The Walrus and the Carpenter is one of Seattle's hottest "NOW" spots. It's gotten lots of good press; in particular, GQ Magazine gives it a top new restaurants in America nod (January 2011). Oysters are their cup of tea, and they do that the best.They have quite the variety, and the presentation was just lovely. However, their small plate dishes were hit and miss. You could very easily have a really great meal, and conversely, you might very well have a less-than-stellar experience. Being the big orderer that I am, we had just about everything on their menu. I'll tell you what you should get and what you should skip.
Have a beer or a glass of wine at the adjoining coffee/bike shop while you wait.
The coffee shop has excellent salted chocolate chip cookies to sweeten the wait too!
The featured cocktails menu gives lots of opportunity for experimenting, and everyone was generally happy their choices.
Oysters: Get them!
This is the reason to visit The Walrus and the Carpenter. Several choices, and something for everyone - even Friend Jeff and Friend Kris ate one! If you're looking for a small oyster, try the Olympia. The Olympia oyster is also the only native oyster, and I like the Kusshi (British Columbia).
Utz Brand Potato Chips for a buck: Skip it!
These were nothing special; they could have been Lay's for all practical purposes. In all fairness, I should have read the menu more clearly because I was expecting house made, kettle-style chips. I did go to the trouble of looking up Utz Brand, with headquarters in Pennsylvania, and it looks just like a regular small snack company. I think I would have preferred Washington's local potato monger, Tim's, which hails environmental excellence.
Marinated Picholine Olives: Get it!
Who doesn't like snacking on olives? What I liked about these briny bites are how easily the olive meat pulled away from the seed. It made for a much neater pitting process in my mouth.
Smoked Trout: Get it!
The smoked trout was the best dish of the night. The plate was complete with a salad of lentils, walnuts, creme fraiche, and pickled red onion. Everything about it was deliciousness. I wish I had a plate of it right now.
White Anchovy Tartine: Anchovy fans should get it! Skip it, otherwise.
Crostini, smashed avocado, smoked paprika, and the anchovy with onion. Friend Keri is an anchovy fan, and she loved this. Friend Kris, however, did not concur. In fact, he said, "Never again." It was good, but I think the avocado would have been better on the side - or not at all. Friend Jeff thought the avocado was great though, but he'd eat avocado on his breakfast cereal.
Queso Iberico and Tomato Jam: Get it!
Spanish cheese is among my favorites, so I must recommend it.
I picked this for Friend Kris, the blue cheese lover. There was chatter at the table about not getting the "Cheese with raisins," but everyone was delighted when it arrived. It's hard to go wrong with cheese, isn't it?
Yes, for sure get this one. For my birthday breakfast, I always request a cheese plate with fresh honeycomb, and this was like an early birthday present. I loved the thin tangerine slices; I even ate the skin. I loved, loved this plate. It had me singing, "Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah," which you know was a pleasure for all those around. (Friend Jennifer, I'm sure you would have liked that, right?)
Dinah's Cheese and Ballard Bee Co. Honey with Tangerine
I don't promise anything spectacular, but you might like it. The preparation reminded me of the Blasted Broccoli from Black Bottle, but ours was a little too blasted. It didn't leave me clamoring for the last bite.
Stick with the raw oysters on the half shell. We did not finish this plate. Friend Jeff said, "It was good. Ehh, it was okay. I mean, I didn't hate it. I mean, I didn't throw up." He tried it, so he gets credit. As I'm sure you know, I love cornmeal batter, but it was left in the fryer a tad too long.
I like mushrooms a lot, and this plate was good. Good mushroom texture, and they were prepared just right. The poached egg was a nice touch. Big portion, good for sharing.
Sunchoke Soup: Get it!
Do you know what a sunchoke is? It's also called an "Earth Apple" or better known as a "Jerusalem Artichoke," though no relation to Jerusalem. The sunchoke, which looks a little bit like ginger, is a relative of the daisy. There's some trivia. Now, you can act smart at the dinner table.
Anyway, it's served in a pretty good sized bowl with strips of speck and apple sticks. I would have been quite satisfied if this was the only thing I had all night; of course, we all know I'd never order just one thing.
I swear the picture quality is not an indication of how I feel about the geoduck. You should get the geoduck if you've never had it, and if you like geoduck, you'll like this. It was prepared with shaved radish slices, Meyer lemon, and a Capezzana Nuovo oil, but the geoduck was definitely the star of the plate. Dear Ben and Friend Jeff thoroughly enjoyed it. I feel indifferent towards it. I think I need to try it again.
Warm Potato Salad: Get it!
Salty fingerling potatoes on a bed of peppery arugula with tangy capers and a mustard vinaigrette. I like everything on this plate, so I enjoyed it very much. It's a good plate for picky eaters too. Good portion size.
Skip it because there are better things, not necessarily because this is a bad dish. Friend Keri did not like it, but it was fine. I think she didn't like the picked vegetables. How do you not like salami? The Serrano ham wrapped around apples looked better. In fact, there was an uproar from Friend Keri when she saw someone else get the Serrano ham, "Why didn't we get that!?!"
Grilled Sardine Tartine: Skip It!
I'm sorry to say that no one at the table had anything positive to say about it. Bread, thick slices of butter, sliced radish, cornichon, and sardines. It was a little too fishy, both in smell and taste. Friend Keri said she would not even try it after seeing my face. I didn't think I had that sour of a look.
Steak Tartar: Maybe?
Friend Keri just ate this up, but I wasn't impressed. Friend Jeff and Dear Ben liked it too. Friend Kris, did you have any?
Baked Clams: Skip It!
These clams come with chorizo. I guess that's a common combination, since I've had three times at three different restaurants lately. This was my least favorite preparation, even though it appears to be the most dolled up of all, with spinach, cream, and bread crumbs. The clams did not stand out. I guess sometimes less really is more.
Kale Gratin: Skip It!
Actually, I'm on the fence about ordering this plate. It was rich with gruyere cheese, hazelnuts, and tarragon, but too watery. If you just eat the top gratin layer, you might never notice the excess liquid. Again, there are just better things on the menu.
Chicken Liver Moose: Skip It!
The candied squash and dried cherries couldn't make this appetizing to me. I wanted to try it and like it, but I'll just be honest. I gagged. Friend Jeff liked it the most, but I think even he might tell you to skip it in favor of something else. This was not a very good way to end the meal, unfortunately.
As you can see, there are several really great items on the menu, but others that tainted my overall impression. It seems that the better plates were delivered first, and the plates that did not suit my tastes were at the end of the meal. Maybe the rhythm of the food was off, or maybe we were just too full to enjoy the latter dishes. I liked the restaurant style though, so I'll likely be back when the menu rotates - or just for oysters.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
4783 Ballard Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98107