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I finally made it to The Walrus and the Carpenter!  I am a happy diner.  What a place it is– the wait was worthwhile.  This Ballard restaurant is tiny, but the predominantly white decor and open kitchen give it a light and airy feel.  The bar and kitchen are in the center, with cafe tables on the back wall in addition to the bar seating.  It opens at 4 every day and was packed full by 4:30.  No wonder the wait was to be 90 minutes on a Wednesday night at 7.  We know now to show up early.

Last night was (sadly) R’s mom’s last night in town; she took us to the Walrus and the Carpenter for a celebration dinner, and didn’t we have a meal to remember!  It’s another small plate/tasting menu kind of a place, and I think that worked in our favor, allowing us to try some dishes we may not have ordered as a larger entree.  We started with cocktails– bourbon & atlas for R, moscow mule for me, beaujolais for R’s mom– and a sampler of oysters.  Having arrived early, we were able to take advantage of happy hour drink and oyster prices, so we got 3 each of the 6 kinds of oysters they offer, 5 from WA and one from British Columbia.  They were served with a champagne mignonette and freshly grated horseradish and all 6 were spectacular.  We liked the Eagle Rock and Baywater Sweets quite a bit.

Next out of the kitchen was bread (house-made rye and pain de campagne) with butter and a cheese plate with Fourme d’Ambert (a mild bleu cheese), pickled beets and walnuts.  As we were enjoying these plates, the bresaola arrived, sprinkled with pistachios and hiding a layer of peach preserves that were the perfect complement to the sweetness of the meat.  We tried Billy’s tomato soup with basil and cream and a crusty baguette.  It was warm and hearty, but the freshness of the tomatoes shone through.  The soup was one of the high points of the meal.

Seafood plates came next: we had white sardines with avocado, smoked paprika and a hint of vinaigrette to enhance the freshness of the fish, and cornmeal-breaded fried oysters with cilantro aioli.  The sardines were salty but not fishy; the smoked paprika was just right.  The oysters were creamy and salty on the inside, crispy on the outside, as they should have been.  (The aioli was so good R didn’t even care that it had cilantro in it.)  Our last savory plate was cured salmon with creme fraiche, onion, capers and pickled tomato.  They do a 24-hour quick cure with gin (kicking myself for forgetting the name of the gin), salt and sugar.  It was perfection.  A light, fresh way to end the meal, or head into dessert, as we did.

We tried a plum tart with almond crust and cream; the crust was really good, the plums still firm and slightly sour, as I like them best.  Then we tried a dessert that was so good we ended up begging for the recipe from the waiter: maple bread pudding with espresso butter sauce and whipped cream.  It was magic, an accomplished dessert for any restaurant and heavenly after our lighter seafood plates.  We didn’t get the exact recipe, but we got enough information for me to make a good attempt to recreate the dish, which I will do soon! and often, if it’s half as good as their version.

Lovely, lovely, lovely– and so this meal was over.  The three of us grinned with happiness throughout and agreed that we would remember the night and the food for a long time.  We were steered through our meal choices by friendly waitstaff: Kat, who was firm in suggestions for and against certain items and how to best order them, and sweet David, who was funny and didn’t hold back opinions about each plate.  Last night’s meal was special, and I have a feeling this fun restaurant will become a favorite place for us in Seattle.

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