You crawl up Highway 99, barely keeping pace in the right lane, for fear that if you miss the driveway you’ll be jettisoned over the bridge and into that foreign land that is “North of the Shipping Canal”. Your speed, which is much more in alignment with the Senior Citizen community that used to frequent this establishment, is in direct contrast to your Spring couture and daring high heels, because if there’s anywhere in Seattle you can wear true fashion in March, it’s here. Pulling in, you are greeted by the famous valets, who mysteriously remember which car is yours, and escort you into an evening of sheer bliss. Arriving inside, it is one smiling, beautiful face after another, seeming to know instantly what you want even before you do, and existing for no other reason than to meet your needs.
Yes, dear readers, we are talking about Canlis. An icon of the Seattle food scene, that has existed for generations, but has recently undergone a transformation, albeit subtle, to reinvent itself to a modern destination of creativity and cache, while still maintaining its old values of service and elegance.
We were there at the invitation of one of the owners, Brian Canlis, who took over the restaurant from his parents in 2003, being joined a few years later by his brother Mark. Two foodie friends, enjoying a night out on the town, and feasting on the spectacular cuisine and impeccable service, that Canlis both promises and delivers.
It was a meal of epic proportion, each dish better than the last, delighting the senses and aweing the eyes. Yes, Canlis is spendy, there’s no denying that, but for an evening of true celebration or fun, you’d be hard pressed in Seattle to find anything better.
Here, a few of our favorite dishes that seemed to magically arrive at our table, whisked out by the never-ending team of servers that would appear without you seeing them coming, and be gone before you’d lifted your eyes from whatever masterpiece had just been delivered.
The Canlis Prawns are ambrosial, and utterly satisfying. Lucky for us, Canlis is willing to share the recipe on that one.
On we went from there, to perhaps the most beautiful dish of the night, and a personal favorite: The Foie Gras.: A torchon accompanied by rabbit rillette, Sauternes, and pine ash, served with a warm brioche.
The Crab Cake followed, which our server endearingly (and accurately) described as, “about the size of a hockey puck”. While this dish lacked the “wow” factor of some of its predecessors and followers, it was fully consumed and enjoyed, nonetheless.
I won’t taunt you with the detail of everything else we had: The Canlis Salad: a standard at the restaurant and worth trying. Hamachi Sashimi: A complex and pleasing collection of flavors. The Halbibut: A standout of the evening, pan seared and served with cannellini beans, Spanish chorizo, and taggiasca olives.
The evening ended with a perfect cappuccino (from Chicago’s boutique Intelligentsia not Starbucks, bien sur) and desserts from Canlis’ pastry chef that have you going back for bite after bite, despite declaring, “I’m never eating again.” The Mille-Feuille: Milk chocolate, banana, caramel, and peanut butter and The Chocolate Fondant: With ginger, milk crumble, and toasted rice are both to die for.
Start saving your pennies and getting out your shiniest shoes for a dinner at Canlis. You won’t be disappointed. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of your best champagne, imagine there’s a piano player in your kitchen, and enjoy these few recipes, compliments of Canlis itself.
Peter Canlis Prawns
5-15 Black Tiger Prawns, 16/20s, shells removed and reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice, fresh squeezed
1/4 cup vermouth, Lejon Extra Dry
1/4 cup Shrimp Butter (recipe follows)
sea salt & pepper to taste
baby greens for garnish
Heat a stainless steel pan with the olive oil on high heat. Just before smoking point, add cleaned prawns and sear, adding salt and pepper. When half cooked, pour off excess oil and add garlic. Remove the pan from the heat and de-glaze with vermouth and lime juice. Add the chilies, return pan back to the heat, and reduce liquid by half. Add Shrimp Butter and adjust seasoning. Remove prawns and arrange on the plate around baby greens. Finish with sauce coating the tops of the prawns. Shrimp Butter: Roast the shrimp shells in convection oven at 500° for 2 minutes, or until pink. Add shells to blender with an equal amount of boiling hot butter and let blend for a few minutes until the shells are completely broken down. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and chill in an ice bath, whisking the butter to bring it back together.
The Canlis Salad
(serves 4 to 6)
1 large head Romaine hearts, cut into 1″ pieces
(Wash individual leaves in warm water, drain and dry in colander then chill in refrigerator. Don’t ever, ever toss a Canlis Salad with warm or wet leaves!!)
8 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup very well done chopped bacon
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh mint*
1 tablespoon thinly sliced oregano leaves
1/2 cup croutons*
kosher salt and fresh ground tellicherry black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground tellicherry black pepper
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 coddled egg*
Mint – you can’t use too much mint (experiment yourself)
Coddled Egg – Pour boiling water into a cup and put a whole egg (in the shell) into the hot water , let sit for 1 minute. You may substitute with pasteurized egg mixture (found in the dairy section in cartons).
Croutons - We make our own croutons. Butter and Italian seasoning.
To make the dressing, put the salt and pepper, lemon juice, oil, and coddled egg in a bowl and whip vigorously, then reserve. To a salad bowl add the prepared Romaine, green onion, cheese, bacon, oregano, and mint. Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly. Split the salad on to four chilled plates and arrange croutons, a sprinkle of Romano cheese and halved cherry tomatoes on the salad to finish the presentation.