On Monday, October 29th, I arrive din Seattle, WA for the firs time. I got in around 8 PM and I was excited because I had always heard such great things about Seattle. I had already found Ponti on opentable and I chose it because they have a "happy hour" menu served after 9. So, I had made a reservation for 9:15, just in case my flight from Oregon was late. Amazingly, I got in on time and I drove into downtown Seattle to check into my hotel. I was just staying at a Hampton Inn but it was cool to get to go through downtown and I was staying just a few blocks from the Space Needle. So, I headed over to Ponti with actually low expectations. I had saved my more "extravagant" restaurant for the next night since I would be able to get there earlier in the evening. I was already 2 hours behind central time so I was essentially eating dinner at 11:15.
Ponti was located right on a river that flowed between Lake Union and Salmon Bay. Unfortunately it was not light out but it was still a nice view from my corner table next to several large windows. Oddly enough, my server was once again named Sarah (but this time with an H). She informed me that the salmon was the house specialty because it was caught just about an hour away and brought in daily by the fishermen (whose docks were right outside the restaurant). I told her I would peruse the menu and ordered a glass of their house Cabernet to start with. I was brought some bread and olive oil/balsamic vinegar.
The bread was obviously standard at most restaurants but it made me realize just how good simple items can be. People always talk about how they cannot cook. I hate this. They have just never tried or they have failed in the past with dishes they were not ready to prepare. I think everyone can cook. Maybe some people have to follow a recipe but if they just taught themselves a few key techniques (these can be found on Food Network, not just through cooking classes) then they wold be able to succeed. The bread with the dipping oil and vinegar is a perfect example. It would take about 2 minutes to make this in your own kitchen (and most of that 2 minutes would be taken up by the cutting of the bread). It just reminded me of how good different kitchen items are great when they are mixed together to make a hybrid menu item but also fantastic all alone as well.
Ok, so back to the restaurant...I ended up going wtih the an appetizer of 3 Kushi Oysters on the half shell and the Grilled King Salmon for my main dish. The manager added a nice touch when he brought me a small crape cake on micro greens and a very generous sample of the Alsache Riesling. The crab cake was very smooth in texture and was fantastic. Obviously they felt the wine paired well with it and I have to agree with them. The creaminess of the crab cake paired very nicely with the dry, floral, earthy Riesling. Further, I did not have to pay for it, fantastic start to my meal.
The oysters came quickly after that. Kushi are a type of oyster that are smaller but they were very buttery and less briny then larger oysters I have had in the past. Something I had never seen before was they served the raw oysters with a Mango Habenero Granite and fresh lemon. This may sound gross but it was amazing how the granite melted in your mouth and then there was an explosion of the fruit and the heat mixed with the buttery oyster. I really like this concept and I hope more restaurants try something different like this other then the typcial mignonette sauce (red wine vinegar, shallot and some herbs or garlic). Further, the heat of the granite did not overwhelm the oysters. I do not know if this was due to the type of oyster I was eating or simply the granite itself.
On to the main dish, my grilled salmon. First, it was a huge filet of salmon. HUGE. It was served a yellow and white chantrelle risotto and Sauteed (ever so lightly) cherry tomatoes and zucchini with extra virgin olive oil (just the right amount to coat the veggies) and fresh basil. The fish was amazing. I was immediately smacked in the nose with a truly smoky/woodsy aroma. Mixing the smoky salmon with the creamy risotto was just amazing. I felt like my mouth developed ADD and I could not figure out what to focus on. Then I tried mixing the salmon with the veggies. I really enjoyed the this because the chef did not over cook the veggies. So, the veggies brought this simple freshness to the already fantastically fresh (and large) fish.
Overall, this was a fantastic surprise to me. I truly was expecting your standard fish joint with good fish simply because it was so fresh and readily available in the northwest. However, I was treated to a great experience. I think more restaurants should take a page from Ponti. They were more focused on exposing me to their menu with their free offerings rather then simply letting me choose my dishes and then paying the tab. That is what brings people back. Word travels when people get a free crab cake and everyone obviously would swoon over the paired sample of wine.
I would love to go to Ponti again when the sun is setting and I could have an added aesthetic benefit from the surroudings. All in all, two thumbs up.