My cab driver on Orcas Island knew all about Chimayo, the subject of this week's review. The restaurant's owner, Bill Patterson, had prepared a Christmas party for his bridge club. "Great food," my driver raved before trying to sell me a llama.
But if you don't drive a cab on Orcas Island, you might have a considerably harder time finding the restaurant. It's nestled at the rear end of an indoor mini-mall, and the only street-side sign beckoning diners is a holdover from the restaurant's days as an outpost of New Mexican cuisine. Chimayo doesn't have a publicist or a website. It's collected 13 reviews on Yelp, which puts it just two reviews ahead of the Taco Bell in Queen Anne. By all standard restaurant measurements, Chimayo barely exists.
So how did I find Chimayo? Cubicle intelligence. My officemate, Jonathan Kaminsky, discovered the restaurant while on a weekend trip with relatives from back east.
The Kaminsky crew's first dinner stop was The Kitchen, a counter-service cottage that Kaminsky describes as "an outdoor hippie-Asian place."
"Unfortunately, we were informed that it was closing and that we would have had to eat in a rush," Kaminsky recalls. "So we wandered back out and into the closest restaurant we could find, which was Chimayo."
Like most inadvertent guests at Chimayo, the Kaminskys steeled themselves for green chiles and queso, not realizing Patterson hadn't changed the restaurant's name when he overhauled its menu.
"We had no great expectations, but we were hungry and somewhat desperate at that point, so went for it," Kaminsky continues. "And then I ordered the crab ravioli."
Patterson characterizes the crab ravioli as a sop to tourists, but there's nothing cynical about the presentation. An eight-generation Orcas Islander couldn't argue with the trinity of hand-crafted pasta, fleshy shreds of fresh crab, and butter. Kaminsky went back the next night for a second helping.
Much-discussed new restaurants dominate my review schedule, since curiosity clusters around eateries which have been covered since conception. But I strive to leave slots open for restaurants suggested by readers, friends, and co-workers. While leads don't always culminate in full-blown reviews, I try to visit every recommended restaurant - especially when my informant has eaten there twice in as many days.
For confirmation that Kaminsky's enthusiasm was warranted, check out my review here.