Saturday, March 27, 2010

To SIP or not to SIP? (Seattle)

Whenever there is a new restaurant I am always overcome with a sense of excitement. The shiny newness of it all, the cuisine, the décor, the wine… the high I get from it is almost as good as the high I get when trying on a new pair of Louboutins. So, after a few failed attempts to attend dinner at SIP Wine Bar in Seattle- The new, chicly designed restaurant on the corner of 5th and Madison, I finally got the excuse I needed- business associates in town from LA.

Now typically when entertaining, I don’t go to anywhere that is not tried and true- especially with business associates. After all, one bad meal with them can be like a couture gown that doesn’t quite fit right- Disaster. However a good friend of mine had tried SIP a few weeks prior and had enjoyed it, so I decided it was as safe a bet as any.

Realistically, I should have known that my evening was going to be doomed from the start… After all I, MOI, moi whose barbarism extends to the need to consume a piece of bloodied red meat every other day or else I will be bitchier than I already am, was going to dinner with an AA member and a f-ing vegetarian. The thought of it alone is enough to send me into a rib-eye and vodka induced frenzy for the next week and a half.

Anyway, upon arrival, I was overjoyed to discover that there was actually valet service. For those of you that don’t know me, that is one of my biggest complaints about this city since moving from LA- NO VALET ANYWHERE! Can you imagine moi in my environmentally unfriendly Escalade, circling the block looking for parking? WHO DOES THAT? I mean really, it’s quite uncivilized. I don’t know how Seattle has managed to function for so long having to park its own cars. Ugh. Anyway, so after I pulled into said valet and handed them the ticket, I noticed that it was $9.00… Ummm first of all, valet service at Boa on Sunset is $8.00, and that is in freakin LA. This is on the corner of 5th and Madison in SEATTLE… Just a tad overpriced I think… But, as with shoes, yours truly is willing to pay the premium for quality.

After entering the restaurant, and admiring their wall of wine display, we were led up the ramp, past the cocktail crowd to our table by the lovely towering windows that enclose the whole of the restaurant. After reviewing the somewhat extensive menu, we decided on crab cakes with a granny smith apple and fennel root slaw. The flavors were fantastic with a light curry essence and the meyer lemon crème fraiche was delicious. The crab was succulent and had the perfect texture of creamy richness and a caramelized crust to incase it. Needless to say my palette was inspired and I was now hungry for more.

For my main course I selected the scallops, which were accompanied by a potato squash hash and house cured pancetta. Talk about a complete and utter let down. While I must say that the dish is a conceptual work of art, the execution was unfortunately not something that designated it so.

Upon arrival to the table, it was apparent that my dish had been sitting under a heat lamp for at least ten minutes, as the quince soubise had formed a layer of film on the top and the hash did not have a freshly whipped texture, but instead, the dull, sad look of mediocre potatoes that had been sitting out on Thanksgiving for too long. I don’t know about you, but when I think of a soubise sauce, I become elated- the lovely flavor of the onion and the silken texture of the volute that gets incorporated so the texture is creamy, but yet light enough to just barely coat the back of a spoon. Well in this case t’was not so. The sauce, while rich in flavor was a bit heavy for my taste, and the sheer fact that they had allowed enough time to elapse that the crème had formed a film on top, was enough to make me unappetized at first glance. My three miniscule scallops weren’t glossy, golden and caramelized, but instead the tops were an opaque white, with a dark black burnt rim around the edges. When I cut into the poor scallop, it was rubbery and overcooked. Now, I have no issue with miniscule scallops, I understand haute cuisine, but just like haute couture, the execution must be flawless in order for it to work. I doubt Valentino would send one of his signature red frocks down the runway with an unfinished hem, so I have no idea why the chef would have sent out overcooked scallops.

This restaurant gained back a few brownie points in my book with their dessert- a Key Lime Pie, which was actually more along the lines of a tartlet. The crust was made from crushed cookies and was buttery and crumbly in consistency. The custard was a bit sweeter than I would have liked, but tasty nonetheless, and I thought that the toasted coconut flakes added texture and gave the presentation an edge.

Overall, I have to say that I was terribly unenthused by this restaurant. I wanted to like it, I really did. The décor, while a bit hotel restaurant-ish, was still chic and quite comfortable. The live jazz band was also a plus as I find it a rare treat that Seattle restaurants be musically inclined. However, all that being said, I will not be venturing back to give it a second chance.

I like to think of myself as having a photographic memory. When it comes to fashion, I can tell you exactly what dress/shoe/bag I saw come down the runway in any given season that I will forever associate with its designer. When it comes to food, I can tell you exactly what I ate at any given restaurant that will forever haunt me in a fabulous way or otherwise. Unfortunately for SIP, it’s the latter.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet may have suggested that it’s nobler to suffer outrageous fortune, and in this specific case, my misfortune was that I had to suffer through an entire dinner of sub-par food that in any other situation I would have sent back. But old Billy S. also suggested that we take arms and oppose the sea of troubles… And since I didn’t have the luxury to oppose my sea of troubled scallops that night, I’m doing it right now. Sorry SIP, you’re fired.

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