Before venturing out to the San Juans to check out Allium, I’d repeatedly heard that Orcas Island is filled with cute hippie villages. When I arrived there, I had to disagree: There are zillion-dollar mansions all over the fucking place. A guy who occasionally listens to the Grateful Dead on the stereo of his BMW is not a hippie. A dude with eye boogers who trades vegan burritos of dubious provenance for LSD in the parking lot of a Phish concert–THAT motherfucker is a hippie.
Class warfare aside, Orcas Island, with its charming villages, quaint pastures, picket fences, sheep grazing contentedly on the hillside, and other Ansel Adams shit, is actually more like a really cute Battle Royale where old ladies compete to see who has the tastiest scone recipe. Allium, of course, fits right into the bucolic scene. It’s located directly on the waterfront in Eastsound, which is the biggest town on the island and arguably the cutest. Hence, Allium is the cutest restaurant in the cutest town on the cutest island in Washington, which means it’s approximately as cute as a lhasa apso with a ladybug riding on its ear. Unfortunately, my scenic view of the bay was blocked by a fat dude’s head.
Slices of a handmade rustic loaf and fluffy biscuit squares, which were as crusty and flaky as your mom, were immediately brought to our table. Accompanying the bread were butter, of course, and a ramekin of smoothly pureed onion jam, which was fucking delicious. The jam was as sweet as a puppy wearing a cast, with an onion flavor a million miles deep. It’s so tasty they should jar it and sell it separately. Who the fuck needs bacon if you’ve got onion jam? Onion jam and fresh bread and biscuits and butter: it’s like the kind of lunch a woodcutter in a fairy tale would eat.
Unfortunately the pear tart ($12) wasn’t as good. Crisp and tart slices of pear were glued to a flaky puff-pastry disc with herbed goat cheese. The pear tasted very fresh, and the pastry was delicate enough to cut with a fork but sturdy enough not to collapse or become soggy. Sadly, the cheese tasted like prepackaged Boursin.
A goofy side salad of a couple lettuce leaves in a light balsamic vinaigrette was largely superfluous. In general, this dish was noncommittal, like the answers I give your mom when she asks what I’m doing this weekend. That’s because if you replace the salad with a sprig of mint, take the herbs out of the cheese, and add vanilla, it could easily become dessert!
A garlic greens soup ($8) was tasty. It was green like one of Orcas Island’s pastoral hillsides, and really creamy, with a mild garlicky taste. Glittering on top were droplets of vibrant green oil, and it was garnished with a tiny flower. Cute. It would’ve been cuter, however, if it hadn’t arrived at the table with a crinkly skein of skin on top, like old pudding. Luckily, the soup lurking beneath the skin was still hot. Just like your mom: all skin, but hot underneath. The soup came to the table late enough to develop a skin because our waitress’ timing was off: She seemed to be stretched thin, helping others and busing seemingly every table. Perhaps someone called in sick? If it was because they were burned in a fire, maybe they could use a soup-skin transplant to help the healing process.
Polenta ($22) was so creamy it could soothe a hemorrhoidic asshole, and topped with a fried egg, which when you slashed it open spilled its bright orange guts onto the polenta below. This came with bright and tender asparagus spears, which were so fresh it was as if you could condense spring into a stalk. The only misstep was a couple tough slices of grilled King Oyster mushrooms. I’ve had your mom in my mouth too often to want to ever eat something this leathery ever again.
Scallops ($36) seemed expensive when we ordered it, but our frowns quickly became inverted when these motherfuckers came to the table, because it was a HUGE portion of four very large scallops. If I encountered these scallops on the ocean floor while searching for undersea treasure, I would be totally scared because they were GIGANTIC. They were crusty outside, yielding and pink on the inside, and tasted so fresh it was as if a grateful merman, whose life you just saved, deposited them onto the beach as repayment. It came with a couple tourned potatoes and more fresh, springtime asparagus tips. Unfortunately, the whole thing was drenched in a too-rich salty ocean of browned butter with foie gras bits in it. It would’ve been great if they’d omitted the foie gras. I know that the preceding sentence is heretical, and I could get sent to the culinary Star Chamber just for writing it, but fuck it: Call me the Gustatory Galileo. I will not recant.
We closed the evening with dessert: a rhubarb upside-down cake ($9) featured a delicate sugary crumb, with tart chunks of rhubarb embedded here and there and topped with more rhubarb sauce. This was quite tasty.
The next day we returned for brunch. I know I don’t usually talk about brunch, which is really just breakfast for people who buy $800 strollers, but I wanted to make sure everyone knows how fucking tasty the crepes were. For $9 we got six magnificent crepes, as delicate as an elf’s hymen, filled with a light orange-and-peach cream. The accompanying orange marmalade was cloying, and easily overpowered the ephemeral citrus bouquet in the crepes, but it was wisely served in a ramekin on the side, and was largely untouched by us.
Allium isn’t perfect. In fact, they made some weird rookie mistakes, the salty scallops and the soup skin being the biggest. Maybe they’re just slacking; since hippies are usually slackers, and Orcas Island is filled with all these alleged hippies, maybe Allium is just trying to fit in. Still, it’s undoubtedly the best restaurant on Orcas Island, although that’s kind of like being the valedictorian of the special-ed class. But if you got a bunch of awesome helicopters and uprooted the whole building and carried it over and plopped it down anywhere in Seattle, I’m sure Allium could hold its own.
Rating: 7.5 hippies out of 10
Allium is located at 310 Main St. in Eastsound, Orcas Island. Even the address is fucking cute!
For reservations call 360-376-4904.
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