2319 E Madison St
It's appropriate to compare dining to a military campaign. Many dishes are named after military or political figures: Beef Wellington, the Napoleon pastry, and Oysters Bienville are only a few. The food service industry is, after all, a fierce battle, since competition is stiff, profit margins are razor thin, and success or failure is often left up to the fickle whim of a restaurant- going public filled with dickheads.
So which restaurant would win if all of the restaurants in Seattle got into a fight? Crush is a contender for sure. Crush is so goddamned awesome, it's like they created some kind of evil dictator restaurant the way they created the genetically- engineered warlord Serpentor on the GI Joe cartoon: evil culinary scientists mixed up the DNA of great leaders like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ivan the Terrible, Ghengis Khan, and General Tso. The resulting uber restaurant was then named Crush by a secret committee of elders, because it can CRUSH your hunger with an iron fist.
I met Crush on the field of battle fully prepared, my stomach completely emptied by all the puking from the previous night's drinking. I dared my adversary to conquer my appetite. Who would win this battle of wills? Read more, and find out!
Crush's first salvo was a diversionary tactic: too many choices. There were maybe only 15 things on the menu, but I wanted each and every one of them. The wine list is like 50 pages long (the most expensive bottle is $3200! HOLY FUCK). There's a 9 course tasting menu ($135), which tempts with the delights of the chef's unleashed creativity, but which from a practical standpoint is more difficult to review because you can't crib the descriptions of the dishes from a convenient online menu. Then to add another layer of choices, November was the “Dine Around Seattle” bullshit where you get 3 courses for $30.
We decided to eschew the allures of both the chef's tasting menu AND the Dine Around Seattle, and just picked a bunch of stuff off the regular menu. To reward us for NOT choosing the Dine Around Seattle stuff, the kitchen sent us a FREE AMUSE BOUCHE. Unfortunately, it wasn't that great, which I guess is why they gave it away: a cauliflower- flavored flan was topped with tiny cubes of raw scallop, crème fraiche, and diced chives. If what I just described to you had been on the menu I would have laughed those motherfuckers out of town, but unfortunately it wasn't listed. The flan was warm, which in turn warmed the scallop until it was humid and balmy, the two adjectives you do NOT want to use to describe raw seafood. The cauliflower flavor was muted, and the flan by itself would have been pretty good, but hot raw scallops just don't do it for me.
Next up was octopus ($12), which was slowly braised in pork stock until it was soft and creamy, then flashed in a pan to crisp the skin. What we got was a delightful pile of tentacles on top of white beans that had been cooked with the octopus in the stock. The beans were just as tender as the octopus. This dish was really good. I haven't been so impressed by tentacles since I read “The Call of Cthulu” in 8th grade.
Hamachi Crudo ($24) was so motherfucking delicious I can't believe that it isn't banned by the Olympics as a performance enhancing drug. Creamy celeriac sauce was pooled beneath slices of rare seared albacore which were so goddamned tasty I've run out of adjectives to describe it. And as if it wasn't good enough already, they put BLACK TRUFFLES on it. And not just a few microscopic black flecks, like some places do when they brag about having black truffles as an ingredient: no, a ruthless gastronomic police state like Crush can only properly intimidate your stomach with GIANT TRUFFLE SLICES. We had at least four whole truffle cross sections on top of the albacore. I've had this flavor combination before, and it impressed me no less this time. The earthiness of the celeriac is always a great complement to the visceral diesel perfume of the black truffle. They could have given me just a pool of that sauce with truffle chips floating in it, and I would have been happy enough. The albacore was ultimately so decadently unnecessary, it was as if you could somehow combine pussy, race cars, cotton candy, the PS3, and guns into some fast sexy tasty killing machine that lets you play Castlevania. The previous sentence is an illustration both of how awesome that albacore was, and of how juvenile I am.
The gastronomic assault continued unabated with the foie gras ($24). Again, it was so tasty that words fail me. A hunk of foie gras the size of a baseball was seared to a rich mahogany. An appealing criss- cross was scored into the skin. Accompanying the liver were sweet cubes of quince, toasted cinnamon brioche slices, and some julienned white crispy things that were maybe apples, or celery, or something. Forgive me for not paying full attention, because I was distracted by the foie. It was so good, it's unfair that my taste buds had to go back to tasting the Lucky Charms I had for breakfast the next morning.
By this point I was beginning to feel weary, but we soldiered on. A rabbit loin ($24) was shrouded in rabbit forcemeat and wrapped in a chard leaf. The meat was so juicy and delicate, it had to have been poached in a stock, the way you'd cook a galantine. The rabbit galantine was served with sauteed chard and chanterelles in some kind of rich syrupy demi- glace or reduction, and was accompanied by a tiny chip of smoky, salty, crispy meat the menu described as “rabbit belly bacon.” This was so fucking crazy, and so fucking classically French, it was like something Auguste Escoffier might have dreamt up while on an acid trip.
At $42, the lobster and coral sauce is one of the most expensive menu items I've ever ordered, but it was well worth the price. Clearly Crush was pulling out the heavy artillery for a last desperate push. Succulent chunks of lobster tail peeked out from a nest of thick cut pasta in a white truffle and coral sauce. The pasta upon closer inspection revealed whole chervil leaves PRESSED INTO THE DOUGH, giving it a mottled green floral design like Rococo wallpaper.
When it became clear that my stomach wouldn't be conquered, they resorted to chemical warfare: a $12 Valrhona hot chocolate was complex: bitter, spicy, and creamy all at once. A scoop of chocolate ice cream on the side rode a cushion of house made marshmallow, and a stream of salty caramel meandered through this sugary landscape.
Finally, the demoralized partisans of Crush fired a few parting shots in the form of CANDY that arrived with the bill: cocoa dusted marcona almonds, a strawberry peppercorn marshmallow, and a lemon poppy Madeleine.
Because I managed to eat it all, I emerged the winner in this gastric Battle of Verdun. Yet like that famous engagement, it was a pyrrhic victory. After all, we couldn't ignore the fact that we still had to pay for all this shit, much like the Iraq War. Other than the shitty scallops and flan amuse, which was obviously Crush's Abu Ghraib, everything was well worth it. And like the mercenary group Blackwater USA, Crush is extremely good at what they do, but they're really fucking expensive. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the taxpayers foot this bill. War, dear readers, really IS Hell.
Rating: 9.5 legendary warriors out of 10