Tom Douglas has been the de facto champion of the Seattle area’s seafood for decades; if there’s one person to credit for the amount of wild salmon we eat in the Pacific Northwest, it’s probably him. From the kitchen of Dahlia Lounge to his cookbooks, Douglas’ work has changed how we cook, eat and talk about local fish. More recently, restaurateur and chef Renee Erickson has added her enthusiasm and expertise to our local seafood conversation. The Taylor Shellfish family, too, has helped spread the message of beautiful bivalves and sustainable seafood. But as Seattle’s restaurant scene steps it up, a new class of seafood stars spearheads the celebration.
East Anchor Seafood
Kayley Turkheimer knows more about fish than almost anyone. She started working on her father’s commercial fishing boat before she was a teenager, eventually earned a degree in fisheries, and has spent her entire adult life processing, buying and selling fish. Turkheimer opened East Anchor in 2016 to sell fresh seafood directly to the Madrona community, as well as to collaborate with her husband, chef Brian Clevenger (of Vendemmia, Raccolto, G.H. Pasta Co., Haymaker and Le Messe), on ready-made dishes. “People take wild seafood for granted,” says Turkheimer. “It’s one of the last food sources we get to enjoy that doesn’t come from a farm, cage or is genetically modified.”
MUST ORDER: The Dungeness crab Caesar salad ($15), featuring Clevenger’s classic Caesar dressing with white anchovies. Madrona
The Fisherman’s Restaurant, The Crab Pot and others
“Fishing is special to me,” says chef Nick Novello, who took over as culinary director for Great Western Pacific Inc., which operates the restaurants on Seattle’s Pier 57, in late 2018. “It’s one of the last family businesses left.” Novello waxes nostalgic about watching entire towns in Alaska work together to haul in the salmon. Seattleites understand the work that goes into harvesting great fish and the nuances of the salmon coming in from Columbia River or Bristol Bay, he says, which is why he likes cooking seafood around here. Well, that and the quality that his connections and the pier’s volume can bring in: “I’ve bought crab a lot of places. I can’t get any like I can here.”
MUST ORDER: Novello’s towering version of crab toast ($19), which features an entire crab cake and Dijon Mornay sauce over sourdough bread. Downtown
Kamonegi and Hannyatou Bar
While most of Mutsuko Soma’s national acclaim has come for her skill with soba noodles, which she and her staff make by hand each day at Kamonegi, it’s her talent with seafood that makes this simple dish shine. If noodles are the star, dishes like the sake-poached shrimp that garnish the foie gras tofu ($12) and garlic butter clams served over soba ($20) are the Oscar winners for best supporting cast. Soma thrives on what she calls the “positive stress” that comes from executing seafood well—the passion that drives her to pay more attention to the intricate and time-sensitive details. And seafood tastes even better, she says, when followed by sake: “White wine has iron in it, which creates a metallic flavor when you combine seafood with it. Sake, however, does not.”
MUST ORDER: Anago (sea eel) isn’t too common around here, but you’ll wonder why after trying it fried as tempura with curry salt and lemon ($14). Fremont
The “tuna melt” ($12.50) at Champagne Diner has no actual tuna in it: Chef Brian Miyamoto’s upbringing in Hawaii and training in Seattle (at Restaurant Zoë and L’Oursin, among others) have made him a dedicated practitioner of sustainability. To reduce waste, he uses cod scraps left from the fillets that kitchen staff cut for the fish and chips ($14.95), instead of tuna. It’s emblematic of the restaurant’s approach to food—accessible, classic dishes with a gastronomic touch—and of Miyamoto’s own desire to make a wider variety of seafood and fish cuts more approachable for diners. “We’re so used to a piece of salmon or a bowl of mussels, but there’s so much more if you’re not afraid of it,” he says.
MUST ORDER: This Pacific Northwest interpretation of a lobster roll is stuffed with steamed, pickled mussels, with Old Bay aioli spread on the warm roll ($13.95). Interbay
The buzz around this unassuming slip of a restaurant on Mercer Street has been steadily building since the modern Korean spot opened last summer. That buzz is due in large part to the skill and culinary creativity of chef Chunghoon Jeong, who owns the business with friend Bill Jeong. Although the two met in the kitchen of a Michelin-starred Korean restaurant in New York City, Bill is the first to admit that the menu is all Chunghoon’s (who goes by “Chung”). Chung says he loves the umami-rich versatility of seafood, which you’ll see on display in his excellent mackerel ($19), spicy seafood ramen ($18) and crispy bonito-topped pancake ($17). The short Korean-based menu is largely rooted in the deep, funky flavors of the sea, but Chung says he’s still learning about what’s best in the Pacific Northwest.
MUST ORDER: The fried rice ($16) exemplifies what Chung is achieving here: a complete reimagining of a simple dish (this one involving squid ink and a smoked quail egg) that elevates it to something extraordinary. Lower Queen Anne