Friday, April 5, 2013

SkyCity, Seattle, Washington

Seattle's biggest tourist attraction is the Space Needle- a 605 foot tall tower topped by a flying saucer shaped structure that houses it's observation deck, and the SkyCity Restaurant - the oldest revolving restaurant still in operation. As a tourist attraction with a long, and interesting history, it's easy to dismiss the food as overpriced or sub-par. I won't argue too much with the "overpriced" complaints, but the food is clearly better than the typical fare found in most tourist traps.

The menu features prices you'd expect to see at a good steakhouse in New York. Other than that, the items on the menu appear to read like well thought-out, well-composed dishes you'd expect to see at a high-quality restaurant (probably not one quite this expensive though). So why the premium? Well, it is a unique tourist attraction you can't find anywhere else, there are a lot of tourists and business travelers in the area willing to pay the prices, and it's the only place in the world where you can dine to a spectacular, panoramic view of Seattle that slowly rotates at one revolution per 47 minutes.

Photos do not do the view justice, not even panoramic ones. The Needle may not be the tallest building in the city, but the city is just built up enough, but still sparse enough that you can take in the whole thing in one sight. Views like this are almost impossible to find in New York- the density of the buildings there restricts what you can see too much. You can see the whole of downtown to the south, Puget Sound, and the mountains beyond it to the west, and the lower lying outskirts of the city to the north and west. Despite being overpriced, this view is what makes SkyCity a popular place, even among locals, for special occasions.

So, if you ever find yourself atop the Space Needle, just suck it up, pay the high prices, and enjoy yourself. Expect to spend $40-$60 for you entree, and anywhere from $9-$16 for your starters or dessert. Just enjoy the scenery and remember, you're paying a premium in exchange for a dining experience in a unique place with a unique view.

My starter was a bowl of razor clam and corn chowder, adorned with a fresh made potato chip. The chowder is rich and creamy, and features bits of razor clam. The potato chip was actually a clever touch- tying in the typical potato chunks found in most chowders in a playful way. I personally would've liked to have a whole razor clam in it's signature elongated shell as part of the dish- if only for visual effect and to let you know that the clams are indeed razor clams. I've had better chowders, but considering that I was in Boston when I had them,  it's not exactly a fair comparison.

For my Entree, I went with the Chatham Strait Black Cod, served with a few small pork potstickers on a cream-based sauce and a bed of savoy cabbage kimchi. The dish is also adorned with toasted coconut shavings and microgreens. The black cod (also known as sablefish) comes from the the waterways around lower Alaska. It has a firm, white flesh that is somewhat oily, but without the gamey flavors usually associated with an oily piece of fish. The cod was cooked perfectly- it practically melted in my mouth. The potstickers provided a little bit of a tangy flavor to act as a median between the richness of the fish and the crunchy/spicy hits from the kimchi. That kimchi very nearly upstaged the fish - it had just the right amount of crunch and heat to cut through the richness of the fish, and the tang of the pork potstickers- the three contrasting components, taken together, balance out and make a complete, and thoughtful dish.

When I saw the first item on the dessert menu, I knew i had to have it- a Bacon Maple Brownie is something hard to pass up. This brownie also features bits of pecan and is finished with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Honestly, the bacon and maple flavors seemed a bit subdued for my liking (as if there is such a thing as too much bacon!). Still, this was a pretty good dessert, even if it left me craving more of what it promised.

One of my companions went for SkyCity's signature dessert- the Lunar Orbiter. This dessert makes a dramatic entry in a bowl of steaming dry ice. When the smoke clears, according to my companion, you are left with a fairly expensive ice cream sundae with caramel sauce and a piece of peanut brittle.

So while the entrees were on point, the desserts seemed to be less than their dramatic names and appearances. Overall, I'd say the experience was a good one, although one I'd expect to be somewhat less expensive if it weren't for the location and that incredible view, The price tag means you probably won't find many regulars who aren't part of the "1%" - but I'm sure you'll find a lot of people that have willingly paid the premium for the experience and not regretted it. The place is truly unique- as one of the locals described it to me- it's like being in the restaurant of the future- or at least a 1962, "Jetsons"-like future.

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