Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Branzino – Belltown, Seattle

Posted on: Friday 10 June 2011

I had taken natural light for granted until I moved to Seattle. I miss the morning rays through the bifold doors at our home in Sydney, I miss the afternoon glow warming my desk at work, I miss those brisk, clear winter days, I miss wearing sunglasses. Natural light, oh how I miss thee! Above average rainfalls and below average temperatures made March, April and May really miserable. We’re loving daylight saving and enjoying the mild climate.

Ambience often means dimmed lighting in restaurants. We had a memorable dinner several years ago at Courgette in Canberra. We were just seated and perusing the menu when the lights were ceremoniously switched off for Earth Hour. After an apéritif on an empty stomach, it took much concentration to read the menu by a single candle on our table!

Branzino was a food photographer’s challenge. The interior was dark and moody with amber lighting. It was difficult to capture the dishes in the diminishing light and without using flash. The restaurant was in a small corner space, evenly divided between the main dining room and the bar area. We were here for their happy hour menu prior to a Sunday night movie.

We shared the antipasti and pizzas, and ordered some individual dishes. We nibbled on the chef’s selection of house made prosciutto, spiced almonds, grilled rapini, Oregonzola bleu cheese, citrus marinated olives, salami and pickled cauliflower florets. Rapini is an Italian broccoli, slightly bitter and similar in taste to Chinese broccoli. The Gorgonzola style bleu cheese was strangely sweet, although the fruitiness paired well with the olive purée it was served with.

Mr S was partial to the spring garlic soup. Poured at the table over smoked manila clams, bacon and a quenelle of chermoula, the soup was flavoursome. Mr L opted for the baby lettuces to be healthy and it was a large salad drizzled with balsamic and garnished with raspberries.

My Italian meatball was presented in a mini Staub coccotte, doused in red sauce and topped with grated cheese. It was a little pot of decadence – the juicy meatball broken into chunks and slathered with the rich and spiced marinara sauce. We hastily mopped up the leftover sauce with the complimentary bread. The grilled lamb meatball was equally delectable. Shish kebab shaped, they were on a bed of creamy yet refreshing tzatziki.

Mr L declared the Branzino pizzas better than Serious Pie. It was an emphatic statement and the happy hour pizza with morel mushroom, coppa, red sauce and cheese was indeed delicious. Our waiter gave us a steak knife to cut the pizza but as he suggested, the standard dinner knife pried it apart easily. The thin crust was charred and blistered, and the earthiness of the morel mushroom was a good contrast to the salty cured pork shoulder. We were in a hurry to eat the house pizza and didn’t let it ‘rest’. The house pizza consisted of finnochiona salami, crimini mushrooms and house made mozzarella. It was a little sloppy and the champignon mushrooms fell off as soon as you lift the slice but nevertheless, it was still tasty.

Our obliging waiter and the efficient kitchen ensured that we made it to the movie on time!

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