Jess and I had two separate seafood-related goals during our trip to Seattle: she wanted to find somewhere to eat a pile of Dungeness crab and I wanted to gorge myself Walrus-and-the-Carpenter-style on some oysters. Since our condo was so close to the waterfront, we decided to head down to Pier 56 and try Elliott’s Oyster House, a place that Zagat calls “a great spot for out of towners,” and which even the Seattle Stranger had nice things to say about (despite making fun of tourists like us). But I don’t mind going to a touristy restaurant if the food is good, and the wide selection of oysters and crab dishes seemed just the thing we were looking for. So after meandering through Pike’s Market, we found our way down to the waterfront and bypassed the more casual Elliot’s Seafood Cafe an went straight for the good stuff. The restaurant itself was a little stuffy, but the food ranged from good to great with some nice surprises in-between.
Our cooked dish were the Dungeness Crabcakes — which go down as some of the best crabcakes I’ve ever eaten. Sweet, succulent lump crab meat was present in large quantity in these cakes, only just held together by a small amount of seasoned bread crumbs and crisped on the outside edges. I’m normally pretty dissatisfied with crabcakes as they are usually more “cake” than “crab,” but these were meaty and luscious, with just the right balance of crunchy, soft, and slightly chewy. There was a jicama slaw served to the side of these bad boys but we were so focused on those pretty little cakes that we never touched a single bite of it.
Our love affair with the crabcakes ended, we moved on to the main event: the Celebration Platter, a mound of fresh-shucked oysters, snow crab claws, chilled prawns, and half of the Dungeness crab Jess craved so much. The oysters were briny and cold, and just a slight squeeze of lemon made them perfect. The snow crab claws were large and very meaty, with a mild, clean taste that gave way to a delightful sweetness. The Dungeness crab legs were every bit the highlight that Jess assured me they would be, with a soft, tender meat that needed no other seasoning beyond the flavor of the meat itself. The prawns were a touch disappointing, but that may have had more to do with the quality of the other seafood on the platter.
Not content with the oysters that came with our Celebration, we ordered a second dozen, sampling several of the local varieties. The range of flavor and texture among these varieties was astounding, and somewhat unexpected for a couple of people used to the flavor of Gulf oysters. These were far brinier than the oysters we are used to, with some balancing that brininess with a firm sweetness and some just sliding down with a taste like a breath of sea wind. Wine lovers always talk about “terroir” when it comes to their favorite vintages; the same might be said for oysters, too, as different types raised in different areas of the Pacific Northwest were widely different in their taste. I would love to be able to take the time to learn more about these oysters, mostly because it means I would get to eat a lot of them.
Elliott’s might be considered a place for tourists, but we were well-pleased with the fresh flavor of the seafood. Being from a landlocked state, we are relatively inexperienced with good seafood, although we both crave it constantly. For a good sample of regional seafood, this place is highly recommended.