2808 East Madison Street
Seattle WA 98112
How Better to Say Farewell Than in French
By: Robin P
Editor's Note: With joy and sorrow, this is Robin's last review with Chef Seattle. Deciding to fulfill her dreams, she is venturing off to the far yonders of the East Coast to continue her schooling and receive her Masters. Robin has been a great editor and writer for Chef Seattle and she will be dearly missed.
My visit to Rover's was my first time at this celebrated Seattle gem. While I'm always happy to try new things, my inner cynic wondered how good "good" could be -- I had read some of the rave reviews and wondered, at some point, how can you objectively pinpoint the best restaurant in town? What does all of the rapturous praise that gets thrown around in reviews really mean?
After the first round of dishes came to our table, all my preoccupations came to a grinding halt as I began focusing on the wonderful and varied flavors of my meal. Starting with the amuse bouche (literally, "mouth amuser") which included house-cured salami and duck confit, it was clear that this food was crafted with a great deal of care, and that with eight courses to go, I was in for a real treat.
My delighted first impressions of the meal were confirmed as we enjoyed wave after wave of mouth watering courses and I found myself both struck by the fine preparation of the ingredients and the thoughtful uses to which they were put.
The Copper River Salmon with grilled spring onions, smoked bacon, and chive butter sauce included a piece of perfectly (I mean perfectly) cooked piece of salmon with accompaniments that provided a surprisingly pleasurable and interesting balance of savory, herby and tangy. I got the feeling that the restaurant chefs had taken time to develop a really excellent recipe and had not simply thrown together something that patrons thought would be good or that used flashy ingredients. I spent a good portion of the meal marveling at what amazing flavors seemingly humble ingredients like salmon and spring onions can do when in the right hands.
The Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Bing Cherries and Almond Gastrique absolutely exploded with flavor. The foie gras had the distinct flavor of liver without being overpoweringly strong, and each bite released a rich, savory, unique taste. The cherries were a wonderful foil, with just the right level of tartness cutting the through the fatty flavor of the foie gras, resulting in a complex and utterly delicious dish. This isn't just good cooking -- it's genuine artistry.
To be sure, while the ingredients are "humble" only in the sense that they are not exotic or trendy--they are not humble in quality. Everything was absolutely top-notch. Rover's head chef, award winning Thierry Rautureau, uses items that are local, organic and seasonal, and this plays no small role in the fabulous flavors of the dishes. Although the foie gras and lamb medallions were real scene-stealers, I appreciated the finely-prepared peas and spinach that accompanied two of the courses too. Every component was fresh and prepared to bring out the best in itself.
The plating and presentation of our meals was the way I imagined this kind of haute cuisine would be-artfully dotted sauces, towers of finely diced cucumber-which at first it can look overly precious and fancy. On one level, the presentation is an important component to the overall dining experience. However, if you're like me and tend to roll your eyes at this kind of thing, I encourage you to look past it and focus more on your taste buds than your eyes. There is a great deal of substance behind the style that should not be overlooked.
All of this spectacular food came served in a surprisingly simple and unpretentious atmosphere. The interior had plain white walls, punctuated with a few pieces of modern artwork. The one extravagant detail was the placement of several very large flower bouquets on various ledges around the dining area. I felt like the interior wasn't trying to tell me what I should experience through decor, it let the food speak for itself.
Service was completely professional and courteous, befitting a high-end establishment like this. The staff were very accommodating, for example by encouraging substitutions and sending several servers to our table at once to ensure our large party were all served at the same time. Throughout the meal, it felt like the servers were being attentive without interrupting too much so that it was easy to hold a conversation over dinner. As an especially nice touch, our primary server asked if we were celebrating any special occasions, and I mentioned that I was moving away for school soon. When my dessert course came out, my plate had "Bon voyage" written in chocolate across the top! I found the gesture to be very thoughtful and to me it illustrated the care and commitment of Rover's servers.
The prices are almost as much of a feature as the fine food at Rover's. With the five course prix fixe Menu Degustation running $95 and the eight course Grand Menu Degustation at $130, Rover's is in the upper tier price-wise of Seattle restaurants. Items are also available a la carte for $14-$22. While it is certainly a unique treat to dine here, quality comes at a price and diners will want to take it into consideration before making reservations, which are required.
I can understand the urge to write in superlative-laden prose after an experience like this. After thoroughly enjoying my grand menu I felt more sated and treated by a meal than I have in a long time. It wasn't simply a matter of being full-I felt overjoyed to have been able to experience such wonderful food. After such an fantastic meal, I don't want to try and decide whether Campagne or Rover's or another establishment should be among the top ten establishments in Seattle. I might not be able to qualify and rank Rover's against other restaurants, but I can say that my bouche was bien amus!
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