Monday, May 30, 2011

Lunch at Dahlia Lounge in Seattle

Before my trip to Seattle earlier this year, I had never heard of Tom Douglas.  I didn't know his name and I had never read about any of his restaurants.  This, of course, is one of the pitfalls of living near DC; there is so much good food in the District, I often forget about all the other great chefs and restaurants in the country.

Tom Douglass was the winner of the 1994 James Beard Award for Best Northwest Chef.  He has a wide range of cooking styles, which are all showcased by his restaurants: Dahlia Lounge, Etta's Seafood, Palace Kitchen, Lola, and Serious Pie (which is actually a pizzeria, not a bakery).  For those who enjoy watching food related TV shows, you may recognize him as one of the chefs who defeated Masaharu Morimoto in Iron Chef America.  But suffice to say, Tom Douglass is highly regarded chef who resides and works in Seattle.  And this summer I had a chance to eat at his restaurant Dahlia Lounge.

Dahlia Lounge is a restaurant that focuses on serving local, sustainable, and organic food.  This means, of course, that their menu is constantly changing.  Thus, some of the dishes that I describe here may not be on the menu anymore, because I've had this post backlogged for a while, but I really thought I ought to share this experience with you.  I ate lunch here with my family in May or June and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

My dad ordered the "Weekly Three" lunch prix fixe menu for $18.  To start, he chose a salad composed of spring greens, grilled asparagus, cucumbers, radishes, mizuna, and lemon.  The greens were nicely marinated, creamy, light, and full of flavor (do I use this phrase too much?).  Given that it was a salad, it had a surprising amount of body and substance.  As my dad said, it was "not just cellulose" (this is how my family talks); it was a little sour and a little spicy.  We gave it an 8 out of 10, which is a very high score given that it was "just a salad."

For his second course (part of the "Weekly Three"), my dad had Merguez sausage, Israeli couscous, and savoy spinach served with pickled peppers and green garlic yogurt.  The couscous had great texture and the entire dish showed an amazing balance of flavors.

For his dessert, my dad ordered the triple coconut cream pie bite (again, part of the "Weekly Three").
I thought it was okay, but I am not partial to cream pies.  My dad, on the other hand, thought it was great and gave it a 9 out of 10.

My sister ordered black bean-chili manila clams with yu choy, lap cheong, Chinese egg noodles, pea shoots, and sesame seeds ($16).  It was an inventive fusion dish, full bodied, with exotic flavors that managed to compliment each other very well.  The lap cheong (which I think is the same as the Vietnamese "lap xuong") was salty, sweet, and smoky.  I wouldn't have thought to combine this with clams, egg noodles, and pea shoots, but it worked brilliantly: we gave this a 9.5 out of 10.

My mom ordered the first of the season halibut served with a sour cream and chive potato, snap peas, charred tomato vinaigrette, and potato crisps ($21).  The potato was creamy, but not heavy and the fish was beautifully cooked so that it had a crispy exterior but was not at all dry.  The dish was a great marriage of flavors.

I ordered the Dungeness crab cake, which we had heard many good things about.  It was served with flageolet beans, grilled asparagus, ham hock, wild ramps, and creole tartar sauce ($18 for a single large crab cake; two crab cakes would be $29).  I'm not generally a bean person, but I loved the texture of the beans.  They were creamy but not mushy, and the wild ramps and grilled asparagus were light and summery in my mouth.  The slightly spicy sauce rounded out the symphony of tastes.  I enjoyed every bite.  It was a perfect lunch - balanced, filling, and not at all heavy.

W enjoyed all of the desserts we ordered.  But what I really want to focus on here were the doughnuts.  They were amazing.  They were airy, light, and absolutely perfect.  A 10 out of 10.  Could not be improved.  Honestly.  We like them so much we ordered a second plate of them.  They come to you piping hot, fresh from the fryer.  They are shaken in a bag of cinnamon sugar, tableside, and then plated.  The accompanying mascarpone cream was to die for and the rhubarb and strawberry compote was delicious.  I'm a chocolate dessert girl, but this is something I would order over and over again.

Dahlia is an example of serious, bold cooking.  There were some very inspired dishes, and Douglass's creativity and presentation were beyond our expectations.  Eating at Dahlia Lounge was a great experience and we almost came back a second time in our 6 days in Seattle just to enjoy the restaurant one more time.

Dahlia Lounge
2001 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
Tel. 206.662.4142
Overall rating for the price: 9 out of 10

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