Dalliance at Dahlia’s is Always a Pleasure

Consistency is perhaps one of the hardest things to achieve in a restaurant. Tom Douglas, owner of six restaurants in the Seattle, puts out some consistently excellent restaurants. This is why the Dahlia Lounge is one of my favorite places to have dinner. This is not just because they are attached to the Dahlia Bakery and thus have some amazing deserts in their arsenal. It is because Dahlia’s has brought fine consistency to an art form.

Located in Belltown, the Dahlia Lounge is essentially the brilliant center piece of what should be renamed Douglas Corner on 4th and Virginia since four of Tom’s six restaurants are there. A restaurant doesn’t survive to celebrate its 20th anniversary without this. Often one of the hallmarks of consistency  for a restaurant is when  it is difficult to get into without reservations. But on this night that was taken care of by our gracious hosts Allison Fried and Dan Cole of the Consumer Electronics Association.

Dahlia’s tends towards the upscale,  with a very posh ambiance with deep reds and dark stained wood pillars. Service is quick and friendly but doesn’t linger, understandably because the place is often packed.

My appetizer was an excellent venison tartare with pickled huckleberries. It had a fresh, luscious, surprisingly non-gamey taste with the gin mustard providing the perfect counter-point.

Dahlia_CrabcakesDungeness crab cakes over a lemongrass aioli were my main entree. Now, in the Pacific Northwest nearly every restaurant with seafood on the menu serves Dungeness crab. It’s a staple. Crab cakes as a menu item  often provide lesser restaurants an opportunity to mix in mediocre ingredients. This is not the case with Dahlia. These crab cakes were sumptuous and understandably  a signature dish. Perfectly seared on the outside, non-greasy, with perfectly cooked Dungeness crab flavor  not lost in the “cake”.

Let’s take a moment and talk about the side of wok seared vegetables. Many restaurants often forget to take time with their sides focusing solely on the main component of a dish. This is a mistake because a poorly executed side can distract from the dish as a whole. Again, not the case here. The side was perfectly seasoned and provided a slight pepperiness that served as a counter point to the lemongrass aioli.

With the Dahlia Bakery next door you have to save room for desert. Usually, for breakfast at Tom Douglas’ other restaurant, Lola’s, which is directly across the street, I get the mini fried to order doughnuts. They are served in a paper bag with housemade jams. In this case, I was leaning towards having one of their  homemade ice creams, I tried the toffee brioche with a cider glazed roasted apple. It came with a scoop of cinnamon streusel ice cream.  Heavenly, although I should note for those not seeking crunch they are serious about the toffee as a texture not just a flavor.

As part of their 20th anniversary celebration Dahlia is offering a variety of daily prizes. They are also doing something very cool for the holidays. In conjunction with Food Lifeline, which helps feed the hungry in Western Washington, Dahlia will take $10 off your tab if you bring in a bag of food with at least a $10 value. Tom Douglas calls it their, “You feed your neighbor and we’ll feed you” program. It’s a great program and worth indulging yourself in a dalliance.

Foodie pic of the day: Squid Kabobs at Lola

I had the chance to try this a few months back when I had lunch with Angel Djambazov in Seattle.  Tom Douglas is the dominant Chef/Owner in Seattle and I love his food.  Pretty cool guy as well as I found out when I got the chance to chat with him at the Bite of Seattle in 2008. It was TO DIE FOR!

If you get the chance to check out Lola or any of his other restuarants in Seattle, I highly recommend it.