ginger and salt

restaurant week edition: frank’s oyster house.

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In my old neighborhood of Logan Circle in Washington, DC, there is a restaurant called Hank’s Oyster Bar.  A casual, southern neighborhood haunt of sorts, it was one of my favorites.  So you can imagine my excitement upon moving back to Seattle and hearing talk of a Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor over behind UW.

In the sleepy residential neighborhood of Ravenna, Frank’s was packed on a Wednesday night, with a wait for walk-ins.  It should be noted that it was also Restaurant Week, but considering Frank’s is one of the few restaurants on 55th, I have a feeling the crowd wasn’t unusual.

The interior is rustic and cozy, with a small bar area off to the left when you walk inside.  Families and friends seemed at home in the booths along the wall, as the place was abuzz with conversation and laughter.

Once my friend Katie and I were settled in with wine in hand, we asked our server for highlights of the Restaurant Week pre-fixe menu.  We followed our server’s advice, but made sure to still order different things so we could try a range of dishes.  Now perhaps it was because I was coming in with pre-conceived notions of what I was expecting Frank’s to serve, but I felt that the content of the Restaurant Week menu was a bit scatterbrained.  I was hoping for a classic wedge salad, lobster roll, and perhaps an ice box cake and was caught off-guard by the gnocchi and fettucini. But hey, when the server recommended both of those pasta dishes, I kept an open mind. (It should be pointed out however, that mini lobster rolls are in fact on the main menu–would love to hear from anyone who has tried them.)

The peasant-style bread served was nice and chewy, and made more delicious when topped with butter and coarse salt.  Our appetizers arrived shortly after and we dove right in.  We ordered the Oysters with Cranberry and Champagne Caviar and the Caramelized Onion and Bacon Fritters.  When it comes to oysters on the half shell, I’m a bit of a purist.  I’m happy with a little lemon, or maybe a touch of acidic mignonette.  Unfortunately, with the ‘cranberry and champagne caviar’ resembling tapioca balls from bubble tea, these oysters were a bit too gimmicky for my liking.  The cranberry was overpowering and cut out the salty, brininess that I love.  The fritters were fine and had decent texture, but they were certainly nothing to write home about.  With bacon as one of the main descriptors, I was sad to only taste a small morsel in the fritter I tried. Katie confirmed she, too had a hard time finding the bacon in the other fritters which was disappointing.

Sadly, the pasta was equally, if not more, lackluster than our starters.  I’m still scratching my head over why the server was raving about the Fettucini with Duck Confit Ragu.  I was imagining a rich, luxurious pasta with a velvety sauce when I ordered it and was very confused when a bowl of what appeared to be ‘duck noodle soup’ appeared.  I realize I’m bordering on harsh here, but it looked like they took dry egg noodles and let them sit in broth for a few hours before throwing some braised duck on top.  As a result, the pasta was completely overcooked and between the fettucini, the duck, and the softened carrots, there was not a crunch to be found in this dish.  Katie’s dish was more promising, but also poorly advertised.  We were promised Gnocchi with Roasted Baby Root Vegetables with Rosemary Truffle Oil, but the only root vegetable component was turnips and the truffle oil was very hard to find.  In contrast to my over-sauced pasta (soup, if you will), there didn’t seem to be any sauce on the gnocchi.  The pasta itself had good texture and flavor, but the whole thing just didn’t quite come together.

Dessert was average, too and neither of us finished our dishes (I will note that this is VERY unusual).  The Lemon Financier with Lemon Curd Whipped Cream wasn’t overly sweet which was nice, but was still quite dense and heavy in texture.  The Chocolate Pumpkin Truffle Cake was interesting in the sense that the pumpkin was very subtle, and you didn’t notice the nutmeg and spices right off the bat.  Perhaps we would’ve been better off ordering the Mulled Wine Granita, the third dessert option, as something lighter might have been refreshing.

Unfortunately, Frank’s didn’t turn out to be Hank’s West Coast equivalent, as I had so been hoping, and with such an abundance of great food in Seattle, it is unlikely I will make the trek to go back.  But even without my patronage, I’m sure the place will continue to do well, as there is clearly a demand in the area for more locally-owned restaurants.  However, the next time I find myself in Ravenna on Northeast 55th, I will probably be doing a burger and a beer at the Duchess instead.

Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor, 2616 Northeast 55th Street, Seattle, WA, 206.525.0220, http://www.franksoysterhouse.com

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