I like the concept of Blackboard Bistro, a bit off the beaten path on California Ave in West Seattle. Three huge blackboards are the primary decorative element of the interior, along with the bold black and white striped banquettes and one slice of wall. It could come off as carnival tent, but actually I liked all of those elements.
The trouble, though, is that this interior, like much of the food is almost – but not quite – there. One of my friends at dinner that night said this out loud and I realized that she was spot-on. Take the blackboards with the black and white striped banquettes: super cool, until you look down to the brown carpet and see the mismatch in color palettes. The lighting was just a bit off as well, somewhere between too much and not quite enough. (Sounds picky, right? But it’s when all of these elements come together, along with fantastic food, that you have the just-perfect meal. So don’t knock the picky!)
By far our favorite menu item of the evening was the sautéed scallop BLT with tomato jam and aioli, an open-faced layering of deliciously done scallops, a generous portion of pork belly, the requisite lettuce, and a dollop of sweet tomato jam to finish. A close second was the parmesan crusted broccoli, cooked so the broccoli was still the right amount of firm with crusty baked bits of parmesan, topped with garlic and rosemary oil – delicious!
Unfortunately, the other things we tried just missed the mark, no matter how good they sounded. Take this chicken and wild mushroom pie, for instance. A beautifully flaky crust, but once we dug in we realized that the mushrooms didn’t seem to be quite done, and the pie itself was for the most part flavorless. And this glass dish was all around the wrong presentation, which felt more like my grandmother’s Pyrex dish had somehow made its way into the kitchen of this upscale restaurant. The watermelon and feta salad with a shred of jicama, inexplicably also served on a clear plate, only seemed to have punch in the bites with the salty pumpkin seeds but otherwise didn’t have enough umph for me.
Blackboard Bistro has only been open since mid-August so I’m hoping that they’re just working out the kinks and will emerge in a few months as the kind of restaurant the menu indicates. In fact, some of the items I didn’t try this time around but might if I hear good reports come back my way: grilled baby leeks with pork belly, tomato-almond sauce, and poached egg on toast; Painted Hills aged New York strip with lobster mushrooms, spinach, and braised potato; and the gnocchi with braised lamb and summer squash. Sounds delicious, right?
[Photos courtesy of Hayley V.]