The savory clam chowder passes the test. Photo by Justin Lapriore

Dining Review

Aiming for the Northeast, Bar Harbor Misfires

This new South Lake Union spot has a clever concept, but it just isn’t carried through.

On the ground floor of the Fairview Building in South Lake Union (the one that houses Mbar on the 14th floor), Bar Harbor (400 Fairview Ave. N. #105, 922-3288) seeks to fill a unique niche, delivering food inspired by the Atlantic Northeast, rather than serve the much-celebrated Pacific Northwest fare that currently dominates, for obvious reasons, the culinary scene.

It’s a conceit that could have easily piqued my interest and palate as a Northeast expat who often misses Maine lobster and blue crab. However, the rather sterile space, more of a bar than a restaurant, with the usual concrete and steel industrial chic and one floor-to-ceiling wooden shelf with jars of pickled items, growlers, and some nautical ephemera, misses the mark. And because there’s no wall to separate it from the first-floor arcade where other shops reside, it feels somehow like an afterthought, or a place to merely pass through on the way to somewhere else.

Though lobster, crab, and shrimp rolls are here, they’re all rather sad, served on a smallish bun—like a sandwich you’d find in a kid’s lunchbox. I ordered the Oregon (not exactly Northeastern) Bay shrimp-stuffed one, and the tiny shrimp were not just bland, but unpleasantly fishy. The rolls come with one of three sauces: mayo, butter, or mayo/celery/chive. The butter, instead of seductively melting lightly into the grilled bread, instead was soppy. We relayed our dissatisfaction to the server, and it was kindly taken off the bill. She also suggested the lobster roll—it’s better and their most popular, she said. That may very well be true, but if so then lose the shrimp roll altogether. Bar Harbor does serve New England clam chowder (plus a seasonal chowder, squash-based on my visit), and it’s a pretty decent version, with plenty of clams and a broth that is not overly creamy and thick, with a savory, smoky bump from the addition of bacon.

Though not seafood-based or particular to a region, I couldn’t resist trying the Cheeseburger Tartare, which comes doused in cheddar cheese, “special sauce” (of the mayo/Thousand Island Big Mac ilk), and a pickle. Due to the special sauce, it does give the suggestion of a cheeseburger, but it was impossible to tell how good the meat itself was since the sauce dominated. After a few bites, its one-note character renders it quite resistible. I left more than half on the plate. The crab & kale Caesar was solid—very lightly dressed and not skimpy on the Dungeness crab, which I appreciated. However, if you’re selling yourself on the Atlantic Northeast angle, go the extra mile and secure some blue crab. The burrata with seasonal accompaniments, in this case figs and squash, both of them mushy and bland, fell short on flavor and contrast. Burrata, beloved for its ultra-creamy, gentle flavor, pairs best with stronger, salty elements or very rich, sweetish ones that enliven it. These, however, lacking both, add nothing to the dish; and, perhaps for the first time ever, I was able to turn down another bite of seductive burrata. A pity. None of these dishes, in fact, have anything to do with the Northeast.

Drinks, on the other hand, are nice, and I could perhaps see Bar Harbor becoming a pit stop on the way to Mbar or an after-work cocktail spot for Amazonians—though with so many new bars cropping up in the area, it may not have enough appeal to compete. Ultimately it seems like a lost opportunity to play around with the East Coast theme, or even to just do it classically but well. As the restaurant scene revs up in South Lake Union (and all over Seattle), there’s simply no space for the mediocre.

food@seattleweekly.com

More in Eat Drink Toke

No milk. No MSG. But lots of fans. Photo by Nicole Sprinkle
Betsutenjin’s Cult of Ramen

New to Capitol Hill, the Hong Kong chain serves just two versions, but the place is packed.

How to Get High on the Planet of the Vapes

They’re taking over. Might as well get used to it.

Giving Vegan a Chance at Kati Vegan Thai

The South Lake Union spot is the perfect place to experience an animal-free meal.

Canopy Growth Task Force Coming to a Farm Near You

New rules might make it harder on small operations.

The fried cauliflower with buffalo sauce and blue cheese mousse. Photo by Nicole Sprinkle
In the Ballard Commons, an Uncommon Spot

Gather Kitchen + Bar gives diners a reason to depart from the neighborhood’s restaurant row.

Jeff Sessions Drags His Feet on Cannabis Research

The U.S. Attorney General is at it again.

Courtesy of Tropicos Breeze
                                Bandeja paisa is a traditional Colombian stew.
Traditional Latin American Cooking Finds a Home in Ballard

Tropicos Breeze may sound like a tiki bar, but it is serving up some classic recipes from far south of the border.

At the Movies (With Marijuana)

Now that the nights have grown long, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a bong-worthy blockbuster

Most Read