Friday, November 1, 2013

Seattle Again: Altura, Toulouse Petit, Bar Sejor and Ma'ono Fried chicken and Whisky.


I don't normally share a restaurant experience when revisiting after a short time before, but, Altura is a regional standout, certainly one of the very best restaurant experiences one could expect to find, in the northwest, and I include Canada here, but, almost anywhere in the USA. When in Seattle, it is the first resto that I think of to visit. I could say "wonderful" after each dish below, but I will summarize here.

From the chef, pumpkin panna cotta with popcorn snow and truffles, and the second ameuse was parsley root canoli with fresh sea urchin and smoked steelhead roe. The second ameuse was a remarkable dish contrasting the smokey roe and the briny, rich tasting sea urchin. NO PHOTOS.

Maine lobster, cooked to perfect doneness, with fennel, persimmon, sun choke, blood orange and dill, ingredients that contrast and enhance the richness of the lobster.

 Bigoli nero: sepia ink, cuttlefish, octopus and bottarga di Muggine.

Gnocchi with Abruzze style ragu of lamb and Magnolia beef. Pillow soft gnocchi and a lovely intense sauce. 

Chioggia squash ravioli with brown butter, roasted hazelnut, crispy sage and fresh shave Alba truffles. Loved the dish, but, the truffles were disappointing, not as fragrant as others I tried this season in Europe, and a bit wet in texture. Interestingly, I had a similar experience with the Alba truffles I tried when in Vancouver.

"Tails and trotters pork shank" wrapped in speck with braised greens, a quail egg and crispy artichokes.

Green rhubarb with sour cherries, spicy almonds, wheat berries and yogurt.

Toulouse Petit

This packed restaurant was the web site, Trip Advisor's "Traveler's Choice" winning restaurant for 2012, ranking #10 of world wide restaurants (believe it or not!!). It was also chosen as the 5th favourite resto in the USA!.

Crispy fried chicken gumbo. A thick, rich, dark, spicy roux made from proper long reduced stock, was the base of this soup which had chunks of fried chicken that still had a crunchy skin and the chicken was perfectly cooked (I hate overcooked chicken) and chunks of the resto's home made andouille sausage. The deeply rich, complex flavours of this soup were addictive. 

Oysters "Venezia" were topped with a sauce of fried rosemary, chopped parsley, garlic, finely chopped fennel and olive oil. Personally, I never like my oysters sauced in any way, but I was strongly encouraged to try this dish and the flavours were terrific and I had no regrets whatsoever.

Crispy, fried green tomatoes were coated with cornmeal and served over creole remoulade sauce. The sauce was good, the crispy coating was a bit too hard/tough and might have been better with breading or a mix of flour and the cornmeal??

House made wild boar garlic sausage with tomato basil jam and crescenza cheese bruschetta. As many of you know, I do not enjoy cheese and meat together, but here, the light cheese worked well. The sausage had a very pleasant garlic flavour and a very good texture with a grind that was neither too coarse or too fine.

The house made, nicely smokey and moderately spicy andouille sausage.

Buttermilk fried chicken, was cooked to the right point but the chicken breading, although ok, just was not crispy enough. Further, the mashed potatoes were not light enough and were a bit gooey. Better to have boiled the potatoes and pushed them through a ricer to get a lighter texture and consistency. This was the only truly disappointing dish of the night because this was the one of the dishes I came here to try. The chicken was served with a delicious, rich and complex black pepper tasso gravy.

Shallot tasso sauce, that I ordered just to try as all of the sauces are carefully made from scratch, was perfectly thick and rich tasting, with wonderfully complex favours.

Creole crawfish sauce with real, little crawfish bodies and tasso sauce. Terrific and the sauce well made, complex, creamy and a bit spicy.

Buttermilk beignets were tasty but a bit dense and were accompanied by a very flavourful, thick, chicory creme anglais.

The other disappointment of the night, the "traditional Louisiana" pecan pie. The filler was too dense and caramelized to the point of faint bitterness. It is truly hard to beat my gold standard, the pecan pie at Montreal's Pied de Cochon....and, that is a "Northern" resto!

But, the sauces alone, are worth the journey!

Bar Sejor

To begin, their naturally leavened bread is presented with cultured butter and Maldon salt.

Smoked whole milk yogurt and dark rye crisps with peppers preserved in cider vinegar, caraway seed and dill fronds. I highly recommend this dish, the smokiness of the yogurt goes so well with the peppers.

Gently cooked jerusalem artichokes with saffron milk caps, preserved Puget Sound silver smelts, garlic and parsley.

Freshly caught giant octopus with a salad of braised purple cabbage, marinated apples and matsutake mushrooms.

One half of a brined chicken, cooked in the wood burning oven, with roasted root veg, coriander and smokey red chili dipping sauce.

Caramelized butter ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. the ice cream was also drizzled with the caramelized butter sauce....delicious and the choc chip were terrific shortbread cookies.

The wood burning grill.

The wood burning oven.

Marinated, grilled kalbi beef short ribs, with chillies, braised daikon and grilled scallions. Tasty.

Caramelized broccoli with chili threads, garlic and smoked oyster sauce.

This is why I came: one half of a fried chicken from a special farm, with kimchi, rice and a dynamite chili sauce that was not too spicy at all, slightly sweet but possessing layers of flavour. The chicken was perfectly cooked and very crispy. Worth the journey from downtown.

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