Saturday, April 01, 2006

Elliot's Oyster House. Not going back.

(Pictures are forthcoming)

So H and I went to Elliot's Oyster House on, a pillar among Seattle restaurants, one of the legendary places, smack dab in the middle of tourist central--Pier 56 on the Waterfront.

We made reservations--something we never do--and when we showed up our table was ready. How about that! We had a view of the ferries and the Argosy boats coming and going. We had decided in the car that we were going to get one of those seafood platters on ice, and when our server came over, she was surprised that we were ready to order food. H and I are not teetotalers, but it never occurs to us to order drinks. Come to think of it, I would have enjoyed a bloody mary.

So we each ordered a cup of chowder, hers was white clam, mine was spicy crab. The chowder hit the table, and then the server asked us if we wanted her to bring the pepper mill. We looked and saw that she didn't have one on her, so we said no. I'm not sure how far she was from the pepper mill she was speaking of, but neither of us wanted to wait for her to get it. She promised that the bread was on its way.

How was the chowder? Creamy. Heavy creamy. Heavily creamy. I used to enjoy that kind of clam chowder with the primary taste being the cream itself. Actually, that's kind of what I expect. H's clam chowder was just that, and I remember thinking.... wish I had some fresh cracked pepper.

The spicey crab chowder... is not clam chowder, and when I order a dish with the word "crab" in it, I want to taste crab first, anything else second. Of course, all I could taste was heavy cream, with an occasional burst of corn kernel. Halfway through the cup, I had to remind myself that there was supposed to be crab in it before I could taste it. I should disclose at this point that I have a little cold, so perhaps my sense of smell is not so hot today. Also, I have no perception of what some people call "spicey." So the spicey crab chowder, forgettable, but it could have been me. I finished it.

And then finally the warm bread came. I ripped a dark, chewey, sweet dinner roll in half and blessed it with some of the sweet fluffy butter from the butter bucket on our table.

Our server came back before too long, with our Seafood Celebration! (the exclamation point is part of the name of the dish, not a sign of my enthusiasm). There were ten oysters on the halfshell, five or six snow crab claws, a half dozen jumbo prawns, and a half a small crab; all arranged brightly on a few pounds of crushed ice in a big metal bowl. The server stood the big metal bowl on a table stand at least a foot high. The oysters were about at the level of H's eyebrows. We took the bowl off the table stand and put it flat on the table. Our sever, showing no emotion, took the table stand off the table and left.

There were three creamy sauces to accompany the crab, ostensibly. They all tasted the same to me. The two kinds of oysters were nice; I could have had ten more. The poached jumbo prawns were gigantor and flavorless. They were stripped down the tail and the last segment, which I saw as a damn shame; there's a whole world of prawn in that little 'handle' that the prep cook leaves for you. Lucky for me, I've got mad shrimp de-tailing skills. Besides, big prawns are easier to de-tail.

The crab was bland. H complained of the smell; not of the crab meat, but of the shell. At one point, she peeked under the crab shell to see if they had left us the 'good stuff.' When she found nothing, she had a pathetic little pout, at which I laughed too loud. The drunk guy who thought he was charming thought I was laughing at some scrotum joke he had just repeated to his poor companions.

So we ate slowly, I think, but we are a couple of agressive filipino kids, and I am a high school teacher, so I don't have any doubt that we could have polished off that seafood platter during a commercial break.

Server came back, cleared the table, gave us some hot towels with lemon wedges. That was big points for me, I freaking love hot towels. The lemons weren't necessary, since our fingers weren't stinky, but still it was nice.

I asked for a cup of tea; when that came, H ordered a decaf and a creme brulee sampler.

Three creme brulees prepared in some demi-tasses. One was vanilla, and was served with a thin slice of strawbery; another was a spicy cinnamon creme brulee with three little raspberries; the third was a chocolate ganache custard with a caramel sugar crust, but also dressed with a dollup of creme, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and a long chocolate curl.

We started with the spicy cinnamon one. Yum! Ok, I think for the brulee of sugar on top they used powdered sugar instead of the granulated sugar, but whatever. It was delicous. Until.

It was delicious until we got to the watery, uncooked bottom of the dessert. Yikes. I stuck my spoon in the chocolate one, it seemed to be cooked, but when H checked the vanilla one, she found the same watery mess.

Our server came with the bill, and I told her that two of our three cremes were undercooked, she asked for some clarification; I don't think she believed me. So I picked up the vanilla by the handle and let the watery formula pour out onto the plate. She apologized immediately and offered us another dessert, but we declined. She took the dessert off our bill.

So H and I debriefed the experience during the car ride home. It's never enough seafood, she said, when we go to a white-people-seafood restaurant. She's right. We've decided that the next time we order a pile of seafood on ice, it will be in France.

Anyway, it would be cheaper to do it at home. For the price we paid, we could have prepared a similar meal but fed 6 hungry filipinos.

And now, my friends, I am going to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sorry, Elliot, I won't be back. The service was great, and the hot towels were huge, but really, I can make it better at home.

1 comment:

ding said...

but it's nationally famous for seafood! how can you not like it?

i remember, in france, watching J- and M- destroy a monstrous tray of seafood on ice. i couldn't do it. i don't think i love seafood enough.