New! Short Forays Away…

I am adding a new feature to my blog:

“Short Forays – quick ways to make great days”. These will be quick get-away activities that have an unique appeal and provide a singular activity that gives the feel of a get-away in only a few hours. The point: less travel to special attractions and out of the ordinary experiences that give that feeling of “getting away from it all” without the prep and packing for even a few days away! These will be mainly short text descriptions (perhaps a picture or two) of something I did that made me feel like I had a relaxing and special experience that qualified as a Short Foray away. And, here goes:

A Short Foray Away: Dining – The Lounge at Canlis Seattle, WA – Late August 2015

Canlis at night. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The lounge with its little round tables. Photo courtesy of

Where: Here is an interesting introduction to this venerable Seattle restaurant. Canlis (this is an interesting website and a bit oddball!) is one of the famous old Seattle restaurant establishments run by generations of the Canlis family. It has the reputation of being a very special experience for very special occasions in which you save up your money for many months to be able to indulge, if you are “regular folk” like us!

This is perceived as a very expensive formal dining “experience”. Which is not really accurate. The food pricing is up there but not outrageous by any means. But, it is a place where you have to enjoy dressing up, cocktails or good wines, interesting food (New American Cuisine), leaving your car with the valets and other interesting FAQs about this place; and, spending some money. Canlis is known for its solicitous and meticulous service without a lot of fussing over you. This establishment is booked out far in advanced and is mainly filled with Seattle elite who are loyal, royal customers and never give the bill a second glance. It is the scene of many discreet private events held upstairs in 3 rooms with history and glorious views.

We had dinned in the dining room on our 25th anniversary, (we are on 43, now!); and, again on a friend’s birthday (a great fan of this place, the service, ambiance and their amazing coconut cake now off the menu but may be special ordered); and, enjoyed both experiences.

Why: We were curious and had an occasion to go there. There has been a change in ownership passing it down to the third generation, in the able hands of Mark and Brian Canlis, who have restyled the dining experience and menu modernizing it. My sister-in-law had a gift certificate for $250 and a 28th wedding anniversary that coincided. We were asked to join them to celebrate at Canlis. Getting a reservation was problematic even a month out. We settled on a visit to the lounge where “every hour is happy hour” according to Seattle Magazine in 2012 (the menu has changed since that writing). We could have their newest menu of small plates, fancy drinks and order dinner if we wanted. You must dress up and it is part of the fun. The people watching is intriguing: young hipsters with new money, Seattle’s staid steeped in old money and folks like us celebrating a special and notable occasion with a splurge– you’ll see some pretty fantastic hair, shoes and clothing styles! The server was excellent and slid two of the small round tables together to give us extra room. We were grateful.

The drink menu is intriguing and the wine excellent. The small plates-bar bites were priced reasonably. We tried the well-known truffle fries (good and plenty of them), the Peter Canlis Prawns (only 3 on the plate; but, great – could start a fight over bites!), a Salumi/Salami charcuterie (artistically laid out and delicious); and, the Beef Tenderloin (bite-sized pieces – quite a few – prepared in a simply flavored teriyaki sauce with a green wasabi sauce…I think we did have a table fight over that!).

The pinot nior they chose for my sister-in-law was the least expensive pour on the menu, Elk Horn Ridge from a Willamette Oregon vintner; and, she was quite happy with it. My brother was pleased with his two Thom Yorke’s cocktails (Grapefruit, Grosseille syrup, mango, and apple cider) and I sipped Martinelli’s Sparkling cider while my husband tried a peppery and savory virgin Bloody Mary and a Ginger Beer on the rocks.

Time for dinner – We split 2 servings of the very famous Canlis salad. We ordered 2 entrees the Black Cod and a filet mignon. The servers were excellent – in keeping with the Canlis tradition. The 2 entrees were split and presented on four plates, the presentation sparse and beautiful. The filet cooked to perfection at medium rare and seasoned a teeny too much with a salty sear. The black cod: Jon and I did not like at all…the predominate flavor was of a smokiness and the texture was not inviting, some call it buttery, the magic of Black Cod…my brother for one…I call it mushy and a tad slimy. Pass. Or, in our case. Pass it to my brother. Please!

We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. That is, until past owner Chris Canlis came up to us after dinner and before dessert and asked if he could take one of the tables for another couple, stating they were very busy. He was very smooth and very swift, easing the table out from under us before we could really answer. It was a rhetorical question!

And, in the few minutes after this occurred, we began feeling a bit slighted, insulted and rather unhappy! Once a table is given to you isn’t it just rude to take it away, Chris? Especially in a first come – first serve setting? We got over it…mostly…by the end of the evening.

We decided to order two desserts: yes, we dared to order the classic Canlis Grand Marnier (30 minute wait) Soufflé (a signature dessert) and a Crème Brulee, an assortment of coffees and teas while we sat at our one table and just enjoyed the piano music of Walt Wagner, check out the sound, we loved it. This was a real added bonus for us and made the evening special. It prompted my husband to Google 5 top piano bars in Seattle. Which we might just explore in another short foray away.

The dessert round was a challenge for the waiters as a result of Chris Canlis absconding with our other table and we were a bit annoyed with the juggling of glassware, dishes and ourselves to make it work. It “seemed” that we did not meet some Canlis standard and the snub was felt. Splitting entrees and dessert? Which they did happily and very well presented…so that did not seem to be the problem. It brought to mind the old Canlis urban legend about getting “the card” my Dad used to tell me about this place (and, one they admit to hearing all the time themselves at Canlis; but, say is completely untrue): if your bill was not up to Canlis standards cards were presented which asked you not return. When I told my brother of it as the table was whisked away, he commented that he had heard that it takes about 30 minutes for them to get that printed up and he implied it would arrive instead of the soufflé. Funny!

But, not to worry…the soufflé arrived early and only with our other dessert, it was beautiful and the pouring of the vanilla angliase in the expertly cracked top by the server was fun. It was tasty, the middle being the real treat as the top was a bit egg-y. The Crème Brulee was very good, the sorbet on top a surprising touch as was the little bit of gastronomically engineered magic in the center. The wait staff worked around the tiny table space beautifully.

The Final Word: We had a nice evening out – three hours of fine dining and swaying to the piano tunes! The vibe is special, the food very good and this short foray away was fun! The total bill for all was $300 (not including tip….yes, we gave them a good one in spite of the table theft as the waiters had managed to work with the situation well…Chris Canlis had bet on them, in thinking about it in retrospect); and, we had a lot of tasty, fun food, good drink and wonderful piano music. We had felt we had a bargain at only owing $50 plus gratuity. But, if I had to have paid for it ourselves for a special occasion; (and, had we kept our table), it would have still been worth it! Told ya – we are mostly over it!

I would recommend the lounge and piano bar experience…probably over the dining room! Arrive early 5:30-6pm, grab onto any tables they give you, and do not relinquish under any circumstance. No matter who asks and how nice! Experiment in your food and drink choices – sit back and relax to the tunes. This Canlis experience will leave you happy and relaxed!

2 thoughts on “New! Short Forays Away…

  1. Your experience fit to a T the feeling I have long harbored that Canlis was “too, too” for me. I am enough of a communist to resent table-snatching and feeling any kind of snobbery aimed in my direction.
    I never darken the doors of Nordstrom and try to avoid Bellevue Sq. or University Village. Maybe I am a reverse snob. I finally got to the Dahlia Lounge and found it over rated except for the tomato soup. We, who are good cooks ourselves, have a high bar for the pros to leap over; EVERYTHING should be excellent for $300. Plus tip.
    See you tomorrow and will give my ethnic dining picks; Greek and Mexican.

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