the four swallows
i’m lazy and i know it. in my five or so years in seattle, i’d made it to bainbridge island (a half hour and six dollar ferry ride away) just once, and only stayed long enough to have an ice cream cone.
last week, however, i managed to remain for a whole 24 hours, and even enjoy dinner while i was there. the restaurant options are fairly sparse and the four swallows is the clear choice if you’re looking for fine dining.
located in a pleasantly creaky old house, the restaurant offers varying atmospheres in its different rooms. the front, windowed area gives a sunlit view of the front street. we were given a private, tucked away booth near the bar, with less to see but more ambiance.
the menu is fairly meat-and-fish-centric, with a few pizza options. the wine list is extensive and interesting, with a wide selection of my favorite bottles, those of the half variety.
once some nicholas feuillatte rosé was safe in our hands, we started off the meal with the beef carpaccio. paper thin slices (achieved by slicing the meat when it is frozen, i learned) clung to the plate like skin. dressed watercress sat in the middle, a few parmesan slices lounged on top, and truffle salt topped the dish (i know this only because our server told us so…the truffle was veeeery subtle0. carpaccio, in and of itself, doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor. i see it more as a carrier for whatever it’s topped with, to give the rest of the dish depth and texture. a little more cheese (and thus salt), or even a sauce of some sort would have been lovely.
our next dish was my favorite. smoked (but not too smokey) duck was wonderfully rich and velvety, and i would have been satisfied with a plate of it on its own. instead, however, it came with buttery, crustless brioche pieces, tart frisée, brandied cherries, and a wedge of one of my favorite cheeses in life, delice de bourgogne, a luxurious triple cream.
needless to say, the dish was decadent and even dessert-like, but i tend to like my food that way. enough acid clung to the frisée to balance things out, but it was the perfection of the duck that really made the dish.
a grilled head of romaine lettuce followed, topped with only enough dressing to reach the first couple layers of greens. blue cheese was creamy and warm, a piece of average bacon lay across the top. the lettuce itself was starting to wilt, yet was still crunchy, and though it retained the essence of grill, was ultimately unexciting.
i rarely feel strongly about my servers one way or the other. it takes a lot for me to be unhappy with service, and i’m not often blown away. this guy at the four swallows, though, really won me over. he was capable, yes, noticing that we were eating slowly and pacing our food accordingly, checking that we were taking a cab when we ordered our fourth half bottle of champagne. but it was more that something about him was just extremely likeable. he was proud of his restaurant, and seemed to enjoy being this, which inevitably rubbed off on us as diners.
we also had a main course, a seafood risotto. the seafood was fresh (we were on an island), everything was well cooked. but i think that that was when we opened the bottle of gosset, so i wasn’t focused on much else.
the experience was lovely, even if the food wasn’t the primary reason.