Most of the time, I put a fair amount of thought into where I eat when I eat out. (I know – you’re shocked! Shocked!!) I think about the food: what regional specialty I’m in the mood for; upscale or casual; fresh, organic ingredients or deliciously breaded and fried. I think about location: what part of town I want to be in, as each neighborhood has its own vibe. I think about the restaurant’s interior, or lack thereof when you’re talking mobile food. But even that has a certain feel, as does the stripped-down Chinese place that serves dumplings so heavenly you don’t care that it’s freezing cold inside and there’s not a speck of ambience to be seen.
I’m especially conscious of all of these factors when someone asks me for a recommendation, whether it’s a friend sending a last-minute plea via text or someone writing in to the blog with more involved recommendation needs. Depending on the request, I usually try to offer some pretty standard options, some that are a little more unusual, and on occasion, some that fall into the “icon” category. As another piece of the dining out puzzle, icons are those restaurants that have been around forever, are closely associated with Seattle, or have a (foodie) famous name at the helm. Think Canlis (60 years old this year!), Tom Douglas and Etta’s, Ray’s Boathouse for its storied history and quintessential Seattle view, and Maneki, serving traditional Japanese food in the International District for over 100 years.
All of this was swirling around in my head when a good friend – who is also extremely food-savvy – invited me to dinner at the Space Needle. It’s the granddaddy of icons in Seattle, of course, and somewhere I’d been for parties and such but never to have what I always imagined to be an over-the-top but somehow still lackluster dining experience. Good news, Space Needle and SkyCity: You’ve won me over.
I realized as we rode the elevator all the way to the top that I had been to the lower level event space, but never the restaurant or observation deck. It’s true that to get there you have to make your way through the gift shop and likely knots of tourists also there for the Seattle Experience, but once seated window-side at our table I found myself completely enamored of the view and excited to be there. The view really IS stunning, and I loved that I just got to sit there, sip my cocktail, and have the view change around me.
So how about the food? My foodie friend had been telling of a revamp to the kitchen, and clearly they’re doing something right as I was quite impressed with our meal. I’m a sucker for the amuse bouche – probably because it’s tiny and sweet and arrives unbidden – and the nibble of a tiny sirloin meatball of sorts topped with more beef in tartare form was a delicious single bite. From there on to this prosciutto-wrapped Beecher’s Flagship Cheese with frissee, topped with roasted hazelnuts and a cherry vinaigrette, and served with rosemary ciabatta.
The heirloom tomato salad with roasted corn was sweet with tomato and tart with the dressing, and good and salty with a parmesan crisp.
I was a fan of the stacked presentation of the domestic lamb loin, sitting atop swipes of red beet puree and squash puree, with squash ring and beans alongside.
The most impressive part of the meal – or at least the part with the most heft – was this Fred Flinstone-sized ribeye steak, served with Oregon truffle horseradish and fingerling potatoes.
Casual dining it’s not, but as a special occasion spot SkyCity at the Space Needle is an option that I’ll add to my list of restaurants to recommend. In the icon category, it’s a hard one to beat.