A Taste of Iceland Returns at Dahlia Lounge (and Neumos!)
The popular annual culinary experience A Taste of Iceland returns to Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Lounge next week, October 9 – 12. It looks like Bárðarbunga is erupting in a less disastrous way than some people feared it might; the country has not been washed away by a jökulhlaup, Björk is safe, and other Europeans aren’t getting petulant toward Icelandic people for living near the volcano that caused it. (That actually did happen during the 2010 eruption. We can take it as a sign that we humans still intuitively view ourselves as connected with the land we occupy…to a point.)
So it’s a perfect time to celebrate the volatile mystery of that northern island with an expertly prepared meal of Icelandic cuisine. And if you think it will be nothing but herring and sheep milk, think again. (Pictures from last year’s menu provide ample evidence.) The sophisticated menu will be prepared by Icelandic chef Viktor Örn Andrésson, head chef at Blue Lagoon’s LAVA Restaurant and the 2014 Nordic Chef of the Year, in collaboration with Dahlia Lounge’s chef Brock Johnson. Two paired drinks will be prepared by mixologist Amber Gephart.
Reservations are highly recommended. See the menu and make reservations through the Dahlia Lounge Web site.
This series of dining events is in conjunction with multiple cultural events throughout the city connecting Seattle with Icelandic music, writing and art. On October 11, a free show at Neumos (925 E Pike St) titled Reykjavik Calling will feature musical collaborations between local and Icelandic musicians. The programs three acts pair Sin Fang (Iceland) with Seattle Rock Orchestra String Quintet (Seattle), Sóley (Iceland) with Say Hi (Seattle), and Júníus Meyvant (Iceland) with Cataldo (Seattle). Admission is first come first serve, 21+. The show starts at 8 PM.
For a full list of cultural events, including Icelandic arts and crafts at the Nordic Heritage Museum and a writing jam on October 10 at Elliott Bay Book Company, check out the Taste of Iceland Web site.
Worth a Visit: Shiro’s Sushi Carries on Without Shiro
Years ago, when I moved to Seattle from Japan, I quickly set about tracking down the best sushi in town. Everyone recommended Shiro’s—and, because Ichiro Suzuki was still a local celeb at the time, it was often mentioned in connection with him. I had seen Ichiro’s darling mug plastered on advertisements on nearly every wall in Japan, so I actually took my time getting to Shiro’s.
In some ways, I regret it. (The mere mention of Wasabi Bistro still sends a shudder of revulsion down my spine. I don’t care how many times they remodel: That place is forever tainted with mayo abominations for me.) In other ways, I don’t. The fish was excellent, but despite being a veteran of sushi bars around Japan and knowing the etiquette (and the language), despite the hype, despite even the professional friendliness of the other chef behind the bar, I left ready to declare it the most unsavory experience I had ever had at a sushiya. The chef I had was capable, but dismissive and at times shockingly rude.
For years, I would tell people, “The food is good and traditional, the way I like it, but the service was colder than the sake, and that is neither good nor traditional.” The restaurant rightly reserves the right to tell you to take a hike if you want cream cheese and googly eyes on your maki, but that’s because it has reverence for the total experience and aesthetic and ritual of sushi. Among other slights, calling a customer omae unprovoked is—for those who don’t know—not part of that tradition. Shiro himself would probably have been appalled at the situation, but in Japan and in the Northwest, it’s best not to make waves. (That isn’t a tsunami pun.) I simply never went back, though I respected the dedication to traditional presentation and food. Fusion rolls can be tasty, but they are not delicious as I define it—nodding to its related word, “delicate” and “delight.” Sticking to a traditional edomae philosophy of food continues to pay dividends, and Shiro’s remains a destination in every season.
This unfortunate prelude is, believe it or not, leading to an endorsement. Last week, Shiro officially stepped aside from the restaurant after twenty years. Some will dismay, and there is no doubt that the master and founder’s absence will be missed by many with good reason. However, the philosophy of the restaurant has not been altered and it continues with seasoned manager Tatsuya Nakawake and many experienced chefs, the most senior being Toshio Matsudo, who has been working as a sushi chef for 47 years.
You can check out the full staff on their Web site, and—I was happy to note—you won’t see the fellow who turned me off of Shiro’s years ago. Whether you have never tried Shiro’s before or—like me—you had a less than stellar experience, it may be time to visit. I’m making a point of it.
Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant is at 2401 2nd Ave, Seattle WA 98121. Call for reservations: (206) 443-9844
Cafe Nordo Breaks Ground, Kickstarter Continues
I wrote in the last Venue News about the newly launched Kickstarter campaign for Cafe Nordo. That effort is chugging along while the Nordo team is going full-steam on building out the rest of the Culinarium, their permanent home in the old Elliott Bay Book Company building at Main and 1st in Pioneer Square. They recently invited a hundred close supporters, literati and thespians to a groundbreaking celebration in the shell of the Culinarium, in advance of the new show that begins this month.
Their new production in November, Don Nordo, is inspired by Don Quixote.I mention that to dispel confusion, as people might think it is inspired or connected with Seattle Opera’s production of Don Giovanni, premiering October 18. (So chances are “Shirtless Skirt-steak Beefcake” will not be on the menu, as inspired by the Opera’s rather garish ads seen around town.)
The quick wits at Nordo are deeply entrenched in all the performing arts locally, which is precisely why the Culinarium is such an exciting enterprise: It will unite elements of food and hospitality (which already have the rapt attention of Seattle’s foodie population) with the arts, becoming a hub for many creative disciplines in the cultural heart of the city. First peek tickets to Don Nordo are available to donors on Kickstarter, so if you want to get in and you haven’t donated yet, now is a perfect time! So click here.