Friday, January 11, 2008

Dinner at Canlis

My biggest regret is that we have not experienced Canlis more than once before. Last night, my thought was that going to dinner there would be our second "once in a lifetime" visit. We decided we have been missing something and we will definitely go back at the half price rate as a couple. I had made up my mind that we would be spending a ridiculous amount of money. True, the place is pricey but we have been to the Georgian Room, the Metropolitan Grill and El Gaucho and they are just as expensive if not more so. The Canlis website stated that seven to twenty restaurants in the Seattle area have more dollar signs than they do.

They do have a dress code but it must be "suggested" or "preferred." In other words, if you entered the front door and had on a sweater instead of a jacket, I do not think they would turn you away. Some parties did not seem as dressed up as we were. I remember one time when Dave and I were starving students in Kansas City, we were invited to dinner with Dave's wealthy uncle and aunt. In those days, we pretty much looked the part of hippie. When we arrived at the restaurant, Dave was considered inappropriately dressed so the restaurant offered him an ugly suit jacket and tie to wear while dining. We were so embarrassed and it didn't even fit him. I have never forgotten it. Dave's uncle was not happy. Certainly, Canlis would never do such a thing to a guest.

Seattle is such a casual city that Canlis is trying to uphold the idea of dressing up but you cannot force Seattleites to necessarily do so. Many of us do not even own dressy clothes. Anyway, Dave wore a sports jacket because living without a closet, he could not find his suit. I think it is still in a suitcase from one of his trips. Lucas looked darling in his dark brown sports jacket, brown striped shirt and new khakis that we picked out for him. He did wear black dress shoes left from his orchestra days much to Kaley's chagrin. However, it was those or hiking boots. You can request a Pacific Northwesterner to dress up but I guarantee, it will not be perfect.

I wore a lacy red and silver blouse with a black skirt that I wore a few years ago to the UW Gala event. At the time, I agonized over what to wear for that event but discovered I was almost identically dressed in the same outfit as Melinda Gates. As such, I felt it was appropriate to wear the same thing to Canlis. Kaley, of course, was stunning in a grayish black dress she wore to her Christmas party. And yes, I forgot the camera when we all looked fantastic.

What did we eat? The menu had a large number of selections which I appreciate since Kaley cannot have shrimp, crab or lobster anything. Some places around here include these ingredients in every first course and entree, it seems. Kaley and I shared an exquisite escargot/puff pastry appetizer. I still smell like garlic. Dave ordered the prixe fix menu so he started with smoked pheasant on toast. Lucas had seafood bisque. Kaley and I also ordered the Canlis salad. I may be remembering wrong but I am quite certain they used to construct the salad at your table. I was impressed with that 25 years ago and disappointed they no longer do so. It was delicious anyway. Kaley had praise for the salad which is saying something after her summer as a salad chef at Cafe Lago.

Dave's meal included lobster tail, shrimp and a small filet mignon. Lucas ordered king salmon. Kaley had mahi mahi and I chose the duck breast. Everything was beautifully presented and tasted just as heavenly as it looked. To give an example of price, the appetizers and salads were in the $10-$15 range. My significantly portioned duck breast over butternut squash/cauliflower melange was $34. Naturally, adding drinks, wine, coffee, and desserts runs up the bill but still---not as bad as I was expecting. At the end, they put a birthday candle in my molten lava cake dessert. I do believe the Georgian Room made a bigger deal out of my birthday when I turned 50 but still, it was a nice touch.

The place is lovely. We were seated by the window facing towards the U district. We could see the lights and the dark blackness of the lake below. The service was impeccable. I am one of those people who likes to chat and joke a little with the servers. I must say, it is difficult to break their formal facade. When Lucas was announcing to his sister that he could not believe she was 19; he thought she was still 18. "Lucas, you do not know how old your own sister is? You have been away too long. Not only is she 19 but she is almost 20!" The highly trained sommelier was opening our bottle of wine at that moment and I saw him crack a smile at the four of us. Yes, they are human! At least the servers are no longer dressed in kimonos. They used to be faux geisha to portray the idea of superb Japanese hospitality. I remember being shocked at the sight since it is not an Asian eatery. Now they all wear black.

We were seated not far from the piano. Kaley liked his selections and I was the beneficiary of some gorgeous singing in my ear when she knew the words. I told her to approach the pianist and offer to sing along but she declined. "Are you nuts? Geez, MOM!"

The entire evening was perfect. We will go back.

Here is their website: