The debate continues. Which Northwest gastronomic destination has the better restaurants — Seattle or Portland? We decided to compare these dining out hotbeds in a few categories to help let you decide.>
Best Seafood Restaurant
The best seafood in Portland just may be found at a 24-seat place that is housed in the back room of another restaurant. The restaurant behind the restaurant is Roe (3113 SE Division; 503-232-1566; roe-pdx.com), which shares a front door and a seafood theme with recently opened Block + Tackle. Roe offers a four-course, "guest choice," prix fixe meal ($65 per person, with optional wine pairings for $35). If you are willing to share with your dining companions, a couple or small group can pretty easily sample almost everything on the menu.
Roe treats the main ingredients gently. The dishes are successful because the precision with which the fish is cooked is enhanced with flourishes such as huckleberry gastrique (which accompanies butter-poached lobster and veal sweetbreads), and shaved, frozen foie gras (which tops one of the sashimi offerings). Vegetables and fruit appear throughout the menu as elements that manage to have impact without distracting from the seafood, which is clearly the star of the show.
Additionally, Roe interestingly pairs complementary sea creatures on the same plates. Sea bass is paired with a prawn, and olive oil-poached tombo tuna is matched with a diver scallop and squid ink sauce noire. These combinations provide welcome contrasts in both flavor and texture.
Several of the dishes benefit from the subtle, salty pop of the restaurant's namesake — trout roe — as well as tobiko and cured char roe, which make important appearances. Among the well-conceived flavor combinations, textural contrast stands out as the restaurant's greatest strength. Roe is memorable because these combinations throughout the tasting menu are adventurous and uncommon. Dessert courses are similarly precise. The simple names "Cheese," "Peach," and "Chocolate" belie complex sweet-savory balances.
If you're looking for a big slab of salmon, a pile of Dungeness crab or a few dozen oysters, there are certainly many old-school fish joints throughout Portland and Seattle that consistently deliver. But if you're in the mood for a parade of ingredients and preparations that will keep you interested and engaged, head through the back door, but make your reservations in advance, as Roe is only open Thursday through Saturday, and you may not be able to get in on short notice. In fact, since we had to wait a few weeks to get into Roe, we had time to review two of Seattle's finest for seafood while waiting.
In Seattle, there are just too many good choices for reliably excellent seafood. We opted to review a Tom Douglas restaurant, Etta's (2020 Western Ave.; 443-6000; tomdouglas.com/restaurants/ettas), just north of the Market. Etta's appears to be one of the smaller Douglas establishments and it's situated in an excellent spot for people watching. This gives it something of a busy feeling, but the service was most attentive and leisurely.
The seafood was excellent. We tried two different preparations of salmon, including the house specialty, "Etta's 'Rub with Love' salmon," a grilled-Coho salad with shiitake relish. The second salmon was the Neah Bay king salmon prepared with beets, watermelon and a coriander yogurt. It was a marked contrast to the other salmon, but also excellent.
We also tried the halibut over saffron, Spanish fried rice with clams and chorizo; if you have delicate taste, the chorizo can overpower the otherwise excellent halibut. All three dishes were excellent, but the "'Rub with Love' salmon" was the favorite of two out of three.
We kept on going for dessert, skipping the signature coconut cream pie and trying the blackberry cobbler and a chocolate crème caramel. Both were excellent. All in all, this was a safe bet for excellent local seafood to which we will return without hesitation.
Blueacre Seafood (1700 Seventh Ave., Seattle; 659-0737; blueacreseafood.com) offers Cajun-inspired seafood, while boasting some Northwest ingredients. For lunch, we tried grilled, troll-caught Neah Bay king salmon prepared with Pence Farms peaches, cracked rosemary and smoked-almond brown butter. The peaches drew out a sweet and unique tasting salmon and the crushed almond added a nice texture. The salmon was cooked to perfection.
The fish was available during lunch without the dinner price. It was reasonably priced (less than $20) and the portion satisfied our appetite. In our experience, it is usually easy to find a table without reservations during lunch and it can be completed in less than an hour.
Seattle vs. Portland? Both appear to be winners for seafood.
Best Dining Out with Kids
As attorneys we have many demands on our time. And for those of us with kids, many of us struggle to find enough time to devote to both work and family. A busy law practice need not stand in the way of an enjoyable family dinner out.
One favorite downtown place is Blue C Sushi (with five locations including 1510 Seventh Ave., Seattle; 467-4022; bluecsushi.com): convenient, tasty and fast (though there can be a wait to be seated). It's great for families.
Kids are greeted with training chopsticks, a server is available with the activation of a blue light and you can scan for your next dish to make its way on the rotating conveyor belt. When the adults take longer to eat than the kids, the large video display serves to captivate the younger generation.
The Sylvan Zoo House & Saloon (5515 SW Canyon Court, Portland; 503-297-5568; sylvanzoohouse.com) is the perfect post-zoo visit venue for taking the kids. Located an exit up from the Oregon Zoo (formerly the Washington Park Zoo) on Highway 26 (or right around the corner of zoo overflow parking), the Sylvan Zoo House outdoor seating patio has a view to the Green Hills. The patio offers a particularly good summer venue with the smells of meats being smoked in hickory and applewood wafting from the outdoor smokers.
The restaurant smokes all its meats on site, including corned beef, turkey, prime rib, smoked pork shoulder and wings. The family can watch the chefs in action and even get some samples. If the weather doesn't accommodate this outdoor experience, indoor dining is also fun with the numerous figures and paintings of comic animals dressed for sporting events, bringing the zoo and sports theme to life. There are many large screens for viewing your favorite sporting events.
The restaurant offers a decently priced, traditional kids' menu, and an adult menu with an assortment of soups, salads, steaks, burgers, fish entrees, sandwiches and wraps, most of which can be prepared gluten-free. As for the "saloon" aspect, adults can, of course, also enjoy an assortment of beers and other beverages. Not to be forgotten is the friendly staff who know how to make the family dining experience enjoyable — like bringing out the kids' food fast and first!
Regardless of whether you are a Seattleite or a Portlander, don't let the practice of law prevent you from taking your family for a dining out night. Great options abound.
Tucked away on a residential street in Ballard, Delancy (1415 NW 70th St.; 838-1960; delancyseattle.com) may be Seattle's best-kept pizza secret, and the purveyor of what arguably is the city's best pizza. At first blush, everything about the place appears to be simple and small — the menu, the kitchen, the restaurant space itself. And then we took our first bite and it all made sense: The focus at Delancy is simplicity.
We ordered the crimini pizza, which arrived with just the right amount of mushrooms, mozzarella, thyme and olive oil. The star of the show here, though, is the crust itself — thin, crispy and with just enough charred dough to add the perfect amount of smokiness to each bite. We paired our pizza with a tangy, seasonal pea greens salad, so light and fresh that it alone warrants a return trip.
On a busy night, the wait to get in can be long, but no worries, the owners also offer Essex, the bar next door where you can grab a drink in the meantime. Simply put, Delancy is worth the wait.
So much has been written, both locally and nationally, about Portland's Apizza Scholls (4741 SW Hawthorne Blvd.; 503-233-1286; apizzascholls.com) that we had to ask: Does the pizza itself truly live up to the hype? In a word, YES!
The line to get in starts forming an hour before opening because locals know that the dough here is made fresh each day, and once it runs out they close up shop. Apizza Scholls is seriously serious about its pizza, allowing no more than three toppings on any pie. We started with the Caesar salad, comprised of three to four enormous romaine heart leaves lightly drizzled with their own original dressing.
Then the moment we had been waiting for. The signature dish, Apizza Margherita, is impeccably balanced with sauce, cheese, garlic and basil. The crust is the essential element that makes this particular pizza experience transcend any other — just enough to hold up the pie (no more and no less), and crispy, crunchy and oven-blistered the way Queen Margherita herself would've wanted it.
It is a really close call, but clearly both cities are favored with excellent pizza. Altogether, call it a culinary draw and savor the succulent sides, and main dishes, of both fair cities.
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law firm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx. Follow us on Twitter @schwabedinesout.