Restaurant: Sitka & Spruce – Part 1/2
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest/American/Eclectic/Brunch
Last visited: July 21, 2013
Location: Seattle, WA (Capitol Hill)
Address: 1531 Melrose Ave
Transit: E Pine St & Bellevue Ave
Phone: (206) 324-0662
Price range: $20-30+ ($10-17 small plates/mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Chef/Owner Matt Dillon
- Popular local favourite
- Small plates
- Good for sharing
- Wholesome eating
- Locally sourced/Seasonal menus
- Moderately priced
- Vegetarian options
- Gluten free options
- Wine list
- Reservations recommended
- Walk ins welcome
11:30am to 2:00pm, Mon. – Fri.
5:30 to 10:00pm – Tues. – Thurs.
5:30 to 11:00pm – Fri. & Sat.
4:30 to 9:00 – Sunday
10:00am to 2:00pm – Saturday
10:00am to 2:00pm – Sunday
- Monday “Malafacha” 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
- Twitter: n/a
- Sitka & Spruce – Part 2/2 (Complete post)
Follow Me Foodie to 2 Days in Seattle ended at Sitka & Spruce.
Sitka & Spruce is one of the restaurants located inside the Melrose Market. The Market is an urban space featuring Seattle’s independent food purveyors, butchers, producers, artisans and boutique businesses. It reminded me of Chelsea’s Market in New York, but on a much smaller scale since there were only about 12 shops.
It is a sophisticated and charming little market with a “hipster feel” which I can sometimes tolerate, but other times it makes me write posts like this.
I rarely detail service and ambiance unless it plays a significant role in my restaurant experience, and at Sitka & Spruce it did. The two factors complete a dining experience, but I can overlook them for the most part since my interest is primarily food.
Anything in the service industry falls under hospitality, so at any given restaurant I expect some form of interaction from the host, but here I got almost none. My level of patience for service may vary depending on the restaurant, but at a place with such high accolades and local love, I expected not to have to clear my own table and plates, pour my own water and refill my glass, or fear asking for recommendations; even a small smile would have been nice.
Working brunch can be rough and nobody likes to wake up tired and have to be chipper, but it’s called “working” brunch. I get we all have an off day, but the non-chalent attitude was to the point of negligent, and the service was unacceptable.
Maybe I started on the wrong foot when I thought it was “seat yourself” service and attempted to sit at a reserved table (half the room was empty and there was no line up). My bad, but knowing walk-ins were accepted and being ignored while waiting at the door, made me think “seat yourself”. I was stopped and told “all tables were reserved”, but wasn’t offered one of their available tables, so I had to ask for one.
I was scared to ask for recommendations, because the vibe I got was rather intimidating, but did so anyway. I was told “everything was good”, and when I asked kindly for specifics I was listed the whole menu. Thanks, that helped. What did help was asking the table behind me for suggestions since they had already started eating, they happily offered advice.
I also reused my plate between sweet and savoury courses, asked for new plates, and had my dirty plates pushed across the bar to make room for new plates. Even when I wanted to add to my order I was given an index finger with no eye contact, which in case you’ve never been given one as a kid, means “wait”.
Anyways I could keep going, but I don’t want to sound like some of those cringing yelp! reviews. I don’t want to look back at this post months later and want to crawl into a hole in embarrassment, but it has been a couple months since Follow Me Foodie to 2 Days in Seattle, and I remember it like yesterday. Again, I could have tried it on a bad day (and we all have them), but as a tourist I only had one opportunity to try Sitka & Spruce, and that was it. First impressions count.
There was a solid 1.5 hours to redeem service with even a friendly attitude if not proper service, but there was no change from either server. I asked locals if this was the “norm” and some said “no”, and others said “yes”. Inconsistent service? Perhaps, but still no excuse.
Service was one thing, but ambiance and food is another. On the bright side, they both matched and outweighed the service, which wasn’t hard to do even if they were just half decent. Oddly enough, the open kitchen and communal table were warmer and more welcoming than restaurants with a similar aesthetic appeal. I wished that “homey” feeling translated to the service, but I certainly didn’t feel like a welcomed guest.
As for the food? I loved it. I ordered ¾ of the menu and I wanted to keep going. The service might have figuratively left a bad taste, but the food literally left a good one.
The Executive Chef is Matt Dillon who was awarded “Best Chef in the Northwest” at the James Beard Foundation Awards 2012. The style was “farm-to-table” which is typical these days, but his flavours and dishes were eclectic and inspiring. It was as unpretentious as the atmosphere and done with taste.
It was simple, but more than one would casually do at home, and there was consideration for texture, components, and freshness of ingredients. Most ingredients were sourced from their Vashon Island farm and it was food I’d want to eat at home. The portions were good, the food approachable yet still exciting, and all my plates were well seasoned. It was relatively healthy and wholesome without being too “granola”, and it was “home cooking” by professionals. The baked goods didn’t have the techniques of bakeries like Crumble & Flake or Cafe Besalu, but it was a restaurant and not a bakery.
It was well prepared food and it was good enough that I would come back for brunch, lunch, or dinner despite the poor service. It wasn’t the worst service of my life, but it was below par for what I would expect for their standards. I would still recommend Sitka & Spruce for the food and ambiance, but cross your fingers for the service.
On the table:
- With our brined and baked ham $6
- After croissants at Crumble & Flake and Cafe Besalu, I was croissant spoiled. However even without those to compare, I still would have thought it was just okay.
- The points came from the ham which I found more impressive than the croissant.
- The homemade country style baked ham was not too salty or sweet and it was shaved nice and thin.
- It was an American style croissant, but it was freshly made and baked in house and reheated upon serving.
- Even a technically flawed croissant is still good, so this was good and better than your average grocery store croissant, but I wouldn’t seek it out.
- It was dome-like in shape and it was decently crisp and flaky on the exterior, but not quite shattering crisp at the bite.
- The inside didn’t have the membranes of a properly made croissant.
- It was very bready, soft, and dense with the membranes weighed down.
- The inside was not feathery light, but the flavour was buttery and enjoyable.
- It was a hybrid of a croissant and brioche and I liked it as an American style croissant ideal for sandwiches rather than eaten alone.
- That’s why I liked that it was served with ham instead of jam or butter. It was intended for sandwiches.
- With Washington dew berries $4.50
- It was reheated upon serving, but baked in house likely that morning.
- It was crisp on the exterior and flakey inside although a bit dry and quite bland.
- The berry jam was very good with a nice tart and sweet balance, and the scone relied on it for flavour.
- The whipped butter was a bit over whipped and separated and it would be better served with Devonshire cream.
- It was an okay scone, but not something I would have to order again.
- With lavender whipped cream $5.50
- It was pricey for a canelé, but it was my favourite of the three baked goods and it was a very good canelé.
- A canelé is a small French pastry, or cake, with a caramelized crust, and tender, soft, rich and custardy baked interior.
- It is basically the cake version of crème brûlée.
- The outside is almost black, so this one was even a bit under baked, but I didn’t mind. It shouldn’t be burnt.
- This one had nice and even, glossy, dark brown colour and it was caramelized and a bit crisp on the outside.
- The crust was thin, which is how I like it, but some like it thick. It had a nice chew that wasn’t tough.
- The inside was moist and eggy and scented with what seemed like unexpected cinnamon as well as expected real vanilla bean.
- It was very aromatic from a touch of rum as well, which is traditional to the recipe, but fully cooked out.
- I couldn’t tell it was buckwheat and the texture was of a canelé made with usual white flour.
- Making it with buckwheat is likely to cater to the gluten-free crowd.
- The canelé is a sweet pastry that could pass for dessert, but I have a sweet tooth, so I could have it for breakfast.
- The lavender whipped cream was a modern accompaniment.
- I wished the lavender was infused in the whipped cream instead of only sprinkled on top, but I liked the idea although I enjoyed the canelé as is too.
- Rainier cherries & crackers $5.5/oz
- I rarely order cheese and crackers since I could easily do that at home, but being a tourist, I wanted to try their local cheese.
- They had two options for the cheese and I went for Dinah’s Cheese from Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island.
- Farmstead cheese means the cheese is made on the farm from cow’s also on the farm.
- It was a rich and buttery Camembert style cow’s milk cheese, but it was served chilled instead of room temperature.
- It was salty, with a good strong flavour and was served with housemade crackers.
- The house made caraway crackers were salty, nutty, and crisp and I could eat them alone.
- It wasn’t a typical dry and boring cracker. They were addicting crackers.
- Early peaches, rose-pistachio granola & honey $8.50
- It was another “I can make that at home” dish, but it sounded creative and the flavours were right up my alley.
- I also just like yogurt and love pistachio and granola.
- The yogurt was not thick like Greek style yogurt and it was a bit thin (maybe 1-2% fat yogurt).
- It could have been over mixed or just not strained too, which would be other factors affecting the thickness.
- It was lightly sweetened house made yogurt and it wasn’t tart, but I like a bit of tartness to my yogurt.
- The rose water was mild and I could taste a subtle hint of cardamom too which I loved.
- The granola was crisp with some chewy raisins and a decent amount of whole pistachios.
- The dried rose leaves were almost like pistachio skins and it wasn’t too floral or overwhelming.
- There were some currants which were a bit hard, and then some super ripe peach wedges underneath.
- The honey quality was a bit thin, but still good and everything came together nicely.
- I could always use more pistachios and it was what I was expecting. I enjoyed it.
- If you’re in Vancouver and like very thick yogurt, you might want to try Burdock & Co.’s “Best Ever Yogurt”.
To be continued…
… sneak peek…