2043 Eastlake Ave. E
Seattle WA 98102
Heavenly Food on an Earthly Plane
By: Steve G
The word serafina, can be translated as "From a seraph", which is the highest choir of angel. While there were no angels serving us while we ate at Serafina in Eastlake, it left us with a heavenly afterglow that made us wonder if we just died and went to heaven.
Walking through the doors of Serafina, a small, intimate bar greets incoming patrons. On the ever-busy weekends, it's a great spot for a pre-dinner drink while waiting for your table. The sound coming from the dining room can be a described as a loud and energetic, but not deafening. Although that might sound off-putting, you'll quickly see that it comes simply from patrons having a great time.
Serafina adds to the lively atmosphere by playing host to a variety of live jazz groups. To our disappointment, we visited on a day that a band was not scheduled (a music schedule is available on their website). From families, friends, and cozy couples, Serafina seems to attract a wide variety of customers. The layout is tight and intimate, making for some interesting people-watching. Lighting is playful and unique, with string and bulb style placements, cloth sconces and several antique lamps. The mood is dim, but not cavernous, so you can leave the flashlights at home.
On the seasonal menu, the Chef John Neumark has presented a tour of flavors for both the Italian and American palates. From classics such as the Lasagna al Ragu ($18), to the American influenced Coniglio Brasato ($23), a braised rabbit dish, Serafina has a menu selection that can delight any food lover. Pastas are available in both primi (first course) or secondi (entree) size for a few dollars extra. Eggplant lovers must try the Melanzane alla Serafina ($19), as this is Serafina's signature offering. Oh and lest we forget you wine aficionados: Serafina has a long wine list; 28 pages to be exact.
Grant, Bryan and I, taking advantage of the Dine Around Seattle promotion (formerly the $25 for 25), opted for the Crostoni ($10) and the Pancia ($10) for our starters.The Crostoni was a baked bread appetizer with mozzarella, arugula and batuto (Italian herb mixture). Feeling more like a cream cheese toast with a side of jam, it left us wanting a bit more. The Pancia, a recommended dish, was much better. The crisp, thin slices of pork belly had a taste that falls somewhere in between pork rind and bacon. The sauteed apple sauce combined with the rich pork flavor brought together the contrasting yet complimentary flavors of sweet and tart.
The Oregon Rack of Lamb ($30) was very tender and generously sized. Accompanied by a similar sauce to the Pancia, the result was a red, meaty flavor tinged with a tart sweetness. Not to be outdone, the side of chopped brussel sprouts, bacon, and glazed carrots were quite good in their own right as well.
The Capriolo ($26.95), a roasted venison loin, is an appropriately named menu item. Capriolo is the name of a town in Italy, whose municipal coat of arms depicts a leaping deer. The venison had a tamed gaminess flavor on par with lamb, and had a steak-like texture that wasn't dry or hard. Bryan, who had the Capriolo, definitely recommend as an introductory dish for those wanting to experiment with game meat.
When the Cannelloni con Spinaci($30.00) arrived, it came piping hot. I learned first-hand that when your server recommends waiting before digging in, pay attention. Layered in thick layers of cheese, the dish is for great for those looking for a rich taste and creamy flavored meal. Like the lamb, the cannelloni portions were generous as well.
If the idea of truffles gets your mouth watering, then you will fall head over heels for the Trota al Tartufo ($21.95), a stuffed trout with artichokes and an explosion of truffles. Death by truffles would be another phrase that could sum up the experience as the meal left Trish talking about the truffles long after the meal was over. The trout had a fine flaky texture and broke apart at the slightest touch of the fork.
The desserts were just as heavenly as the entrees. Light and fluffy, the Butterscotch Pudding (not to be confused with the Butterscotch Panna Cotta) was simply an amazing dessert. Smooth and creamy, it had the right amount of weight without being overly sweet or thick. The Torta di Cioccolata e Mandorla ($8) was pure, velvety chocolate and toasted almonds starring in a flourless torte, served with chocolate-amaretto sauce and whipped cream. The amaretto sauce and whipped cream both add a light and strong texture and taste to the dish that is sure to delight chocolate lovers.
Last but not least, the service at Serafina was one of the best experiences we've had. It was on par with our near perfect experience at Tropea and Tosoni's - all coincidentally Italian restaurants. Our server, Jen, was very friendly and happy to offer recommendations when asked. She was outgoing and engaging, and impressed us with her own enthusiasm for the food and her work. The rest of Serafina's staff was on the ball as well, making sure glasses were filled, along with our bread and oil (very addictive).
Most notable was that even in the crowded and often hectic environment, we observed the staff during some rare moments of down time being jovial and positive. Serving can be an incredibly stressful job, but if Serafinas servers can stay upbeat on a busy night, this establishment is clearly doing something right.Outstanding food, stellar service, an artful environment and very reasonably priced meals made Serafina's one of our easiest choices for our Chef Seattle Editor's Choice award.
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