What a pleasure it has been to dine at The Shelburne Inn's restaurant and pub, located in the historic Seaview, Wash., hotel.
From the moment you arrive until you walk out the door, every detail is well attended to. The dining room is a cozy, intimate space, featuring soft light, stained glass and dark wood. Service is formal and professional to match the expertly-prepared cuisine. For a more casual experience, a burger and a beer perhaps, take a left at the foyer and venture into the diminutive English-style pub in the west wing of the building. Having done both, I can attest to the superior food quality and eagerly recommend either option.
The Shelburne's cuisine can accurately be described as "Northwest" with French, Italian and even Asian influences. For example, the East Meets West Beef Carpaccio appetizer ($13), raw, thinly-pounded tenderloin classically accompanied by arugala and a light vinaigrette, is served here with wasabi "paint," shaved onion and daikon radish. Artfully presented and absolutely delicious, it's a truly decadent way to start off your evening. Pan-fried oysters ($13), a static appetizer on the dinner menu, are served with aioli and slaw, and are flawless. The most impressive starter I was served was the poached white asparagus atop a bed of chanterelle, porcini and lobster mushrooms, topped with julienne of ham and consummated with an exquisite brown butter sauce. The ivory spears were poached al dente; firm, yet yielding to the bite. Their mild flavor was perfectly suited to the saltiness of the ham, the earthiness of the wild mushrooms and the rich, caramelized flavor of the brown butter. This dish was also large enough to suffice as an entree, and should you see this ethereal special again, order it as so, and have it all to yourself.
Salads at the Shelburne are superior. The Insalate di Caprese ($10), a traditional Italian salad of tomato, fresh mozzarella and whole leaf basil, is taken to the next level with shaved sweet onion, avocado, microgreens and basil vinaigrette. The Caesar salad is classic, yet a touch unconventional, as the tangy, delicately assertive dressing was slightly sweetened by something I couldn't identify. The baby spinach salad was also benchmark. Tossed in a warm vinaigrette featuring Rogue Creamery bleu cheese, the baby leaves were brought to room temperature, but not wilted. Grape tomatoes, shaved carrot and radish rounded out the salad, and bitter endive adorned the rim of the plate almost as a garnish, its flavor a juxtaposition of the mild spinach. Both the spinach and Caesar salads, served on chilled plates, are available as small ($6) or large ($9) portions, but I found that the smalls were more than sufficient, and saved me room for soup. The Innkeeper's Mussel Chowder (cup $4.50, bowl $8) is a refreshing break from the gratuitous New England-style clam chowder that occupies most local menus. A rich, creamy tomato and white wine broth with small mussels, diced potato, onion and celery and a hint of curry won me over immediately. Two soups du jour I sampled were a paprika-spiked creamy wild mushroom and a Navy bean and ham, both of which were above average soups with thought and care put in, not just a utilization of leftovers.
The French Onion soup ($4, $7), a favorite of mine, was a little disappointing. The caramelized onion flavor was offset by a raw onion flavor, of which I did not approve. A splash of sherry vinegar would have righted the soup considerably. The Gruyere cheese cap over the crouton was insufficiently broiled, and lacked the bubbly, lightly browned surface I love to pierce with my spoon.
Entrees are second to none. I had a nightly special of duck breast medallions ($25), pan-seared then roasted to medium-well, and served with a perfect risotto, fresh green beans, an unimposing orange glaze and lightly dressed microgreens. Impressive in style and substance. Another time, I ordered the roasted rack of lamb ($30), served with mashed gold potatoes, bulgar salad and a minted mustard sauce. I find mint with lamb to be an antiquated tradition, but here they find a way to nod to the past without seeming uninspired.
Of the many delicious-sounding desserts offered by our server, I tried the blueberry crème brûlée. The custard was rich and sweet, the tartness of the berries providing a perfect harmony. But this good work was somewhat nullified by inadequate torching of the cane sugar topping, resulting in this otherwise wonderful dish suffering the same malady as the French Onion soup. Each velvety bite was marred by the grit of raw sugar, and I left it unfinished.
These small disappointments pale in comparison to the overall wonderful experiences I had at the Shelburne, and with a few little tweaks, they will earn a full A rating.
- The Mouth