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A Diner With a Wine List

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: May 18, 2009 10:00am ET

There wasn't any steelhead (a salmon-like fish) on the menu at the Steelhead Diner, but the halibut was terrific. So were the Totten Inlet oysters and the razor clam chowder. And if that weren't enough Pacific Northwest gastronomy, the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence-winning wine list of abut 120 wines offered nothing but Washington and Oregon wines.

I've been meaning to get to this place, adjacent to Seattle's Pike Place Market, ever since owner-chefs Kevin and Terresa Davis opened it in 2007. I had a couple of hours before I had to head to the airport, so I dropped in for lunch.

Friends, this is my kind of diner. No "Adam and Eve on a raft" here. It’s what I think of as "American bistro" food: simple fare with enough sophistication to lift it out of the ordinary. The white chowder, for example, would have satisfied a New Englander (which I am, having been born in Boston) with its balance of bacon, herbs, potatoes and celery. The Pacific Northwest razor clams gave it a local touch. I also liked the truffle oil drizzled on sparingly just before serving.

Virginica oysters, an eastern flat species grown locally in Puget Sound waters, have become something of a Seattle speciality. These came with the usual lemon wedges and a little cup of granité made from mignonette, the wine, vinegar and shallot dipping sauce for oysters. From the by-the-glass list, I enjoyed the fresh, lively Cedergreen Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2007 with the oysters and the chowder.

The nicely seared halibut rested on a shallow bowl of sautéed peppers, black olives, potatoes and thin slices of Spanish chorizo. The mixture had plenty of flavor of its own without overpowering the fish. In a side dish, chunks of asparagus made friends with fried capers (like caper poppers), orange zest and marcona almonds in a pan roast. A glass of berry-fresh A to Z Rosé Oregon 2008 made a nice match.

I was focusing on seafood, but the menu has plenty of meat and poultry items as well, such as a chicken and andouille gumbo, pork chops (with farro risotto) and steaks (with heirloom potatoes).

Prices on the wine list mostly slide in under $50 a bottle, and the wineries read like a who's who of the Pacific Northwest. Big names such as Argyle, Domaine Drouhin, Woodward Canyon and DeLille rub shoulders with obscure but excellent producers such as Dominio IV, Cavatappi, Mark Ryan and J.K. Carriere. Several on the list, such as Chinook or McCrea, don't even get outside the area. There are some older wines, too, such as Col Solare 2000 for $66.

It's a great way to get a quick immersion course in Pacific Northwest wines, gaze out the window over Elliott Bay, and eat well while doing it.

Steelhead Diner
72 South Washington Street, Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 625-0129
Open from 11 am to 10 pm daily

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