Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hi Life: A seattle take on French cuisine

I'll admit the building was made me interested at first in eating here. Is there anyone who doesn't think Firehouses are cool and secretly didn't wish to live in one as a kid? I know I want to.

Going in I had no idea of what kind of food they served and was expecting pub food and other American classics. I was surprised by the additional seasonal menu which they claim is inspired by Paris and by the range of food and price points.

The menu ranges from small plate (and they are small) all under 10 dollars, some around 5 dollars, entrees and American classics in the 10-25 range and the season selections which include family size platters for 25-40 dollars.

We thought it was funny that they picked Paris rather than France as a choice of a region with good wine. While there are many good wines served in Paris, there are no vineyards in that region and the food in Paris is so not reflective of the food in the many regions of France.

Paris seemed more of an inspiration for the seasonal food than culinary basis, with many dishes being based on the apple which isn't a big staple in French food. However it was clear with the dishes that they pulled the love of all things cheese and the combined of strong flavors and ingredient to make rich dishes.

That said the food was very interested and there were dishes on the menu that I have never seen before and most of the dishes worked well.

We picked three dishes from the seasonal menu and one from the small plates. There was a mix up with the order and we ended up getting another seasonal starter for free.

We started with the daily seasonal special which was wild mushrooms wrapped in ham and served on polenta with a cream sauce. At first I was surprise at how small the dish was until I took my first bite. The ham didn't over power the wild mushrooms while the polenta was the real star. I seriously could have eaten that polenta by the bowlful. The dish was full of flavor and texture and each bite made me happy.

The second dish we had was fried ravioli, the outside was crisp and breaded while the inside was rich creamy filling. I found it ok but my wife loved it and ate most of the ravioli.

The third dish we had was the baked apple filled with Gorgonzola cheese. Our meal was basically one huge cholesterol bomb and it was good. I liked the sweetness of the apple against the pungent taste of the cheese. I think it would have been a good final course.

The fourth dish was listed as a single serving of Crepes Sarraine, buckwheat crepes with a cheese and sorrel filling served with white beans. There was actually two rolled crepes (not the way they are usually served in France) and they were really good. I love buckwheat especially for savory crepes, and it complimented the filling well. I would have liked for the sorrel to have played a stronger part as it is rare to see it used in the US and it is a great herb. The beans were very disappointing and I almost feel like I need to gather chefs in Seattle together and do a remedial class in how to cook legumes. They were over cooked and lacking in flavor.

The final dish was a salt cod casserole almost a gratin. In looks and texture it was like hachis parmentier, which is a casserole of mashed potatoes and minced beef covered in cheese. The dish was certainly not french by origin but that didn't stop my French wife from lovely it and she said it's one of the most unique dishes she's had in Seattle.

We finished our meal with a Pot Du Creme which seemed to be made with milk chocolate or just too much milk and was far too sweet to really be Pot Du Creme but most people would just find it tasty and enjoy it.

The bill with two bottle of sparkling water, one creme soda but no tip was 57.

I'm sure if we are back in the neighborhood will stop in there again especially once they try a new cuisine.

Also we were there on Thursday and I was happy to see families eating out which seems to happen so rarely in Seattle. There are lots of seating and it looks like a great place to have a meal for a group of 8-12 people or larger.

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