The Walrus and the Carpenter, Ballard, WA

So we ate at this really innovative seafood restaurant yesterday (after I came back from meeting my complex analysis TA and realizing that I got half the questions on my homework wrong) for some moral support! The original plan was to check out Ocho in Ballard (just a few blocks away) but we wound up here in the end because I forgot to bring my ID and Ocho is a bar that does not admit people below 21, and also people above 21 without ID. Even if you are not ordering alcohol. State law, I guess! It’s too bad I was craving tapas then.

The walrus and the carpenter is named after this beautifully morbid Lewis Carroll poem and true to form is basically an oyster place with side dishes. I’m not an oyster person so Z had the oysters; the oyster happy hour runs from 4-6pm with 25% off all oysters, and they have a pretty extensive selection of 8 or so different kinds ranging in size and brininess.

Here’s the slip that shows what Z ordered. I think it’s generally recommended to start with the largest one (the sea cow) and progress down to the smaller ones which usually have a more delicate and briny flavour. If you do it in the other direction you might overpower the large ones.

I myself was really impressed with the rest of the dishes, which are served “small plate” style for sharing. In restaurant-speak the “small plate” is generally defined to be somewhere between the size of a tapas earthenware saucer and a large plate, so it would be inaccurate to call them “tapas”. The cauliflower and romanesco above was perfectly grilled, with beautiful charring, and nestled on an amazing anchovy aioli drizzled with evoo. I would come back just for this plate of grilled veggies.

I also had the smoked trout with pickled red onion atop a bed of lentils and walnuts. It had a great smoky flavour and went amazingly with the only slightly tangy onion petals and creamy lentils.

We also ordered the steamed clams with tarragon and lamb salt. I didn’t know that there was going to be lamb salt. If you love lamb, you’ll love this and think it the most ingenious combination ever. If you hate lamb, well, you won’t like this very much. The gaminess wasn’t really overpowering but I’m just not a big lamb fan. I can imagine this being a hit with other people though! Z really liked it.

All the dishes were prepared with really fresh local ingredients and there was such harmony among all the components of each dish! When I got back I immediately ordered the head chef’s book from Amazon, “A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus”, named after three of her restaurants in Seattle. Barnacle has since sprung up but is not featured in the name of the book. I guess it would have been too much of a mouthful if one called it, “A Boat, A Whale, A Walrus, and A Barnacle.” Seattle seafood restaurants have a habit of naming themselves after sea creatures. We’ve seen all sorts of names from The Octopus Bar to The Lost Pelican and there’s even a bar called “The Kraken” because they’ve run out of actual sea creatures and have started on the supernatural list.

You can get signed copies at her restaurants for the original retail price ($40), or cheap out and get it online for about $25. Can’t wait to try the recipes in it!

I didn’t particularly fancy any of the desserts on the menu for that day so we headed over to Hot Cakes (about 2 blocks away) to buy some frozen lava cakes to take home.

Got slightly distracted by their s’mores bar…

…and their sea salt caramel sauce..

What can I say, I have no self discipline. Besides this will be great on my crepes, which I make using the awesome Williams Sonoma mix. So their s’mores bar was really nice even though the marshmallow layer was kinda chewy. Would have preferred it to be slightly more meringue-y myself. We’re going to heat up the frozen lava cake in the oven in a bit, so can’t comment on that yet. But how awesome is this concept for a bakery? A hot cakery? The equivalents in Singapore I can think of are Three Inch Sin, which has chocolate lava cakes of all flavours. The one from the ABC bakery are pretty good as well. Both of them prepare the cakes in the cafe for you though.

The great part about Hot Cakes’ frozen lava cakes is you can bake it yourself in your oven at any time you might possibly want a lava cake handy (after a break up, while doing homework in the wee hours of the morning, after dinner dessert, for breakfast, … you name it) and then you get to keep the cute little mason jar it comes in to store other things!

Fun exercise: guess which picture in the above post was taken with my phone :)


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