Heading to Bainbridge Island feels like such an adventure when the sun sets. The massive lumbering ferry from Seattle is efficient and comfortable. A mild incline walk through blooming gardens and quiet trees at dusk set the mood perfectly.Tech bro’s wearing extremely short shorts, speaking loudly with upspeak didn’t hurt either.
Chef Brendan McGill was selected as a semifinalist for the James Beard Awards in the category Best Chef Northwest so we had high expectations going into this meal. Hitchcock is backed by an organic garden (and a micro-seasonal tasting menu) for sourcing, and local menu items at every turn. Choosing to sit outside seemed like a great idea to enjoy the fading summer sunshine, yet we might have gotten better pacing and attention inside.
The wine list was exceptional, featuring local depth of selections from nearby Yakima and Columbia Valleys, as well as Oregon. I noticed quite a few well priced Italian wines from up and down the peninsula, as well as French selections heavy on the affordable Loire Valley. I knew we couldn’t go wrong starting with a bottle of I Clivi Ribolla Gialla from Venezia Giulia near the Slovenian border. The wine was a great pair with our starting course of 6 oysters; savory herbal notes and bitter citrus on the nose. The oysters weren’t exciting and the presentation was minimal and flat.
Next up was the Shady Acres (Chef Brendan’s Farm) house cured Lonza ( pork loin, also called lomo in Spanish) coming from his own Mangalitsa Hungarian pigs. Though the underlying pork was delicious, this dish was all wrong for me. The olive oil was oxidized, and added to much richness to the already fatty pork. The blueberries didn’t really make sense, nor did the wilted arugula which served as more of a distraction. The toasted pumpkin seeds as a fall condiment were also a bit confusing for summer plating.
The grass-fed bone marrow was nicely plated and had excellent flavor from the wood burning oven. We all commented that a softer toast would’ve been nicer than the crisp and crumbly ovals we were served. The Giant Pacific octopus up next was underwhelming – the octopus was cooked well but would’ve benefited from more char. We liked the chickpeas and treviso, but this dish needed a bit more flavor.
Next up an elegant plating of a single beet with some wilted greens, hard cheese, pumpkins seeds again, and a light drizzle of olive oil. Nothing revolutionary here, but nothing to complain about. This was one of my favorite dishes in it’s simplicity and beauty. I liked the color added by the flower petals, though I don’t think they added any flavor.
Our three main courses were exceptional. The Lan-Roc pork chop was cooked and cut beautifully with an excellent char. The bacon and black eyed peas were a great accompaniment and had a great acidity which worked well with the chop. Again with the pretty flowers.
The wood fired half roasted chicken was also nicely done, and the egg addition was perfectly cooked. The greens were a bit soggy but adequate in flavor. Just a great chicken here, not over done or dry.
Finally the Neah Bay Halibut with soft farro and shaved radishes had a beautiful char. I thought the finishing salt was a bit sloppy and the fish slightly overdone, but we enjoyed this local catch on the merits of its freshness alone. The plating here was again a bit amateurish but the flavors were in line with our expectations. The fish and the pork were the standouts.
We started to have a bit more fun after the mains were down and the staff came out to say hello. Overall I can’t say we were terribly impressed by this meal; the ingredients were sourced extremely well and of the highest quality, but the chef wasn’t really trying to tell us anything with these plates, other than the fact that his ingredients are amazing.
We ended up taking a nice bottle of wine to go, though it was discovered tragically by the brave septuagenarian security on the ferry. The staff at the restaurant provided us with all the necessities for a road beverage as well as a great selection from Puglia.
Once we returned to the mainland I couldn’t help but wonder, had it all been a dream?