Seattle Restaurant Week: Etta’s Seafood

Every April and October, Seattle area diners look forward to Seattle Restaurant Week. The program actually extends over a two-week period (except Fridays and Saturdays) and features many restaurants that have agreed to offer a 3-course dinner for $30 per person (and, in a few cases, two-course lunch for $15). These prices can be great values when one considers that big-name restaurants participate and offer many of their popular menu items.

So far, my wife and I have gone twice in the last week, for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Monsoon East, where we enjoyed some of our favorite dishes. For lunch on Thursday, we went to Tom Douglas’ Etta’s Seafood.

In the Tom Douglas empire, Etta’s is one of his earliest ventures, doing business since 1995. Because of its focus on serving freshly caught seafood, quality and no doubt proximity to Pike Place Market, it remains a very popular restaurant among locals and tourists alike. The two-for-15 Restaurant Week deal gets you a choice of appetizer and main course (dinner adds dessert). In our case, we shared steamed mussels and clam chowder as starters and pan-fried salmon and fish & chips for our entrées.

Not only were local mussels steamed perfectly but they were served in a superb broth, rich and slightly tart with beans that surprised with a crispy exterior (☆☆☆½).

ettas - 1

Penn Cove Mussels, Green Garlic Confit, White Beans, Spring Herbs

Chopped fresh clams, a few pieces gritty, and diced potatoes floated in a refined white chowder. It was also creamy, thankfully free of excessive thickness that characterize many cornstarch-y versions. A subtle flavor of bacon was imparted by bacon salt. (☆☆☆½)

ettas - 2

Creamy Clam Chowder, Bacon Salt, Parsley Oil

I wish that more restaurants would use panko for their fried fish batter like Etta’s. Personally, I find flour batter less appealing, the more thickly-applied examples having a tendency of soak up more oil. Etta’s was nicely crispy and while the cod was very fresh, it could have benefited from more seasoning (☆☆☆). The accompanying fries and cole slaw were quite good.

ettas - 3

True Cod Fish And Chips, Malt Vinegar Slaw, Dill Pickle Tartar Sauce

Douglas makes a proprietary spice rub called Rub with Love, which is used primarily for salmon, and is available commercially. Etta’s preparation with wild-caught salmon (pictured at the top), which quickly became a signature dish long ago, is remarkable for its perfect balance of being smoky, sweet and herbal (☆☆☆☆).

We finished our meal with Triple Coconut Cream Pie.

ettas - 5

Triple Coconut Cream Pie

Etta’s Seafood
2020 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98121


Fish n’ Chips at Wally’s Chowder House (Des Moines, WA)

Fish and chips restaurants abound in the Pacific Northwest, not surprising when there’s nothing but the Pacific Ocean to the west. Perhaps the most well-known fish-n-chippery in the Seattle area is Ivar’s, once owned by Ivar Haglund whose image and personality in local circles rivaled those of Colonel Sanders. His corporation also used to fund a big fireworks show on July 4th in Elliott Bay, during its heyday one of two big shows (the other being on Lake Union). Less self-promotional and popular in the area is Spud Fish and Chips on Alki Point, though lately the quality of the Juanita franchise has definitely declined.

There are many opinions on what constitutes the best fish and chips. Some prefer thick batters, while others prefer a light coating. Should the batter be flour, cornmeal, cornstarch or a combination? Then, there’s the choice of fish. It goes without saying that the fish has to be fresh and it has to be adequately seasoned without being salty. My daughter and son-in-law swear by the version served by Nordstrom Grill (of department store fame) in Seattle, which I have yet to try. Otherwise, my wife and my favorite place is not in Seattle at all but in Christchurch, New Zealand (Coppell Place Seafood).

Last weekend, good friends of ours invited us to accompany them on their boat to the Quartermaster Yacht Club’s annual potluck, this year at the Des Moines Marina. A few of the club members mentioned Wally’s Chowder House, only a half-mile walk uptown, as an excellent place to get fish and chips. Waiting to get seated was common. When we went for lunch last Saturday, a hand-printed note at the entrance announced that Wally’s was again nominated in the Best Seafood category in the 2014 King 5 Best of Western Washington. Furthermore, a placard proudly proclaims that the fishing boat Golden Alaska catches and flash-freezes 50,000 pounds of arctic cod for Wally’s every year, which works out to be about 135 pounds daily. With this much brouhaha, why have I not heard of this place before?

On the specials board was fried razor clams, which gave us pause. But we were here to sample the fish and chowder, the two menu items that put Wally’s in the hearts and minds of followers.

The New England clam chowder (☆☆☆) could not have had better flavor but it was excessively thick. So much flour could almost have held up a spoon without moving.

New England clam chowder

New England clam chowder

On the recommendation of a couple of diners who were in our party, my wife and I split a one-piece large fillet with fries. When it arrived, I saw it was good advice. You can also order 2-, 3- or 6-piece quantities. There was likewise a good-sized portion of fries. It made no difference that they were in fact bottomless, because they were mealy (☆☆). Neither were we impressed with the fish (☆☆). It was dry and rubbery. I’ve never been fond of fish that had been previously frozen because it cooks, well, dry and rubbery. In addition, there was no discernible seasoning; the fish tasted flat. It might’ve been wiser to get the fresh local ling cod or halibut. We wondered what the fuss was all about regarding Wally’s. We won’t be returning.

Arctic cod fish n' chips

Arctic cod fish n’ chips

Wally’s Chowder House
22531 Marine View Dr S
Des Moines, Washington
(206) 878-8140

Mo’s Clam Chowder (Florence, OR)

Along the Oregon coast, seafood restaurants are as numerous as the sea stacks offshore. Mo’s is a local seafood restaurant that established a reputation with its clam chowder. There are now six locations, including two in Newport, where Mo’s had its beginning. Since my wife and I were driving through Florence, we stopped here for lunch. Our real intention was to have lunch in Bandon where we were surprised with very good fried clams at the Minute Café in 2009. But the hour was getting late and we were still about an hour away from Bandon.

At Mo’s, we were greeted at the door with bouncy enthusiasm, everyone wishing us a wonderful meal. Even if it was a very popular restaurant, we were seated right away. Our shared plates included a green salad topped with bay shrimp and fried clam strips. We each got our own cup of chowder.

The chowder (☆☆) was very thick from cornstarch and dissolved potatoes, of which there was an excessive amount, cut into various size cubes. There also weren’t very many clam pieces and the broth was weak in clam flavor. Overall, a disappointing version considering its reputation.

While the clam strips (☆☆½) were fine, they did little to make us forget Bandon.

Clam chowder

Clam chowder

Fried clam strips

Fried clam strips

As we left Mo’s to take a stroll through Old Town, employees outside ICM Seafood Restaurant were handing out small samples of their clam chowder (☆☆☆½). Now, this was an excellent rendition, full of clam flavor, suffering only from sandy grittiness. Not only that, fried razor clam strips were on the menu. We had eaten lunch at the wrong place. Next time!

1436 Bay St,
Florence, OR 97439