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).

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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)

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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.

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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.

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Triple Coconut Cream Pie

Etta’s Seafood
2020 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98121


Mussel Bowl at Bayleaf (Coupeville, WA)

Among the many purveyors of mussel dishes for sale at the Penn Cove Musselfest was Bayleaf, a deli that ordinarily sells wine, cheese and other food items. In front of the store, a chef was preparing a large pan of mussels in a broth of chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, ginger and other ingredients, a bowl of which we purchased and quickly ate up. Two slices of bread were used to soak up the delicious broth.

The chef at Bayleaf preparing its mussels

The chef at Bayleaf preparing mussels

101 NW Coveland Street
Coupeville, WA 98239

Penn Cove Boat Tour (Coupeville, WA)

I tend to take for granted the natural bounty we have here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not alone either. This could be because the Seattle area is a highly developed, urban area where we have become physically and spiritually disconnected from our natural surroundings, here where mountain and sea are close at hand. Unless you spend time in the outdoors—and a significant number of Northwesterners do—you may not know more about what’s around you than anyone poring over the internet.

I digress. This is not a philosophical post but a lead-in to how sometimes it takes just a little effort to learn about a food available in your own backyard. Take the mussel for example, long regarded as garbage food in the West until the Belgians and French popularized them. With friends, we headed up north to Coupeville to be immersed in this bivalve at the annual Penn Cove Musselfest.

Other than stuffing our faces, what did we learn about mussels? The larvae after fertilization float around in the water until they reach 3 weeks of age, at which time they attach themselves to a surface. To assist, they exude a cement and their well-known threads. Once anchored, they never move, continuing to grow in situ. Gastronomically speaking, suffice it to say that favorable conditions in Penn Cove are responsible for the mussels’ sweet and plump meat and rapid growth.

Hungry starfish gather in hordes where mussels are plentiful

Hungry starfish gather in hordes where mussels are plentiful

The mollusk’s success here is primarily due to the efforts of Penn Cove Shellfish, LLC, a commercial enterprise that farms mussels in the nutrient-rich waters of Penn Cove. We took an hour-long boat tour of the commercial farming operations. We thought that favorable weather would stay with us on our early afternoon tour, but dark clouds moved in, the wind picked up and light precipitation ensued. The tour guide had lots of interesting information to pass along about the mussel and the company’s attempt to supply a growing market. Much of that information is available here.

The pier in Coupeville

The pier in Coupeville

Mussels at around 6 months are still rather small

Mussels at around 6 months are still rather small

Mussels are grown in socks suspended on ropes from rafts

Mussels are grown in socks suspended on ropes from rafts

For some reason, the festival’s organizers hold this event in early March when temperatures are still rather chilly. Never mind the rain, pretty much a given in the Northwest, although today actually started out surprisingly dry. The last time we attended, four years ago, it was freezing and blustery. When the wind picks up, as it did toward the end of our visit, the chill factor really takes effect. Even so, it was an enjoyable outing.

Children here have a lot of fun

Children here have a blast