre-fixe three-course menu. Kelsey would get the rockfish, and I the bigoli, etc. However, I find that SRW can be like a retail sale in many ways.  The promise of a discount is what gets you in the door, but there’s always a few things you find once you come inside that you “really need”, but of course those things are never part of the sale. At A&O, these ‘regular menu’ items came to me in the form of: Burrata with Pepperonata, Soft Cooked Eggs with Smoked Fish, and Fried Pedron Peppers.  I settled on the burrata this time, because I stand defenseless in its presence, but of course I’m still thinking about the other two dishes.  Next time perhaps.

The burrata was heavenly (when is it not?) and served with crostini, pepperonata, and saba.  I was unfamiliar with saba, but found out it is a sweet syrup made from grape must, or ‘young wine’. The dish was savory overall, but the saba added a slight hint of sweetness. I swear I could eat burrata everyday.

Aside from the burrata, my favorite course was our appetizers.  Kelsey ordered the Roasted Cauliflower with Capers, Currants, Pistachios, and Smoked Paprika.  With all of these elements, there was a risk of having too much going on, but they all played off of each other in such a wonderful way. Salty capers, sweet currants, crunchy pistachios, and the smokiness of the paprika made for a comforting but complex dish.  I ordered the escolar crudo, which was in sharp contrast to the cauliflower with its bright and refreshing flavors.  This was a beautiful dish that could’ve come off as stuffy, but was made approachable with clean, familiar flavors.  The escolar was fresh and delicious and when paired with the razor-thin orange slice, creamy avocado, and small salty Taggiasca olives, it made for a very lovely plate of food.

Then we were onto the main event.  Kelsey’s Rockfish with Corona Beans and Corn (typically comes with pancetta as well) was perfectly cooked in my opinion.  A little crispy on top with what tasted like a brown butter sauce and tender all the way through.  The beans and fresh sweet corn provided some great texture as well.  My entree, however, was one of the more disappointing dishes of the night: the Bigoli (a thick, spaghetti-like pasta) with Anchovy, Garlic, Chili, Mint and Pangrattato (Italian toasted breadcrumbs).  I had such high hopes as I love each of those components and ‘anchovies’ are in the restaurant’s name, so I felt like it was a sure-fire bet.  I really couldn’t taste any mint or chili, and while I love the salty, brininess of anchovies, it was hard to enjoy with the gritty texture of the breadcrumbs throughout the pasta.  Perhaps I’m being harsh, but I’m big on texture and I just couldn’t get over the fact that it felt like I was eating pasta with sand mixed in.  I will say that the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, so it had that going for it.

For dessert, we tag-teamed the Chocolate Terrine with Toffee Bits and Mascarpone Gelato and the Maple Panna Cotta with Cranberry Compote and Oat Hazelnut Crumble.  The terrine was rich and indulgent and there were a few salt crystals on top which I loved.  I’m a sucker for a good panna cotta and this one didn’t disappoint.  The maple was subtle and sweet and the tart cranberries were a great complement.

Overall, the fantastic service and cozy, romantic atmosphere paired with the delicious food proved that Anchovies & Olives can definitely hack the SRW crowd.  The fact that we were each able to drink wine, eat like kings, and leave full (with to-go bags!) without getting into triple digit category was a feat in itself.  For tonight at least, I’m a believer that a special dining experience can always be had, even during restaurant week.

Anchovies & Olives, 1550 15th Ave., Seattle, WA, 206.838.8080, http://www.ethanstowellrestaurants.com (Reservations recommended)

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2 comments

  1. Pingback: when in rome: rione xiii. | ginger and salt

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