23 July 2013

Canlis Restaurant: Happiness for a Few Hours

This is this place to come to when you want to experience a 4 star restaurant in NYC but you are in the Northwest.  The elegance, attention to detail, and memorable dishes make this one of those experiences that I want to return to but I'm scared it can never be like the first time.

I did not take any photos because I was alone and it just was not one of those places to take photos.  I arrived for a very early reservation but there were a couple of advantages like watching the guests arrive and seeing everyone in their finest clothing.  I was also able to experience the restaurant when it was quiet and I could hear the pianist from the bar who has been playing there for over 20 years.  He was mixing Sinatra with Beyonce and it worked really well.

I was seated in a booth and told that it was the same booth where Peter Canlis would conduct restaurant business when he was alive.  There was even a phone right to my left  that he would use to conduct that business and I was invited to use if I so felt the need.  I didn't use it and I wonder if anyone ever takes them up on that offer.  During his lifetime, the booth was only for Mr. Canlis except when special visitors like John Wayne would eat at the restaurant.

I ordered a cocktail (sans alcohol) called the Thom Yorke.  I don't remember the ingredients because I just saw the name and knew it right.  The meal took a couple of hours and I was able to enjoy the view over Lake Washington while watching the other diners around me.  I was taken by surprise but also impressed with the family at the table near me who prayed before they ate.  It reminded me of a Rockwell print we had in the house growing up of a mom and her son praying at a diner. 

The staff did an impeccable job walking me through the menu, giving suggestions and making sure I was always happy.  They started me with lemon sourdough bread and an amuse bouche of carrot curry soup.  I ordered a  four course meal and started with the Canlis salad.  I have read articles about this salad and heard it talked about on tv shows.  It was a given that I would order this.  The best part was how it was made at my table by Mark Canlis, the owner. We had a really lovely discussion about food, dining in the Northwest, and restaurants in NYC where he had connections.  This was a definite highlight of the night.  I know that salads can often be not that special but this one was very worth it.

I ate the pork belly with huckleberry.  I seem to always want pork belly especially when it's coupled with a fruit and it never fails to make me happy.  My main course was Sockeye salmon that was alive earlier that day.  I seem to only eat salmon when I'm in the Northwest and that is where it should be eaten.  The meal finished with  a Mille-feuille which was a cake with layers of milk chocolate, bananas, caramel and peanut butter.  Everything I love is in that dessert.

This meal is in that all time favorite category.  I'm happy I went on my own because I paid attention to so many things that I never would have if I had been otherwise distracted by good conversation.

Today the NY Times took away one star from Daniel because the service was preferential to the recognized critic and not to other diners, namely his friend at the other table.  I don't know if that happened when Trish, Mer and I visited in April 2012 but it was still one of my favorite meals in NYC.  I subsequently judged other 4 star restaurants to the service we received there because the bar was set so high.  I hope that all is smoothed out soon because it was a 4 star restaurant a year ago.

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