407 Olive Way
Seattle WA 98101
Andaluca Among the Best in Seattle Fine Dining
By: Steve G
Andaluca was a refreshing change of pace for our Chef Seattle reviewers. Defying the normal chic trend of minimalist décor and black and white walls, Andaluca is elegantly decorated with detailed woodwork and paintings that accent the lavish dark brown tables. Though small, Andaluca maximizes space while giving patrons enough breathing room to feel comfortable and cozy.
Chef Wayne Johnson took over the kitchen duties in 1999. Although he added his own flair of Mediterranean style to the menu, he still kept many of the dishes that are popular with Seattle’s regulars. Like many restaurants in the downtown area, Andaluca’s menu is updated every season to keep things fresh with variety.
The menu was fall-themed and listed a number of hearty dishes. We elected to try out several items on the menu. The crisp crust duck cakes, Tuscan tomato soup, and roasted mussels were our starter dishes. For the main course, we opted for the osso bucco, paella, and the grilled pork chops.
The crisp-crust duck cakes were served with a side of apricot chutney and a cucumber raita (yogurt) sauce. The portions were rather small, but at least the flavor was generous. Although the minced duck had a rich flavor, it was a bit overdone. However, the onions added a somewhat tangy flavor that complemented the duck quite well.
Chutney is a spicy condiment that is made from a variety of fruits or vegetables with vinegar, spices, and sugar. The apricot chutney was a too strong and daunting, as we didn’t know what to do with it. Suffice to say, we basically ignored it. The raita was a cucumber yogurt sauce with a slight hint of dill. It was a little tame in flavor as it didn’t contribute to the overall flavor as much as we would like. It might have been better to serve the duck with a sauce that had a little more kick to it.
Bryan noted that the Tuscan tomato soup was a dark red hue with a very thick consistency and he was expecting a very smooth and creamy experience. Surprisingly, the soup was a more hearty texture that was a little acidic and sweet.
The roasted mussels were cooked with chili peppers, lemon, rosemary and sizzling herbs with garlic butter. The chili flavor seemed to be lacking because it was rather meek. However, the dish also comes with a light citrus sauce that makes up for what’s missing from the mussels. The sheer size of the mussels was impressive. The shellfish looked like they hung out with Barry Bonds at BALCO because they were so gigantic. The shell was also surprisingly weak, as it seemed to crumble apart with the smallest amount of force. Of course that made us feel like Supermen, but that also posed a small problem as we had to keep a lookout for broken shells pieces sticking onto the mussels. Overall, the mussels were a little bland, but the size and portions were quite decent.
Bryan noted that the osso bucco(lamb shanks) was really great. Osso bucco consists of braised veal shanks flavored with a variety herbs and spices, such as garlic, parsley and lemon peel. Andaluca’s version uses a strong tomato-based sauce mixed with carrots, celery and onions. The result is an amazing dish. Incredibly tender, the meat seemed to fall apart at the approach of our forks. The parmesan polenta served on the side was a thick, creamy, and cheesy affair. Those not familiar with polenta will find very similar to mashed potatoes, but with a smoother and grittier texture. We have two words that best describe it: incredibly filling. The dark lamb went well with the light polenta, providing a wonderful experience both visually and to the senses.
Working like a concerted medley, the paella had an eclectic mix of ingredients. With the chaotic mixture of ingredients (tomato base, shrimp, prawns, mussels, and chicken), the saffron flavor was utterly lost. However, this paella had a thicker consistency than we’re used to. Overall, the shellfish was cooked well, but the asparagus suffered somewhat; it was rather limp and dry, and it turned out quite plain in flavor.
Topped with some cherry figs, the grilled pork chops were very delectable. Infused with the flavor of the figs on top, there was a strong, fruity accent to the meat. Andaluca’s grilled pork chop is cooked in the more conventional style, as it had a tougher, grittier texture to it. The accompanying side of grilled fingerling potatoes was a nice touch. Crispy on the outside with a warm tender center, they were like a smaller cousin of Jo-Jo potatoes. The figs by themselves weren’t entirely appealing, but the added flavor to the meat made it all worthwhile.
For dessert, we had the apple tart tatin. It was served with golden raisins and a ricotta cream on top. The dish had a subtly sweet flavor that seemed a little too subdued. The ricotta cream acted as a pseudo la mode, but we didn’t think that the substitution really worked that well. Although ice cream may be somewhat generic, we thought a regular scoop of ice cream would have been better. We also ordered the chocolate pecan torte, which was a seasonal item. Topped with apricot crème anglaise and vanilla chantilly, it had a sweet-citrus dichotomy that wasn’t very good. With its overpowering sweetness, this dessert is best left for those with a strong sweet tooth.
Though the prices can get a little steep, Andaluca compensates with portions that are larger than what you would expect at other downtown restaurants. Each dishes we had was either a complete strikeout or a big home run, much like Richie Sexton’s ’07 season with the Mariners either you loved it or hated it. Dishes like the paella and roasted mussels are not the greatest of note, but the osso bucco and the grilled pork chops are sure fire hits that are too good to pass up.