Prelude offers a meal that will get patrons to the opera and ballet on time
Location is just as important to restaurant survival as it is in real estate, especially these days. Prelude plays to a built-in audience...
Special to The Seattle Times
|Halibut with Brussels sprouts||$20|
301 Mercer St.
(in McCaw Hall), Seattle
Hours: Operates in conjunction with performances at McCaw Hall; opens 2 ½ hours before each show time.
Prices: $$$ (Soup, salads, sandwiches and small plates $5-$15; large plates $17-$21.)
Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer.
Parking: Limited street parking; pay lots nearby.
Sound: Noisy, but a bit less so around the perimeter of the room.
Who should go: Opera, ballet and Seattle Center playgoers.
Credit cards: All major.
Access: No obstacles.
Location is just as important to restaurant survival as it is in real estate, especially these days. Prelude plays to a built-in audience, as it occupies a ground-floor corner of McCaw Hall, home to the Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Revamped last season, the 188-seat restaurant operates in conjunction with performances at McCaw Hall. Serving hundreds of customers quickly is just one of the hurdles facing executive chef Kelly Gaddis and his crew. Another is a kitchen located two levels below the dining room.
But Gaddis smartly offers a menu geared for quick assembly: tuna crudo, bruschetta, cheese and salami; soup and panini sandwiches; oven-roasted entrees that can be held warm and swiftly plated. Vegetarians aren't forgotten.
It's haute banquet cuisine, not unlike the kind of cooking Gaddis did so well in Bellevue at his lamentably short-lived Porcella Urban Market.
Prelude's short menu changes not just seasonally but with each run, a plus for season-ticket holders. I dined next to one who sat at the head of the 22-seat communal table in solitary enjoyment of a glass of wine, a panini and the evening's program. She assured me everything on the menu was good.
That night it was. A roasted chicken leg and thigh nested in couscous. Not only was it done to crisp-skinned perfection, it wore a divine prune-and-olive compote — a complex swirl of sweet and sharp sparked with oregano.
Thyme haunted a warm, mushroom-packed tart with a buttery crust and a small salad of bitter greens on the side. Cabernet-enriched pan juices bathed rare rosemary-infused slices of lamb leg and their accompaniment — smashed skin-on roasted potatoes, baby carrots and quartered turnips; though the too-firm vegetables could have used more time in the oven.
Halibut, sampled on another visit, had lingered too long in the oven. Given that it was smothered in a fabulous bacon-studded hash of Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes, its mushy texture could be overlooked. The soggy panini, unimaginatively stuffed with yellow squash, red pepper, onion and goat cheese, was harder to forgive.
Cardamom-spiced butternut-squash soup drizzled with toasted pumpkin-seed oil delivered autumn in a bowl, but watercress and frisee with beets and toasted walnuts flopped. The few walnuts weren't toasted, the cubed beets so rubbery they might have bounced. A ripe wedge of Fourme d'Ambert, a mildly earthy French blue cheese, was some consolation.
Portions here are sensibly sized, which is to say, don't expect to share. A seafood plate comprised tidbits tiny enough to eat with a toothpick. A tender morsel of smoked bay scallop, cured salmon, sable and half a silver-skinned anchovy were delicious bites scaled to the size of the garnishes: a single caper berry and a dime-size dollop of crème fraîche.
McCaw Hall patrons likely won't blink at wines by the glass starting at $8 and jumping to $10, $18 and up to $22. The impressive roster includes many half bottles, an amount that assures you won't snooze through the first act.
The fast-paced service quickens as curtain time approaches. "You're my last table," said our waitress with palpable relief as she dropped dessert menus. I didn't have tickets to a show, yet I wasn't inclined to dally over limp pear crisp or four-spice chocolate truffle cake that wasn't at all spicy.
By curtain time, the restaurant is empty and the staff is preparing preorders for the first intermission. Absent the energy of that cultured, sartorially swell crowd, the room's institutional ambience becomes even more apparent.
Tightly spaced tables aligned in a grid no doubt maximize seating and facilitate service but the effect is more cafeteria than cafe. Granted this echoey column of a room is tough to make cozy, but drama could be achieved with more artful lighting.
Given the set-design talents manifest on McCaw Hall's stage, it's paradoxical that the dining room has so little aesthetic appeal. Then again, the restaurant is prelude, not the main event.
Providence Cicero: firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
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