Rock Creek Seafood
4300 Fremont Avenue
Heirloom Cauliflower, faro, celery, toasted pine nuts,
Calabrian chile, white balsamic, pecorino
Seared Monterey Bay Sardine salad, roasted eggplant, mint,
basil, tomatoes, shallot lime vinaigrette
Brandade de Morue, pickled cauliflower, olives, parsley,
Point Judith Calamari ‘Kari Out’, garlic, basil, escarole,
radish, red onion, toasted sesame
Barbecued Alaskan Octopus, fingerling potatoes, olives,
cannellini beans, arugula, olive aioli
Hawaiian Tombo Tuna Crudo, sweet onion vinaigrette, bonito
and sesame pickles, shiso leaf
Oregon Petrale Sole, bacon lentil ragout, grilled wild
leeks, poached egg, mustard beurre fondue
Neah Bay Black Cod ‘Provençal’, sherry, lime, caramelized
shallots, Provençal herbs
Baja Yellowtail Jack, medjool date mostarda, grilled
escarole, Marcona almonds, garlic-lemon broth
Seattle is one of my favorite culinary destinations, based
in no small part on its bounty of exquisite seafood. The city’s restaurant
scene is dynamic, largely casual, and endlessly creative. I have had
several of my most memorable meals within its watery bounds. Considering the
rate at which new restaurants open, I typically rely on personal
recommendations, though this time I turned to the recent list of James Beard nominees
for assistance. When I saw that Rock Creek’s chef Eric Donnelly was up for Best
Chef: Northwest, I steered my party that way.
Rock Creek’s interior is gorgeous, rustic and airy with a glass
garage door that slides completely open when the notoriously cranky weather
permits. Multiple wall-sized photographs depict the sort of rivers and stony
streams evoked by the restaurant’s name. A series of small, closely spaced
wooden tables and low lighting emit a relaxed and informal vibe.
The menu is extensive and almost completely dominated by
seafood and shellfish. Only two dishes, located in their own separate section way
down at the bottle of the menu, featured proteins that were raised on the land,
not the sea. Though there were eight different (seafood) entrees, the vast
majority of the menu was dedicated to small plates and appetizers, all of which
were perfect for sharing. As I was fortunate enough to be eating with four
diners as enthusiastic as myself, we ordered an impressive selection of small
plates, a handful of entrees, and split everything.
Without exception, all of the fish and shellfish were cooked
to perfection, and tasted freshly fetched. My only complaint would be that many
of the dishes were a tad busy, featuring intensely flavored ingredients that
occasionally overwhelmed the flesh of the fish. Often, the more elaborate
preparations were brilliant in their complexity, but a handful were simply out
of balance. Among the highlights were the cauliflower appetizer, sardine salad,
brandade, tuna crudo, and petrale sole.
Brandade de Morue, pickled cauliflower, olives, parsley, grilled baguette
The cauliflower dish was subtle and fresh, with a touch of
heat from the chiles and a perfectly nutty crunch from the pine nuts and faro.
The Sardine preparation was elaborate but delicious, with the mint and the
basil providing the perfect counterpoint to the slightly salty, oily sardines
and rich eggplant. Brandade is always a favorite of mine, and this was one of
the best I’ve had. The bits of pickled cauliflower and olives provided little
bursts of flavor, and the perfectly thick bread was grilled to perfection. The
Petrale Sole was wonderfully light and airy and the setting of bacon, lentil,
grilled leeks, poached egg, and mustard beurre was dark and savory without ever
being heavy or overwhelming.
Oregon Petrale Sole, bacon lentil ragout, grilled wild leeks, poached egg, mustard beurre fondue
The calamari was cleverly packaged in a ‘Kari Out’ to-go box and served with
chopsticks. I had the first bite and it was heavenly—the squid was just barely
fried, very tender with a subtle crunch, and the sauce was sweet but complementary.
It was divine. Unfortunately for my companions, the portions served from the
bottom of the box were drowning in the sauce, which masked the perfection of
the squid. The black cod was also promising, but as with the squid suffered a
bit from the intensity and sweetness of the broth.
Occupying only the backside of their paper menu, Rock
Creek’s wine list is small but well chosen. Though the red selections number
nearly as many as the white, they err smartly towards the lighter side, as
befitting the fare. A handful of
local wines are featured, but the list is primarily European, with a special emphasis
on Italy and France. It is also remarkably well-priced, with very few bottles
cresting $100, and the majority at or under the $50 range. We purchased two
bottles off their list and brought in two (the max they allow) from a friend’s
cellar, in order to drink some older vintages.
Strasserhof’s 2013 Kerner (off their
list at $54) from Italy’s Alto Aldige was a terrific start to the meal; its
vibrant acidity woke up our palates and got us more than ready to eat.
Straightforward and refreshing, the Kerner offered a zesty mouthful of limejuice,
lemongrass, shiso leaf, and papaya. Though the dominant thrust of the wine was
upwards, the palate had a welcome density of fruit, which provided an anchor
for the otherwise bracing acidity. Beneath said fruit was a granitic, slightly saline mineral
quality that increased perceptibly throughout the long, lovely finish. At $54, this delicious white was an solid value.
Though we would have typically served the sweeter Riesling
after the aged Chenin Blanc, when the cauliflower dish hit the table, we knew
we needed the Prüm.
The 2001 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese was a gorgeous, charming, and voluptuous
wine whose sweetness seemed more in line with an Auslese than a Spätlese.
It opened with a slight whiff of diesel, which was the only indication of age
in this otherwise exceedingly youthful wine. The nose was a complex combination
of white flowers, golden apple, chamomile, and clover honey. As the wine warmed
and had some time in air, a tantalizing fig/date aroma began to develop. On the
palate it was caressing, almost oily in texture, but held aloft by strong,
lifting acidity. Aside from the cauliflower, sardines, and octopus, however,
the wine was too sweet to work with the majority of our food.
Nicolas Joly’s 1999
Savennières Becherelle was, quite
simply, the wine of the night. Unsurprisingly, it was quite funky when first
opened, with a somewhat off-putting wet and musty odor. A little time in air,
however, and that odd aroma cleared right up. In fact, the wine’s
transformation was so remarkable, that I deeply regretted not having decanted
it ahead of time. Boasting a slightly orange, semi-hazy hue, the Becherelle
offered scents of golden kiwi, sweat, cut hay, gasoline, and a baked apple
aroma that veered towards cider. On the palate it was remarkably clean, fleshy
and inviting, with a mature, slightly oxidative edge, endless depth, and a
pronounced mineral tang. Though the mouthfeel was warm and full, the acidity
was so lively that the wine practically moved. It saved the cod, which was a
disaster with the Prüm, and was an especially brilliant match to the petrale sole, keying
off the mustard notes to great effect.
For no other reason than that we wanted to continue talking,
we ordered the Paitin 2009 Sori’ Paitin Barbaresco, which
functioned as our rather unconventional after dinner drink. Listed at $90, this
wine was an utter delight to drink, even without food. Being rather young, it
offered an irresistibly charming mouthful of bright and sappy red fruits
underlain by a persistent, brickish sanguine tone. The buoyant fruit was
balanced by a rather serious structure composed of ripe but tugging, dusty
tannins and a fine acidity. With air, the wine revealed marvelous notes of
savory herbs, cracked pepper, brown spices, iron and mint.
-- Kelli White