The Deets: From a distance, Restaurant Week promises a value priced three course meal at some of Seattle's finest restaurants. More often than not however, the event, as Hanna Raskin explains, is synonymous with "harried service, questionable deals, and predictable cooking."
Not all of this was true during a recent visit to Carmelita, but their take on the "three course circus" mostly underwhelmed while the real stars stood their ground on the dinner menu. Restaurant Week has this effect on many fine restaurants--and Carmelita is an exceptional one--so I share some blame for ordering the three course special when my gut instinct advised against it, I don't normally order desert, and regular menu items seemed more appealing. Sigh.
The Beets: The Grilled Corn Soup started things off, was lovely, and factored in as the high point of my meal. It was a smooth bisque-style puree with a corn-cucumber-tomato salsa and smoky-sweet aleppo chili oil for garnish. Sweet and slightly spicy, it had wonderful texture and warm flavors that went well together. Toby's Roasted Pear and Mixed Green Salad with blue cheese was a nice starter as well--lightly dressed with a buttermilk dressing and scattered with pleasingly crunchy toasted pecans.
His main, Corn and Taleggio Ravioli with Mushroom Consommé, was very heavy and the pasta was too doughy--it was very unpleasant. My fig pizza with Marcona almonds and Riesling braised onions needed more jazz--the crust was very nice but the accoutrements were sorely lacking in flavor. A dash of crushed red pepper and Trampetti--maybe even a honey glaze or balsamic reduction would have helped.
Desert--the one thing I didn't really want--was boring. Dry and crumbly vegan chocolate cake with a few thin slices of apricot and a smattering of fruit sauce. Toby's Huckleberry Shortcake was decent. We washed it all down with a crappy bottle of Rioja.
Man. If Carmelita would just opt out of Restaurant Week (thereby eliminating the chance that you'd order from it) and beef up their wine list you couldn't find one thing wrong with the place.
The Tweet: Carmelilta is usually great--if you skip the Restaurant Week menu. At this place, go with your gut and get what you want.