Chef Lisa Nakamura has impressive credentials, having served under Thomas Keller (The French Laundry) and Jerry Traunfeld (The Herbfarm). When the opportunity arose to take over Christina’s, the venerable and highly regarded restaurant on Orcas Island, with a stunning view overlooking East Sound, she jumped at the chance and opened Allium this year. You always wonder if a restaurant of this ambition can make a successful commercial run of it when it’s so far removed from major urban areas where the well-heeled live who would be the most likely customers. After all, taking the ferry or coming across on your own boat is not a simple night out.
We decided to have dinner here. It was a dreary day but the warmth of the restaurant’s ambience and the spectacular view of the water quickly erased glum thoughts of the weather.
The Gnocchi with Shiitake in Roasted Garlic, Cream and Butter sauce was incredibly delicious. Soft gnocchi pillows were bathed in a creamy sauce worth lapping up with plenty of bread if you don’t scoop it directly with a spoon into your mouth first.
Gnocchi with shiitake in roasted garlic, cream and butter sauce
Not nearly as impressive were the roasted vegetables that weren’t adequately seasoned and the mediocre tarragon onion chutney didn’t add much.
Roasted seasonal vegies with tarragon onion chutney
Were it not for the over-roasted fingerling potatoes, the pan-fried scallops would have been a terrific entrée. Scallops and chanterelle mushrooms go so well together.
Pan-seared scallops with roasted fingerlings, cherry tomatoes and chanterelles
Were these missteps ones of a restaurant just starting out? The pedigree and the potential are there. Only time will tell.
Update: Allium is no longer in operation.
Located at the rear of a building of shops, Chimayo’s is difficult to find. We happened across it a few years ago when strolling through the complex. We probably weren’t the first, but it’s easy to mistake it as a Mexican restaurant, when in fact the emphasis is on Southwest cooking. For me, and I gather for lots of other people, Mexican/Southwest restaurants and islands are made for each other. They both are about relaxation, conviviality and an informality and unpretentiousness about the food that suits the island personality.
The upper West Coast of North America is famous for its Dungeness crab, so it isn’t surprising that it makes an appearance in many restaurants in the Northwest. Bilbo’s offers its superb crab enchiladas, listing it as a special because of its seasonal availability. Here, too, at Chimayo’s was its own version, a little more non-traditional with its Bechamel sauce sparingly squirted on top. The crab was fresh and sweet, a worthy entrée, though Bilbo’s version is our preference. The side of the cilantro-flecked rice was blandly unsalted and the black beans somewhat thick.
Tasty crab enchilada with bechamel, rice and beans
An interesting cumin-infused vinaigrette was mixed in a salad of romaine, diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, pumpkin seeds and shredded Cheddar, topped with curls of carrots and guacamole. Tortilla chips and pico de gallo were served on the side.
Nice salad tossed with cumin vinaigrette and topped with guac and shredded carrots
We’ve had pretty good luck with food here. The locals also like it a lot.
123 N. Beach Road
Eastsound, WA 98245