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Canlis in seattle?


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#1 Wilson

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Posted 10 March 2004 - 11:26 PM

Two of us went to Canlis in Seattle tonight and had an outstanding meal. We started with an amusee (sp?), a tiny cup of five-onion soup that was just delicious. I had dungeoness crab legs for an appetizer and my dining partner had a Canlis salad, which is a lot like a Caesar salad. The crab legs were very tasty and came with a nice mustard sauce for dipping.

My entree was a large piece of Alaskan halibut that was fresh and perfectly prepared. My compansion had hazelnut chicken. I had a little bit of it and the sauce was just delicious. We shared an "apple bowl" dessert with some ice cream on top, and that was excellent too. (Sorry for the blunt superlatives; a newspaper restaurant critic's job isn't in my future.)

The service just couldn't possibly have been better. We were greeted at the door by Chris Canlis, who thanked us for coming. I told him we hadn't been there for seven years and he came over to the table and we chatted a bit about how we'd moved from Boston, and the weather in the respective places. A very gracious, polished and sophisticated host. It's not often that you're greeted by the guy whose name is on the place, let alone be greeted with such grace and warmth. It really meant a lot.

I really appreciated the selection of wines by the glass. We usually get a bottle of wine at dinner, but lately my dining partner hasn't been drinking much wine so I was getting glasses. They had an outstanding Sancerre, and a chardonnay from Arcadian winery in California, which I happen to buy cases from directly. It was nice to see that Canlis doesn't do what too many restaurants do, which is to offer very pedestrian wines by the glass to effectively force people to buy by the bottle.

The ambiance was magnificent. The restaurant is an architectural gem, an example of late '60s/early '70s architecture, with a magnificent view. We were seated right near the piano player, and while it was on the loud side it wasn't deafening by any stretch. Generally speaking, the combination of service and ambiance led me to believe that this is an establishment where regular customers are well known but where newcomers (which we really are) are graciously welcomed.

I've read some comments on-line to the effect that the formality of Canlis, and the relative affluence of the regular customers, is offputting. I didn't feel that way in the least. There was nothing stuffy about it, certainly not in comparison to the stiff service you'll find in Boston where we came from. I didn't feel intimidated in the least; quite the contrary, it felt as if we had been going there for years. After tonight's experience I really wonder if the critics of this place have actually ever been there, because the Canlis I experienced has utterly nothing in common with the Canlis described by some of its detractors.

The check for two, including Seattle's 9.2% sales tax and a 20% tip, came to $198. It was well worth it. We'll absolutely be back. Canlis is an instant favorite.

Edited by Wilson, 10 March 2004 - 11:33 PM.


#2 tighe

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 09:50 AM

So Wilson, you wouldn't be defending one of Seattle's "sacred cows" now would you? :raz:

Thanks for the review. I've only been to Canlis once and thought the service and setting were, as you say, exceptional. Although the food was good, I didn't find it to be comparable with some other similarly priced restaurants in town.
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
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#3 LEdlund

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 10:50 AM

Although the food was good, I didn't find it to be comparable with some other similarly priced restaurants in town.

That's exactly my feeling about Canlis (wow, we agree again :biggrin: )

As I was reading Wilson's post I was thinking "I can't believe they have hazelnut chicken on the menu". I'd go back there if the food was more imaginative.
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#4 Schielke

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 10:51 AM

Canlis is a fantastic restaurant for a safe bet.
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#5 seacrotty

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 02:16 PM

After tonight's experience I really wonder if the critics of this place have actually ever been there, because the Canlis I experienced has utterly nothing in common with the Canlis described by some of its detractors.

I've been to Canlis three times over (roughly) as many years. I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time, thought it was good for what it was the second time, and walked out the third time wondering why I'd bothered, which is a little disconcerting after you've just dropped $500+ on dinner for four.

I suppose that there's a certain amount of familiarity breeding contempt in my evaluation, but I also think that when a restaurant presents itself at that level, everything has to be perfect, every time. I don't think that Canlis justifies the premium that they charge just because they're Canlis.

c
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#6 Wilson

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 02:58 PM

You don't go to Canlis for cutting-edge food. Schielke, you nailed it when you said Canlis is a fantastic restaurant for a safe bet. Most of the time, I go for safe bets. The cutting edge wouldn't be the cutting edge if you did it all the time.

seacrotty, I don't quite get your comment that their prices are so stratospheric that the place must absolutely be "perfect" every time. It was a $100 plate. Sure, it's expensive but it's hardly outlandish by today's standards. I've been at places with $200 to $350 plates that weren't "perfect," yet I was still quite satisfied. A good example is Mistral, where we paid $510 for two. Why should Canlis have to be "perfect" at $100 a plate? Isn't that setting the bar a bit too high?

By the way, we went to that Italian place in Kirkland a month ago that seems to get such rave reviews -- Cafe Juanita. We we paid $190 for a dinner that wasn't as good as the one we had last night, with service not in the same league and an atmosphere not even in the same universe. Both of us agreed that it was good but that we wouldn't take the trouble to go back.

Edited by Wilson, 11 March 2004 - 03:05 PM.


#7 seacrotty

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 03:37 PM

seacrotty, I don't quite get your comment that their prices are so stratospheric that the place must absolutely be "perfect" every time. It was a $100 plate. Sure, it's expensive but it's hardly outlandish by today's standards. I've been at places with $200 to $350 plates that weren't "perfect." Why should Canlis have to be "perfect" at $100?


Good point. I shouldn't have said "perfect" -- that's an unrealistic expectation. Please allow me to rephrase: I do not take enough pleasure from the atmosphere that Canlis affords to make up for what I consider to be its lack of accomplishment in food. YMMV.

As to price point, I'm not sure whether I'd look forward to or recoil in horror from the day that I didn't consider price a factor when evaluating a restaurant. (apologies for the verb-tense-fu)

c

edited to remove extra quote tags

Edited by seacrotty, 11 March 2004 - 03:38 PM.

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#8 LEdlund

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 04:03 PM

I've been at places with $200 to $350 plates that weren't "perfect," yet I was still quite satisfied.

I can't imagine this ever being the case for me, no matter how much disposable income I have. I am way too value conscious.

Edited by LEdlund, 11 March 2004 - 04:05 PM.

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#9 ScorchedPalate

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 04:26 PM

I've been at places with $200 to $350 plates that weren't "perfect," yet I was still quite satisfied. A good example is Mistral, where we paid $510 for two. Why should Canlis have to be "perfect" at $100 a plate? Isn't that setting the bar a bit too high?

I'm gonna fall back on this example yet again, just because I have the "laundry ticket" sitting on my desk right now. We spent $395.42 for two people -- including two full-bottle wine pairings and service -- at the French Laundry for food that was not only technically perfect but also witty, interesting, and capable of changing the way you felt about certain foodstuffs. And it was served with care (and without drama) by professional servers who obviously enjoyed being a part of such a unique experience.

So, no, I don't think that that we should expect a lot less from Canlis, or any other restaurant that sets itself up (by virtue of its prices and marketing) as a paragon of dining.

~Anita
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#10 agnolottigirl

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 04:39 PM

I'm with LEdlund--value definitely enters into the equation for me. If I'm going to spend the big bucks (and maybe I'm just outbudgeted here, but I do consider $100 a head expensive), I expect to have a very nice time--I want interesting food, properly cooked, in a comfortable environment, where I am nicely treated. Otherwise, I can spend a lot less and have a nicer overall experience cooking for myself at home. A so-so dinner for $200 for two would make me unhappy.
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#11 Wilson

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 05:34 PM

I do understand (and sympathize with) people not wanting to spend huge amounts of money on meals. It all depends on your budget and your preferences, doesn't it? But that doesn't mean a high price is a poor value. "Value" is a hard concept to apply to restaurants, given that it's relative and non-linear concept. A $200 plate isn't required to be twice as good as a $100 plate, which need not be four times as good as a $25 plate. That's not how it works, so people who say they stay away from the top places on that basis aren't telling the truth, either to themselves, to others or both.

Anita, don't you think that $390 is a ways away from $190? While there isn't a linear relationship between price and quality at the top end, if you pay twice as much there really ought to be a difference, wouldn't you think? Last time I looked, Canlis wasn't hyped as another French Laundry. By the way, was that a lunch or a dinner? If it was dinner, you got off pretty good. I paid $400 for lunch for two at Lucas Carton, and for that price we got a meal that opened some new vistas. Same deal with the $510 dinner at Mistral.

And agnolo, just for the record there was nothing so-so about dinner at Canlis. And I haven't protrayed it as anything but expensive. In fact, if you'll look back in this thread you will see that this is exactly the word I used for Canlis. But it's also true that it is not way out there in the stratosphere by premium restaurant standards. I agree that Canlis's prices are near the top end of the range for Seattle, but not they aren't at the same level as some others in town.

Dinner at Canlis last night was outstanding -- there was nothing "so-so" about it. Their food was quite interesting enough for me if not for others here. It's not Mistral -- but it's not priced or pitched that way, either. If you don't want to pay $100 a plate for a so-so experience, the place to shy away from is Cafe Juanita out in Kirkland. Judging by last night at Canlis, pay $100 a plate and you definitely get your money's worth. In fact, it was also better than our last meal at Campagne, which I frankly think has slipped a bit since the late-'90s.

Edited by Wilson, 11 March 2004 - 07:19 PM.


#12 Schielke

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 05:56 PM

I would not spend my own money at Canlis, but I would spend somebody else's.

:raz:

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#13 Wilson

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 07:18 PM

tighe, I suppose I was defending one of the sacred cows, and I suppose I am doing it in something of a continuing reaction to the cheap-eats mentality that pervades Seattle along with a certain level of irrational envy and resentment directed at an "establishment" institution that makes no apologies for an old-guard social clientele.

I really do think I bring a fresh set of eyes, ears and tastebuds to the place, and if it hadn't been up to snuff I'd have had absolutely no hesitation to say so. If you look at my comments about Pacific Northwest ale on the beer board, could you doubt that I have enough of a contrarian streak to be capable of ripping Canlis a new one if I thought they deserved it? :cool:

The place reminds me in a certain way of Locke-Ober, a Boston dining institution that had slowly declined before being rescued and renovated by Lydia Shire, a noted restauranteur back there. I had really loved the place but had stopped going there as it declined. Then Shire stepped in and kept what needed to be kept, changed what needed to be changed and now the place just sparkles again. Not that Canlis had ever declined -- I wouldn't know -- but rather in the sense of a dining institution now being just as good as it ever was said to be.

There are plenty of Bostonian foodies who look askance at Locke-Ober in the way that plenty of Seattle foodies seem to think Canlis is hopelessly retrograde, but Locke-Ober was the last place ate before leaving Boston for Seattle. I bid Boston a fond farewell over scallops and a bowl of JFK's lobster stew. I don't care what anyone says, but JFK's lobster stew is the best lobster stew on the East Coast which means it's the best anywhere. :smile:

Like the new Locke-Ober, the Canlis I visited was absolutely not resting on any laurels. It's an excellent restaurant and they clearly work very hard to make it that way. They charge full price for this, and they deserve to. It's a good thing when a place can last this long and still be this good. So I lift a toast to Canlis, and will be back, even at the risk of being considered a stick in the mud reactionary. :raz:

Edited by Wilson, 11 March 2004 - 07:23 PM.


#14 JCPTX

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 08:01 PM

Anyone know if its good, I know its been aroudn for 50 years, are they doing anything great right now, any opinions?


Thanks in advance

#15 chefturnedbum

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 08:26 PM

Canlis is one of those places you go for the prestige. It is an icon that I doubt will ever be allowed to go down. The people who own it expect great things so I imagine even though Greag Atkinson is gone it is probably still as memorable and expensive (lol). Wear your coat and tie.

#16 little ms foodie

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 08:34 PM

Welcome to eG!!

We haven't been but the view is beautiful- lake Union.

Also I recently read a wonderful article on their sommelier (sp), he is one of very few in the country to have Master status.

And the place is PACKED nightly, we pass all the parking cars and limos.

#17 DrinkBoy

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 08:48 PM

I love te Canlis, although I haven't been there for several years.

Is it "Alain Ducass"? No.

Is it the "Best Restaurant In Seattle"? No. That would probably be Rover's, HerbFarm, Union...

But it is still a great. Better if you can have a reservation for 6 or more and ask for a window view, where the view is essentially better than what you get at the Space Needle.

But the food is great, the service is great, and order the "Cafe Diable" after the dinner for a great (but not as good as it used to be, before the fire marshall got involved) drink experience.

-Robert

#18 Karen Anderson

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 09:13 PM

After wondering about Canlis for 20 years, I took my husband and mom there to dinner this evening. The food: superb ingredients, prepared with expertise and restraint. Classic without being at all boring, elegant without being at all pretentious. The service was genuinely gracious. Our waitperson was attentive and respectful with elderly my mom, and very good with my husband, who is generally skeptical about the service in most of Seattle's high-end restaurants. By the time the main cour arrived, we were all charmed and feeling well taken care of.

The Canlis seafood chowder (technically, more of a bisque) and the signature house salad were both stand-outs. My husband had steak (Misty Isle, not the Waygu); my mom had lamb chops. I thought their choices were better than the scallops I had. Nice broiled scallops, but the sauce (carrot corriander) didn't seem to find its voice.

For food and service, Canlis lived up to my expectations. The unexpected delight was the atmosphere. The interior of the restaurant is dark, almost like a theater, and opens up to an amphitheatrical view north over the ship canal. Exposed beams, slanted floor-to-ceiling windows, slate floor, and Asian-influenced ceramics create a mid-century, Frank Lloyd Wright feeling, with a Northwest twist. No idea what the men's room is like, but I got three great house design ideas from their women's room.

To our delight, there was live piano music on a Tuesday night. Many of the diners seemed to be regulars, and everyone looked as though they were having a fine time.

Expensive? Yes. Worth it. Absolutely. Go there with people you really care about so you can relax and enjoy it all.
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#19 JCPTX

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 05:22 AM

thank you everyone for you opinions and comments, especially the last one, what a great response, if the restaurant is half as good as the way you told it, i'm sure I won't be let down.

Thanks again

Anymore opinions?

#20 DRColby

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 07:55 AM

My wife had an aunt who many, many years ago cooked at Canlis. She died recently and left the little she had to her one child, a class lady from NYC.
At the wake her daughter took her inheritance and used it all on everyone at Canlis; one of the few things in her life that her mother would have approved of.
It's an impressive place. Not so much for the food but for the way it's all done, the service, the ambiance, etc.
The only other times I have been to Canlis is when I owned a company and we had a good year. Then we'd have our board meeting there.... Tossed at the table Ceaser's and the top of the wine list...... That happened twice in 15 years.
That's the way I remember it, and before Greg. I think it probably still has that class.


Dave

#21 tighe

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 02:47 PM

A few years ago, my sister gave me a dinner at Canlis for a graduation gift. Although the food was very good quality, it isn't interesting enough to entice me back. The space, view and service are all top-notch. I also appreciated that although we ordered a relatively inexpensive bottle of wine, the sommelier took the time to talk about it with us in a very friendly, non-condescending way.
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#22 JCPTX

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 06:44 PM

good stories

#23 vengroff

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Posted 04 September 2005 - 10:06 PM

The Canlis wine list is an insanely large tome. It is amazing the quantity and quality they have collected over the years. For example, there's damn near a full page of Leonetti Cabs going back to the late '80s. Prices are generally fair given that much of what they have on hand is essentially impossible to find anywhere else.
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#24 little ms foodie

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 05:07 PM

So TallDrinkOfWater took me to Canlis 2 weeks ago for a very romantic date. He reserved the private Cache Room for the 2 of us, you have the room to yourself for the entire evening and a private waiter. Gorgeous corner room with views east and north- stunning. The menus have no prices (you know this in advance) and there is no bill at the end of the night, it's mailed out the next day.

We started with a split of Veuve and shared a dish off the tasting menu that our waiter said was not a problem to have with our champagne instead. Lobster with foie gras demi glace, winter greens and ricotta flanfoie gras butter. It was presently beautifully but unfortunately the flavors were so mild they were practically not there!

Next we had the Canlis salad and the steak tartare. Both were fantastic!!! We had finished our champagne and had asked to speak to the sommelier but she had not arrived yet. By the time she came and talked with us about the wines we had finished our first course with nothing in the glass- disappointing.

When Dayne was discussing wine with Dawn Smith she asked him 'How much do you want to spend' right in front of me! I think this is so rude! They were going over the book and he was asking about certain wines so she saw the prices he was interested in.

We ordered dinner- I had the Muscovy Duck Two Ways; seared breast and confit, with sautéed kohlrabi and a stone fruit reduction. The confit was in phyllo and was a bit tough. Dayne had the mixed grill, all was good but he thought his pork was a bit overdone. We also let our waiter know that we wanted the gingerbread and the Grand Marnier Soufflé which they say you need to order in advance.

After our dinner we had a nice cheese plate, nothing earth shattering but good. I ordered a Sauterne and Dayne had an Armgnac (we had cabbed!) and then we sat and sat and sat. Finally our waiter came back and asked if there was anything else while putting down a box of toffees to take home. "just our dessert!". He had completely forgotten to order the desserts! No we didn't want to wait, no we didn't want creme brulee. He left and brought back a creme brulee anyway.

We left and a few days later Dayne got the bill. The CHARGED us for the creme brulee!!! and to make it up sent us 2 coupons for free dessert. Are you kidding me? That is the tackiest thing ever! It was a very expensive evening. Dayne said it was our 4th most expensive meal ever and that is saying a lot! We have been to some mighty pricey places all over the world.

Not impressed. :shock:

#25 ladybugseattle

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Posted 22 March 2006 - 08:54 AM

Ceasar tossed at the table, steak tartare, lamb chops, steak, souflees and creme brulee? Is this a restaurant or a museum?

#26 malarkey

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 11:32 AM

Ceasar tossed at the table, steak tartare, lamb chops, steak, souflees and creme brulee? Is this a restaurant or a museum?

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Since when do museums serve food?

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#27 LaurieA-B

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 08:04 AM

I was shocked by the service lapse Wendy experienced. Not only is Canlis known for fine service, but you paid a large extra premium for the private room and designated server. And he FORGOT a course that you ordered? That's just abominable--the mistake itself, and the the extremely poor handling that followed. I think some major comping--perhaps of your Cache Room fee?--would not have been inappropriate. Coupons for free dessert sounds tacky. If they want you to come back, why not a substantial gift certificate? I hope you wrote or phoned the restaurant to express your displeasure, but it's really too late for them to make up for this series of errors now.
Hungry Monkey May 2009

#28 tighe

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 09:35 AM

I was shocked by the service lapse Wendy experienced. Not only is Canlis known for fine service, but you paid a large extra premium for the private room and designated server. And he FORGOT a course that you ordered? That's just abominable--the mistake itself, and the the extremely poor handling that followed. I think some major comping--perhaps of your Cache Room fee?--would not have been inappropriate. Coupons for free dessert sounds tacky. If they want you to come back, why not a substantial gift certificate? I hope you wrote or phoned the restaurant to express your displeasure, but it's really too late for them to make up for this series of errors now.

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The only reasons I would go back to Canlis is the space/view and the service, but if the service is shaky...
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#29 elswinger

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 02:02 PM

I might have to cross the Canlis off my list of places to go before I die. A room charge of a hundred dollars, OK that I don't mind for the view and the experience, but and automatic 20% service charge when the service was less than stellar really is off putting.
"Homer, he's out of control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse head on the bed. He ate the head and gave it a bad review! True Story." Luigi, The Simpsons

#30 DRColby

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 08:48 AM

Does Canlis still have service using only men as waiters and Asian, or Asian-American, women in kimotos doing all the table work?
I thought this was a little unusual, maybe either sexism or something brought back from their Hawaian restaurant when they still owned it.
The whole scene was a little strange.
The few times I've been there it reminded me of a Frank Sinatra-Ava Gardner movie setting., or better yet North by Northwest.
My business partner's wife grew up in the northend in the '50s and Canlis was" the place" to go: after the prom, for the wedding reception, etc.
I guess not any more.

Dave