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As more clients shed their cabin fever and begin booking supper reservations, I have a prediction I’m selected about: Your upcoming greatest wonderful-dining practical experience will be the tasting menu.

In the course of this pandemic, the most memorable foods I’ve experienced shared just one thing: They have been all prix fixe menus, showcasing a procession of 5 to 11 little plates selected by the chef.

Several tasting menus had a plant aim. A few had a operating time as very long as Doctor Zhivago. But the dishes were imaginative with a narrative thread that speaks to our neighborhood seasons — root veggies, koji and fermented noshes for the duration of the dim of winter season and, now, asparagus and other bounties of spring.

If you haven’t stepped into a cafe on weekends but, deliver your patience, simply because the sector is nevertheless flailing from arguably the worst labor shortages in recent memory. That indicates services is frequently slow. Dishes from time to time really do not appear out in the suitable sequence.

The tasting menu may perhaps be the only way all around these shortcomings till those assist-wanted adverts for servers and cooks get loaded.

Why? Due to the fact a tasting menu enables a chef to do more with much less. It reduces some requires for staffing and concerns about stock when both of those labor and supply chain issues are issues. For a social gathering of 4, a line prepare dinner usually desires to make four of the similar dish on a tasting menu as opposed to syncing up 4 various dishes on an a la carte menu.

It’s not a coincidence that during the pandemic, fancy restaurants these types of as Canlis and Cafe Juanita ditched the a la carte model for tasting menus. Even the most important cafe opening in the course of the pandemic, Tomo in White Center, went straight to a five-system set in the eating space with only a limited meals giving at its bar.

A established menu will take most selection-producing out of your palms, but you are in very good hands when your meal is curated by James Beard award-winning chef Brady Ishiwata Williams of Tomo or an previous hand like Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita in Kirkland.

The best meal I’ve experienced in the course of the pandemic was at Cafe Juanita. Weekend reservations for this Northern Italian-motivated tasting menu are booked out weeks in advance, with a prolonged waitlist. But you can score a desk simply if you dine on a Tuesday or Wednesday at 5 p.m. or just after 8 p.m. Cafe Juanita a short while ago raised the price tag of its meat and seafood tasting menus from $165 to $195. But you can also score some stellar tasting menus for 50 percent that cost all around town.

Down below are my present-day four beloved tasting menus in the Puget Audio location.

Cafe Juanita

9702 N.E. 120th Spot, Kirkland 425-823-1505

Tasting menus (11 plates): Carnivore or pescatarian ($195), vegetarian ($145) and vegan ($140).

At Cafe Juanita you get the feeling that your knowledge is quietly but firmly in fantastic hands — and, like the best dining establishments, it will usher you to a wonderful night without ever feeling pushed or cajoled. There’s a calming perception that the front and back again of the house have every little thing beneath regulate. It’s a sensation that begins when you hand about your car or truck keys on arrival at the front doorway of the restaurant. The service is as muted as the black attire that the staff members wears, but there’s a self esteem and competence that doesn’t need to about-talk. The food items they bring does the most important chatting.

No a single plates a a lot more exquisite tasting menu than James Beard award-winning chef Smith, who orchestrates a nicely-paced eating practical experience with 11 bites and modest plates around the system of two to a few several hours.

Even if you have never ever been to Northern Italy, you’ll sense that Smith is transporting you to a particular area in the Aged Globe — 30-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano seems all over. The pasta may be stuffed with oxtail or rabbit. Barolo and Barbaresco wines are common.

The menus vary every single week with a assortment of soup, pasta, meat and vegetarian dishes. The kitchen starts your palate off with a thing fresh new or raw — possibly a medley of spot prawns, Hokkaido sea scallop and octopus perched in a pool of cuttlefish ink with a puree of oyster.

The finest bread basket resides at Cafe Juanita: from a wink to the Cheez-It cracker to a focaccia that — many thanks to the sorcery of a fantastic added virgin olive oil — preferences as if it have been wrapped in lardo.

Cafe Juanita ranks appropriate up there with Mike Easton’s Il Nido and Chef Nathan Lockwood’s Altura when it arrives to pasta royalty about the Seem.

For the meat menu, caramelle, a pasta shaped like a hard candy and stuffed with shredded lamb, drips with the unctuous juices in which the meat was braised. For the seafood tasting menu, an equally unforgettable eggy tajarin, produced briny with white sturgeon caviar and also creamy with a citrusy creme fraiche, then paired with a flute of Champagne.

Even one thing as bland sounding as a cabbage roll is one thing to behold listed here. The leaf skin tastes meaty from a simmer in a bone inventory of rabbit, hen and squab with hints of allium and black truffle.

On paper, some of these food pairings — with vermouth or really hard cider, for occasion — should not work but they seriously do, thanks to the imaginative intellect of sommelier Alexandra Stang, a mounting star in the sector.

20-two many years into its run, Cafe Juanita under chef Smith is as superior as at any time.

Cook Weaver

806 E. Roy St., Seattle 206-324-0599

Seven-program tasting menus: meat or and vegetarian option ($85) or five courses ($60).

One particular of the best values for tasting menus, this set training course is priced about $30 cheaper than the heading amount for these an eclectic lineup. Cook dinner Weaver’s pivot to a tasting menu has turned out to be a wonderful 2nd act for Zac Reynolds, one particular of the city’s unheralded chefs who deftly melds Asian, European, South American and African flavors with lower- and highbrow touches — from a Cheetos-crusted casserole to a Champagne foam.

His plant-primarily based emphasis lineup contains stinging nettle dumpling and smoked beet “kofta.” One particular of his ideal vegan dishes, Reynolds’ fermented carrots are roasted in cumin and chili oil and completed in a smoker with applewood for a savory twang. Served in a taco of spongy injera, they connect with to brain a transnational carnitas. For procrastinators, or individuals inept at organizing date night, this Capitol Hill bistro is however under-the-radar ample that you can typically rating a last-moment reservation.


9811 16th Ave. S.W. White Centre

Tasting menus: 5-training course meat or vegetarian ($78)

This plant-centric bistro does not update its menu on the net because the cooking team experiments with clean bounties as late as two hrs before services. Former Canlis chef Brady Ishiwata Williams lets the year dictate what is for supper. He served the very best vegetarian dish I had very last yr, squash bathed in an eggy miso and then grilled and served with hemp pudding, toasted hemp seeds, pickled squash and an arugula-infused oil. The combo imbued the plant with nutty, smoky and peppery flavors. 

Tomo is all about checking out the boundaries of veggies, from foraged maple blossoms to celery root steamed in dashi broth. As at Cook dinner Weaver, if you choose for the carnivore tasting menu, meat and seafood will even now enjoy a supporting function. Take in your veggies is the mantra below. With the substantial value of meat and the plant-dependent diet plan movement along with all the environmental factors, Tomo hints at what our potential in good dining might search like.


2576 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle 206-283-3313

Tasting menu: meat, seafood and vegetarian selections ($165)

Canlis stays a person of the best reservations in Seattle as seemingly every single New and Previous Funds Seattleite, and these celebrating a distinctive situation, desires a seat for the debut of govt chef Aisha Ibrahim.

Seattle’s most storied good dining institution prides alone on getting slicing edge, so of program, Canlis just can’t give just the usual tasting menu format. The post-pandemic Canlis (at minimum for now) offers a minimal a few-training course menu with preference of vegetarian, seafood or meat for starter and entree.

The Canlis magic starts off just after you place your buy, as a person by one, artfully plated bites appear that didn’t appear on your menu.

Among the unlisted courses is the famed Canlis salad. The other surprises are the fingerprints of Ibrahim, who has labored at triple-Michelin-starred eating places Manresa and Azurmendi and whose dishes lean toward Japanese umami influences. Relying on the whim of the chef, you could get a cod cocooned in a tempura batter or an aged kampachi wrapped in shiso leaf. You can examine extra about Canlis in our 1st evaluate right after a hiatus from my colleague Bethany Jean Clement.