Restaurant Review: Skycity in the Space Needle

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Last night we had the incredible pleasure of dining with two of the loveliest families I've ever met. Seriously. They were all beautiful, extremely friendly, energetic, and so loving. Oh ya, and English!! I could listen to the accent for the rest of my life and be so happy! And yes I had to ask about the royal wedding coming up. And for the record, no one in England really gives a shit.

But anyways...the food...

They were in town visiting and settled on having a late dinner at Skycity, a rotating restaurant sitting atop the famous Seattle Space Needle. Of course I did research and I was torn: on the one hand people said the view was incredible but on the other hand, the food left much to be desired. Which brings me to the Curse of the View.

I have a theory: the better the view, the shittier the food. Categorically, I never eat a a seafood restaurant where I can see the ocean. Never. Why? Because they all suck. Why? Because they're trading on the view, not the food. I will make the exception for wharf food because often it's easy, casual fun food that feels "wharfy" and is quite good. But as for the fancy schmancy $40 seafood entree while I gaze at the sunset right out my window...often the food sucks and the service is even worse. So, I tend to shy away.

I was hoping the Curse of the View wouldn't be applied to Skycity. I heard from multiple people the food is extremely overpriced for what you're getting, it's not that great, but..."the view is amazing." Well I was worried too because our reservations were for 8 pm. How great of a view could we possibly see?

Well, turns out a lot....

A big bright full moon just lit up the entire sound. As the restaurant rotated slowly (but faster than you'd think it does!) around, you saw a full 360 degree view of the Olympics glowing in the moonlight, the water glistening a perfect midnight blue color, and of course, the city lights of a bustling downtown. It was beautiful. And well worth the view. Even at 8 pm. I cannot even imagine it on a rare clear day, around sunset.

As for the food, I braced myself for the worst. The tired steak and potatoes, perhaps a horrible pasta dish, something lame for appetizers like caesar salad with croutons or some bullshit shrimp cocktail that cost $15 for 3 anorexic shrimp dipped in store-bought cocktails sauce. My heart fell when I saw the first appetizer was "Chilled Wild Gulf Prawn" with a cocktails sauce. "Chilled Wild Gulf Prawn" seems to always translate to "I'm going to rip you off now with 3 shrimp." But wait! there's vodka in that cocktail sauce! Hmmmm....

We progress further down....

"...Spinach and Artichoke Dip...of course...with..what? could it be???? marcona almonds????!!! in the spinach and artichoke dip?! and it's served NOT with tortilla chips but with crostini?! Interesting..."

and further...

"Carpaccio...good....local cheeses...prosciuto...yes, yes!"

This was promising, at least as far as the appetizers went. They had to be serving some god-awful soup though. And boring salads, right? Let us read on...

" salad...whatev---what? huckleberry vinaigrette?!?!?! HELL YES!!!! ....bacon shallot vinaigrette -- yes!...maple-glazed walnuts? ree-hee-hee-ly?"

My curiosity was now peeked.

"Seattle Clam and Corn Chowder -- New England style...good...smoked bacon...better...razor clams?!!! RAZORMOTHERFUCKINGCLAMS?! Awesome!!!!!!!"

So far, so very good!

"Salmon with wilted pea vines...Ahi with blackberry glaze...Vegetable Gateau -- they have a gateau! heart...melting...Roasted Chicken with Beecher's and prosciutto and hedgehogs -- wtf? what the hell are hedgehogs? I must try this!....Peking Duck!!....Beef Shortribs with cola sauce?!...oh what's this? the specials insert???

Goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms?!!!!! Ahi carpaccio?!!! TRUFFLES?!?!?!?!"

This friends, was not a tired menu. This was befitting the Foodie Town the great needle sits in. This, at least o paper, was paying homage to the local, to the cheeses, to the seafood and farms and everything that is just so wonderful about living in the Pac NW. On paper, this was looking as good as the view.

I was very excited.

Giddy, really.

And so I ordered the squash blossoms appetizer and the chicken dish because I'm fasting during Lent and couldn't do the shortribs which would have been my fist choice. And plus, call me crazy, after battling the flu all weekend I kinda felt like some comfort food and nothing says it like roast chicken for me. We all ordered and sampled -- the artichoke dip my friend next to me got was Uh-May-Zing. The marcona almonds gave it such a wonderfully unique kick. It was creamy and hot and excellently seasoned and I loved...LOVED...the crostini on the side. I can't wait to start playing around to recreate this recipe.

The squash blossoms were awesome. Goat cheese was nice and sharp, not boring or wimpy, the blossoms were perfectly fried nice and crispy without a trace of sogginess, and the tiny perfectly uniform zucchini tossed in rice-wine vinegar were a lovely crunch I didn't expect. To bring it all together, a beautiful orange-hued red pepper sauce. HEAVEN.

Then the chicken arrived...

Beautiful crispy brown crust, well seasoned. Butternut squash ravioli were al dente. Accompanying spring vegetables beautifully presented, cooked nice and al dente (that's my preference at least) along with the hedgehogs in a savory and bright sage-butter sauce. By the way, hedgehogs are mushrooms. And they were very yummy. The chicken I was sad to say was dry -- overly cooked by 5 minutes at least -- a casualty to the perfect crust it seems. Or more likely an overwhelmed Grill Guy in the back. And with the rest of the plate so beautiful, I was trying to figure out why they would do the butternut squash ravioli -- they were delicious, but were "clunky" with the rest of the plate and the elegance of the vegetables and sauce. I would have much preferred a freshly rolled fettucine pasta -- creamy, textured, and in keeping with the elegance on the plate. The ravioli seemed to sort of cheapen the dish, and would have been better off as an appetizer by themselves in the same sauce. The chicken was stuffed with Beecher's flagship cheese -- my most favorite cheddar type cheese of all time -- and prosciutto. The flavors were 100% there, but tragically it fell short with execution. As the cook executed the chicken to death on the grill. So sad.

Cocktails were strong, wine was great, and we all for-went the dessert because we were STUFFED and my 2 and 4 year olds were about to pass out as it was now 11:30. The kids however got really cook ice creams served in dried-ice flying saucers. They were wonderfully festive and perfectly ended a very fun evening on the same note.

So concluding...

My Verdict: Worth the Trip.

Was it overpriced? Yes. I was disappointed with staff -- our waitress seemed to lose motivation as the night went on despite our very low-maintenance. They have a standard kids menu and kids can very easily order off of the main menu as well. Atmosphere was casually elegant -- you might want to dress up in nice casual for this and leave the shorts and flip flops for another time. Same goes for the super fancy dress, although you wouldn't be out of place if you went on the fancier side. Great drink selection, excellent wine selection, and the food is definitely representative of basic Seattle cuisine. Is it innovative? Not necessarily, but it's strong and will deliver if the quintessential Pac NW food fare is what you're going for. It was really great for kids actually, so I love it because it's a place where as adults you can go with your kids and get your fancy fix without feeling nervous or uptight about them behaving themselves. They are beyond entertained by the view around them and the foods and desserts. And as an adult, you will be just as entranced by the view, especially if you're lucky enough as us to catch it on a full moon night.

Whereas we avoided this "tourist trap" for almost a year, I actually can't wait to go back. Might not be able to wait until someone comes to visit. Might have to go this summer around sunset...

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