Tilikum Place Cafe sort of sneaks up on you, surprising you with its location on a recently revitalized block of Cedar on the edge of Belltown, just a stone’s throw from the venerable 5 Point Café. It doesn’t occupy a huge space, though the tall ceilings and floor-level windows that look onto Cedar make it feel relatively spacious. It seems as though in the remodel to restaurant-ready they kept some of the original elements like exposed bricks and beams and big, metal-frame slant windows. The ring of postcards tacked just above the top of the banquette, which I’m told were collected by owner/chef Ba Culbert, give the place a kind of accessible, homey feel that complements the food.
The first of two starters, the salt cod croquettes with salsa verde, was good, but a little overly-breaded for me. The second, pictured here, was 180 degrees different in style and flavor and seemed a little out of place on the menu but was outstanding: Served in a tiny cast-iron skillet, the ground lamb kefta in a Moroccan spiced tomato sauce with feta, kalamata olives and grilled bread.
From there, on to the entrees, the first of which was among the specials for the evening. A perfectly cooked trio of pan-seared scallops served with stewed farro, Israeli couscous, lemon yogurt and trumpet mushrooms.
I generally avoid eating chicken in restaurants because I’m all for sampling something more exotic, something less likely to make an appearance in my own kitchen, but on this occasion I made an exception after spying it one table over. Although a seemingly simple preparation of pan-seared chicken served with a Hubbard squash puree and brussels sprouts, this part of the meal was far and away the best.