Canlis

A citadel of luxury holds fast in Seattle.

canlis salad
See the RecipeKurt E. Smith

When my daughter was ten, I took her to the Seattle restaurant Canlis for the first time. We put on our fanciest clothes. A valet took our car; another held open the heavy front door. Smiling men in suits greeted us both by name. "How did they know?" my daughter whispered. At the table, when she reached for her glass of Sprite, placed just beyond her grasp, a waiter materialized to slide it closer to her hand. She sipped in wide-eyed amazement. We dined on steak tartare and fried calamari, wild Alaskan salmon and Gulf prawns. Side by side on a banquette, we watched the moon rise, as if summoned, over Lake Union. If the family who have run Canlis for the past 59 years could find a way to hang the moon, they would. The restaurant, which began as a fancy steak house with a vaguely Polynesian air, might have become an anachronism, or even extinct, had it not evolved by intelligent design over three generations. These days, a tasting menu offers dishes like smoked potato panna cotta and beef tenderloin cooked sous vide. The other side of the card will reassure the old guard who want a New York steak or the classic Canlis salad, a lively toss of romaine, oregano, mint, bacon, and pecorino romano. Until 2001 it was prepared tableside. The spice-infused cafe diablo still is, conjured in a burst of flaming brandy. Like everything at Canlis, it dazzles. —Providence Cicero, who writes regularly for the Seattle Times