for the several hours i spent in tilth’s elegant but homey dining room, i couldn’t stop thinking about the garden from my childhood. and it’s not because of the name of the restaurant (tilth is the physical condition of soil).
it started with the baby lettuce salad. mild feta cheese, slivers of fennel, and spiced roasted almonds slipped around through the greens, lubricated by tarragon dressing. i remember literally sitting in the garden when i was small enough to do so without killing plants, plucking the surrounding herbs, making sandwiches. i’d layer tarragon and sweetpeas and nasturtiums between mint leaves and dine on them. this dressing tasted just like that garden fresh tarragon.
speaking of mint. the amuse came in a white ceramic spoon. a dallop of white goat cheese, flecked with emerald bits of mint, sat in a pool of brilliantly green pea and truffle puree. the cheese wasn’t too goaty, the truffle very subtle. but the mint was the mintiest mint i’ve eaten, somehow even when compared to straight-from-the-garden mint.
in planning tilth’s decor, chef/owner maria hines must have known the role the color green would play in her food; the wooden chairs, outside siding, and logo are all a gentle grass color. granted, we were eating from the april menu, sure to have more green than the december, but because of the cleanliness of every flavor, somehow the green became almost a taste of it’s own.
out of everything consumed this april evening, it was perhaps the st. jude’s albacore tuna crudo which best summed up everything that was beautiful about the meal. st judes is the name of the seattle-based, family-owned boat that caught tilth’s tuna. as one would expect, this means the fish tastes exquisitely pure and rich. as much of an asset as these qualities are, they make fish more susceptible to destructive chefly additions (overpowering spices, etc).
this wasn’t an issue at tilth. the few embellishments – avocado, micro-greens, grapefruit, a touch of horseradish – couldn’t have been more subtle or flattering. the shmear of avocado velvet across the plate was intensely rich and “more avocado-y than an avocado”.
it wasn’t a chance meeting of ingredients – this party had been planned, as was the case with each dish. the charmoula was more like wheatgrass than herbs and extremely powerful when tasted alone. it’s not supposed to be eaten alone, however. instead, maneuver a forkful containing a bit of spot prawn, a couple mini chickpeas, and a touch of meyer lemon, dragging it through the charmoula before eating. the world (or at least the charmoula) makes perfect sense then. the herbs make the prawns rich and earthy, the lemon makes the flavors distinct and bright.
there wasn’t anything exotic about the ingredients of the tagliatelle dish. fava beans, ricotta, and green olives are common pasta accompaniments, and yet this wasn’t a common dish. the noodles were soft in a way that suggested just-made rather than over-cooked and there was a risotto-like creaminess to them. the green olives came in the form of an emulsion, imparting a perfect saltiness to every bite.
each dish has a small or large option. large is great if you’re an entree person, small is perfect if you’re looking to try as much as possible. between two people you can easily eat over half the menu. the wine list is concise and varied, with plenty of affordable options. our white burgundy was both rich and clean enough to work with the majority of our dishes.
i’ll be back to tilth for one of their monday dinners, for brunch, and try something from their cocktail list. i’d also be content to return and repeat the exact same meal i had the other night, the one i’ve been telling my friends about. it was that perfect.