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Originally published Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:03 PM

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Nancy Leson

In search of some great-tasting salmon

Nancy Leson, Seattle Times food writer, tours the area to recommend several of her favorite places to partake of salmon in all of its various incarnations.

Seattle Times food writer

I like my Northwest salmon raw and cooked, kippered and cured, dressed to thrill or simply grilled. I adore its roe, its bony "collar" and its edible skin when properly crisped. I'll never say no to my favored finfish tucked into fresh pasta or layered over a fresh bagel. And this month, with summer's salmon season upon us, I thought I'd swim through town for a tasting tour and offer finds along the way. For more on the subject, visit my blog: www.seattletimes.com/allyoucaneat.

Lox and bagel

Cherry Street Coffee House

103 Cherry St. (206-621-9372); 2719 First Ave. (206-441-5489); 2121 First Ave. (206-441-7176); 1212 First Ave. (206-264-9372); 808 Third Ave. (206-442-9372); open daily until early evening (www.cherryst.com).

Father-and-son Ali and AJ Ghambari are the dynamic duo behind this coffeehouse quintet whose Pioneer Square flagship begat a walking-distance chain. Whether you've come to hang out or beat feet, family members and their hospitable crew spread the love, pouring house-branded brew and modeling a menu of soups, salads and sandwiches notable for vegan specialties and a distinctive Middle Eastern bent. New to the menu's mix: wild Northwest salmon, lox-ified in-house, delicate, dill-scented and perfected with a schmear of cream cheese, capers and red onion, served on a toasted bagel.

Salmon bar snacks

Purple Cafe & Wine Bar

Seattle: 1225 Fourth Ave. (206-829-2280), open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays, noon-midnight Saturdays, noon-11 p.m. Sundays. Bellevue: 430 106th Ave. N.E. (425-502-6292), open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, noon-11 p.m. Saturdays, noon-9 p.m. Sundays (www.thepurplecafe.com).

Live here long enough and you'll be seeing Purple. Yes, they're serving salmon burgers in Woodinville and Kirkland (and salmon-stuffed "Devil'ish" eggs at the new Bellevue offshoot, Lot No. 3). But you'll graze amazed at Purple's Tasting Bar menus, available evenings in Seattle and Bellevue, where a long list of tapas-styled treats ($3-$6) are certain to include Northwest salmon. I spied Peppadew peppers stuffed with smoked-salmon mousse and left nary a one of those sweet pickled peppers for Peter Piper. And polished-off a blini blessed with (local legends) Gerard & Dominique's smoked salmon plus a spoonful of tobiko-topped egg salad. Five bucks buys a properly paired 3-ounce wine pour, or you might splurge for a wine flight.

Grilled salmon burger

Hill's Neighborhood Restaurant

1843 N.W. 195th St., Shoreline (206-542-6353 or www.hillsneighborhoodrestaurant.com). Hours: lunch 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; dinner 4-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 4-9:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; brunch 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays.

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Hill's has the recipe for success: Give 'em what they want, keep the prices reasonable and cater to the neighborhood. And what the neighborhood is eating at lunch is Alaska sockeye, flash-frozen at sea by a Richmond Beach neighbor who sails north each year, returning with enough Bristol Bay booty to make this grilled-salmon burger worth going out of your way for. Add pesto-mayo to a satiny bun, pile on lettuce, tomato, onion and a haystack of slender fries, and that's my idea of a booty call.

Salmon soup

Oriental Mart

1506 Pike Place Market, Seattle (206-622-8488). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.

When I'm in need of restoration, a bowl of sinigang salmon soup, courtesy of my Filipino "aunties," can be found here at the Kitchenette-counter at this Asian grocery store, in the deep recesses of the Corner Market Building. This is the homey hideaway for beat cops, Filipino cruise-ship crews and anybody else in need of chicken adobo with a side of pancit and rice. The soup, tart with tamarind and bitter with mustard greens, gets its mojo from nearby seafood vendors who supply the bony salmon-laden collars. But get in here quick: By fall, Market restoration of another sort will be under way, and a temporary closure is imminent.

Northwest

king salmon fillet

Steelhead Diner

95 Pine St. (Pike Place Market), Seattle (206-625-0129 or www.steelheaddiner.com). Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

In the battle royale waged regarding "Which king is king?"my answer is: whatever's in season and in front of me at the Steelhead Diner. Some of the finest kings I've ever eaten (Copper River! Yukon River! Neah Bay!) were savored here, hatch-marked and fork-tender, sauced with whatever nature's bounty supplies — from spring morels to summer cherries. Longtime chef Anthony Polizzi has supplanted bossman Kevin Davis in the kitchen (see last week's review of Davis' new baby, Blueacre Seafood) and he's doing a princely job keeping the customers satisfied.

Smoked-salmon ravioli

Tulio Ristorante

1100 Fifth Ave. (Hotel Vintage Park), Seattle (206-624-5500 or www.tulio.com). Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, dinner 5-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays (weekday breakfast 7-10 a.m., weekend brunch 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m.).

Chef Walter Pisano stops by to offer a warm hello and laughs when I ask how long his smoked-salmon ravioli has graced his menu. "Since we opened!" he says, hearkening back to 1992. It's not just the tourists who can't get enough of it at lunch and dinner. Regulars (some of whom have their names etched into small brass markers at their regular tables) are big fans, too — of the lemon zest that cuts the richness of the smoky salmon and its citrus-infused cream sauce, and the way the rosy fish lays plump in its translucent pasta pillow.

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or nleson@seattletimes.com

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About Nancy Leson

Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants. Check her latest thoughts in her All You Can Eat blog. Her column appears each Wednesday. Her restaurant roundups appear monthly, on Fridays, in the Restaurants and Entertainment sections.
nancyleson@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8838 | Blog

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