My very first meal in Seattle, taken after a final road-tripping day that started somewhere near the Idaho border, was at Canlis. Although I'd never before eaten in the Pacific Northwest, I understood that I was in salmon land, and attempted to order accordingly. My server, wise to the seasons, suggested halibut.
It wasn't an easy sell. Salmon struck me as energetic, resilient, fearless and strong, all qualities which seemed worth cultivating at the prelude to a new adventure. So far as I knew, halibut were flat, ugly and swam close to the ground. Somehow, it didn't occur to me that two of my favorite freshwater creatures -- catfish and crawfish -- are unattractive bottom dwellers too.
The halibut was terrific, of course, and became the first of many halibut dishes I've since ordered locally. But the very best halibut I've yet had in Seattle was served last week at The Walrus and the Carpenter, where the fish was poached in olive oil and decorated with saffron. The preparation was extraordinarily simple (and, it appears, no longer on the menu in the exact same form), but gorgeously showcased the halibut's elegant sweetness. More importantly, the fish was cooked perfectly, proving tenderness and integrity can co-exist in a single slab of flesh.
I've had many dishes at The Walrus and the Carpenter that could merit favorite dish designation. It's a testament to the restaurant's overall excellence that what I just happened to eat there last week is equally deserving of a spot on the list.