(Seattle, WA) — It’s no secret that we’re fans of the Kimpton line of hotels and restaurants. They’re just kind of cool, kitschy, and design-minded. They’re not always what they’re cracked up to be, but at least they’re not sterile. So, when we discovered Hotel Monaco was just up the way from our hotel, we made reservations at their Sazerac restaurant on our second night in the Seattle area. On a beautiful Friday evening, we hiked uphill a couple blocks to dinner...

He Fed:

I chose Sazerac on OpenTable because, frankly, it looked amazing. A Kimpton restaurant with a tasting menu, cooking classes, and charcuterie? Sign me up! The walk is a bit laborious, up steep roads, and we have to catch our breath before heading into the swanky, dim interior. Once inside, we are quickly shown to a large booth. The kitchen is open air and the staff moves quickly, efficiently. A lounge to one side is very cool looking, with sofas and easy chairs. They are doing brisk business on an early Friday night.

Although I’m initially looking forward to some meats and cheeses, we are immediately swayed by the four course tasting menu. It’s only $50 with wine pairings, with plenty of choices for each course. It is a little odd that there is one paired wine each course, no matter what you choose, but I find it kind of exhilarating. Can the chef successfully match all of those potentially divergent dishes with just one wine selection? I’m eager to find out.

My excitement diminishes somewhat when the server brings us all three wines at once. Not only that, but they aren’t lined up in the same order as the courses. His explanation for each is brisk, and I feel rushed. Are they just trying to pump us out of here? It’s not what I’m used to for a chef’s tasting but I try to roll with the punches. For my first course, I choose the Painted Hills Beef Tartare. It’s a perfectly formed round of finely ground beef and spices, with a sunny-side up quail egg on top, surrounded by “croutons” of bread. Scoop a bit of the meat and egg onto the bread, eat, repeat. It’s a nice pate of meat, but a bit too finely ground for my taste. The egg is amazing, of course. Otherwise, I would have liked a bit more punch to it (like Joe Allen’s). The 2010 Cheateau Ste Michelle Sauvignon Blanc is a sweet counterpoint to the dish.

Moving on, I choose the Andouille Sausage Gumbo. It’s pretty standard, thick and hearty gumbo with perhaps not enough spice, but still yummy. I don’t even mind the tiny little shrimps floating in the viscous soup. However, I think the 2009 Owen Roe “Abbot’s Table” Zinfandel blend is kind of lost. Spice meets spice and both sort of disappear.

Although the cider-chile glazed pork ribs are luring me with their piggy siren song, I’m still on a rib sabbatical, so I switch to vegetarian mode: Ricotta Gnocchi. I’m not even sure why I make this decision, considering I just had gnocchi the previous evening at Pearl, but what’s done is done. I am glad I didn’t overthink this, because the gnocchi are much better than what I had previously. These are light and fluffy and flavorful, particularly mixed with the walnuts and Oregonzola. And the 2009 Tomero Malbec is a fantastic pairing, wiping out any other missteps.

Final course is dessert and there are only two options. I select the Chickory Pot de Creme. It is incredibly good, with all those creamy coffee notes, whipped cream on top, and fresh chocolate chip cookie to dip! Although I understand why they chose to a pair the 2007 3 Rivers Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer, a port would have been nicer.

Sazerac oversteps a bit here and there, and their tasting menu fires on some cylinders...just maybe not enough for my taste. Couple that with the feeling of being rushed out to make room for later diners, and it’s not conducive to good digestion. Maybe our honeymoon period with Kimpton eateries is over.
She Fed:

I've always had fantastic experience with restaurants at Kimpton Hotels so when Jeremy suggests we try Sazerac for dinner I'm enthused. It's affiliated with the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton brand I've stayed at in other cities. I find Kimpton's attention to detail and level of customer care to be top-notch across the country so I assume we are in for a treat.

The hostess seats us immediately in a booth with a view of the bar and open air kitchen. We spend a few minutes looking over the menu until we spy the Tasting Menu with wine pairings for $50 apiece. Easy peasy, decision made. Because we are ready to order so quickly, I think our waiter assumes we're in a hurry. What transpires next is a mad rush of dishes and a fairly unpleasant dining experience.

Our first course arrives in under three minutes. Jeremy's chosen the beef tartare and I the chicken liver mousse. Both our portions are humongous. Jeremy's tartare is entree-sized and my mousse is worthy of a dinner party for six. The mousse is plated beautifully in a glass vessel with a side of toasted French bread and tomato chutney all nestled in a bed of salt rocks intermingled with whole spices—cloves, peppercorns, star anise. While light and airy in texture, the mousse is wonderfully rich and decadent on the tongue and complimented perfectly with the toast and chutney.

Both our starters are paired with a 2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc, which is tasty, but I think a sweeter wine would pair better with the richness of the mousse. The wine pairings are presented on a wooden sampler tray, similar to how beer samples are served. Delivering the tastings all at once seems inelegant to me. In addition, they're ordered left to right 2-3-1 which is confusing.

There's no time to dwell on the order of the wines as our second course is delivered before we're halfway through the first. Even though there's barely enough room on the table for the plates and we're clearly not ready for this course, the runner drops the plates and scurries away.

I choose roasted organic beets with goat cheese and pistachios—assuming the beets would be plated on a bed of greens—but they're cubed and sitting in a bowl with an inch of tangy vinaigrette. There are pea shoots and a large scoop of goat cheese on top. The beets are tasty enough, but the vinaigrette is overpowering; the pistachios, which all fall to the bottom of the bowl as I eat, are soggy. It's not a terrible dish, but it could be better if served differently. The wine pairing, a Washington Zinfandel blend, is also overwhelmed by the vinaigrette.

The main course is brought too quickly as well. I'm looking forward to the scallops accompanied by creamed corn with hominy, oyster mushrooms, and bacon. The scallops are cooked and seasoned perfectly but the corn mixture is way too salty. I stir it around thinking I just hit a hotspot, but it's been overseasoned and is inedible. The Tomero Malbec from Argentina seems out of place with scallops.

The final course is dessert and I choose the oooey gooey chocolate cake. It's beautiful and crispy on the edges, but ice cold in the center. I've never had a single restaurant ruin Zin, beet salad, creamed corn, and chocolate in one sitting before. Dinner was rushed and our server was oblivious to the mood of the table. We should have hit up a food truck.

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