Monday, November 17, 2008

A Night at Restaurant Zoe

November in Seattle is not known for wonderful weather (something I believe I've noted before on this blog), but for those who enjoy dining out, it is indeed a month of plenty. Some of the city's finer dining establishments join together for for Dine Around Seattle, offering three course menus for $30 from Sunday through Thursday. Considering three courses at some of these restaurants can easily add up to forty or fifty dollars on a regular night, the $30 offering makes for a somewhat more affordable splurge.

Tonight Michael, our friend Lewissa, and I visited Restaurant Zoe in Belltown, and found it well worth the $30. Well, in reality it was more than simply $30 - tax and tip aren't included, and we each ordered a drink (also not included). But the food was fantastic, the service smooth and gracious, and it made for a lovely, leisurely evening together.

Michael and I started off with the ricotta gnudi, which can be objectively described as small ricotta dumplings with fried sage leaves and a balsamic reduction and cream sauce, but are best subjectively described as "little pillows of heaven." Yep, that about sums it up. Michael decried the fact that we had no more bread (he found them too stingy with the bread, saying "It's so good! Why did they take it away?", but I think it's better that we didn't fill up too much before the meal) to sop up every last bit of the sauce, which was sweet, tangy, and creamy, the perfect complement to the rich, buttery gnudi.

Entrees were uniformly excellent. My arctic char was served rare on a bed of roasted cauliflower with chopped marcona almonds, capers, and a golden raisin puree. I ate it skin and all - I loved the contrast of the thin, crispy skin with the silky meat. Michael raved about his braised beef in a beet sauce - yes, while he didn't go for last week's beet salad, he does, in fact, generally like beets - which was meltingly tender. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of Lewissa's dish, but will attempt to describe it. Hers was made of extremely finely shredded pork flavored with herbs, formed into a small brick, and very lightly breaded and sauteed. It was like no pork dish I have ever tasted, and was incredibly flavorful. In fact, that's what stood out to me most about all of our dishes; the flavors really popped, sometimes in unexpected, yet immediately pleasing, ways. Nothing was bland or boring.

For dessert, I think Lewissa and I picked the best options. Lewissa's chocolate dessert was a dense, fudgy square of dark chocolate served with cocoa nib brittle. For a dark chocolatre lover, this would be heaven, for it had the intensity of 70% dark chocolate, with only enough sugar to enhance the chocolate flavor. My pumpkin pie sundae consisted of spicy pumpkin ice cream topped with lightly candied salty sweet pumpkin seeds, whipped cream, and a salted caramel sauce. Zoe got the salty/sweet balance just right - enough salt to bring out the flavors and make it interesting, but nothing overwhelming. And I could eat those pumpkin seeds by the handful given the chance. Michael chose the panna cotta with candied pecans and cranberries, which was quite good in its own right, but unfortunately came across as a little bland when compared with the other desserts. He kept stealing bites from my sundae, which was fine by me since I was feeling pretty full by that point.

We returned home fully satisfied and probably a little bit fatter. And as I sit hear yawning, I look forward to sleep, and perhaps the chance to dream of another meal at Restaurant Zoe.

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