Best Seattle Restaurants 2011: Splurge-worthy Meals

From Kirkland's Cafe Juanita to Ballard's Le Gourmand, our list of local meals worth every penny.
Grilled steak with salsa verde and roasted potatoes at Eva in Tangletown

$133
Cafe Juanita
Kirkland

TRUE VALUE: A sure thing, from impeccable service to subtly sensational pastas.
When you need a special occasion to occur without a hitch, Juanita is the place.
The room is comfortable, the conversation friendly, and the servicealways knowing but with a lovely West Coast ease. And Holly Smith’s modern Italian-Northwest cuisine provides one wave of delicious fl avor after another. Each cocktail is paired with a savory snack; the pastas are supernaturally good (such as rabbit agnolotti so tiny they look as if wrought by fairies); braised meats like rabbit or pork cheeks are reliably velvety on your tongue. As with any Italian wine list, you might faint at the price of some of the Barolos, but here again, service prevails: Ask your server to guide you to a less pricey but wholly delightful regional wine.
WHAT WE ORDERED: Negroni cocktail with soft-boiled quail egg ($14) + shared
citrus and avocado salad with guanciale vinaigrette ($6.50 per person) + shared
maltagliati with lamb sugo ($8 per person) + rabbit braised in Arneis ($34) +
shared Meyer lemon torta ($5 per person) + shared Barbera d’Alba wine ($34.50
per person) + tax/tip = $133 per person

$330
Mistral Kitchen
Downtown

TRUE VALUE: This is as high art as cooking gets in this town. Bite after bite is an
epiphany. For the food obsessed, this is the best way to blow a paycheck—and
remain convinced that it was a wise investment.
Some consider the Chef’s Table dinner at Mistral Kitchen to be one of the last bastions of true fine dining in the city—every choreographed motion, from private, tableside cocktail demonstrations by celebrated mixologist Andrew Bohrer to servers who lift glass-domed cloches on cue to reveal chilled hamachi crudo, smoke-gunned so the tendrils billow out in a part-show, part-divine-dining experience, to dessert mastermind Neil Robertson, who sends out intermezzi of roasted butternut squash sorbet before he hits you with tiny meringue-domed coconut sorbets festooned with microherbs and mango purée. Chef William Belickis is the puppeteer who pulls the strings and orchestrates your experience with dishes like seared scallop in chestnut purée, and beef short ribs cooked en sous vide for two days before being blessed with the tiniest amount of glucose to get that proper sear on an otherwise supremely tender piece of meat. At $250 with wine pairings, the Chef’s Table at Mistral Kitchen is a full-on, all-senses show that delights, indulges, pampers and intrigues. The walking-on-air part? That’s free with purchase.
WHAT WE ORDERED: Tasting menu (dishes vary daily) with wine pairings ($250) + tax/tip = $330 per person

 

Le Gourmand

$156
Le Gourmand
Ballard

True value: Sit and be awed by one of Seattle’s master chefs, dazzling us as he has for years (and now in a newly glitzy dining room!). You may not be able to eat here often, but after one visit, you’ll wish you could.
Many splurge-worthy restaurants are splashy and dazzling from the start. Not Le Gourmand, whose French-inspired dishes have roots firmly in the Northwest. In almost every way, this place whispers, from its nondescript brick façade to the humble, quiet nature of chef-owner Bruce Naftaly, who is passionately devoted to regional foods and local growers and producers. No doubt you’ll get the biggest bang for your dollar ordering the Chef’s Special Tasting Menu. At $80 per person, it costs only about $15 more than ordering your own appetizer-entrée-dessert combo. And instead, you’ll be treated to seven courses that represent the whims of the chef and of the season—recently including celeriac soup with truffle, pine-and-lavender-grilled sturgeon with matsutake mushrooms, and seared foie gras with quince and blackberry. Might as well get the wine pairings, too: five specially chosen selections for $40.
What we ordered:
Tasting menu ($80) + wine
pairings ($40) + tax/tip = $156 per person


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