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seastar


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It's really a bit of a conundrum - because fine ingredients (as well as a lot of other things) don't cost more in Chicago than they do in Seattle or Jacksonville.

I'll disagree with this for $400 Alex. :laugh:

Transportation of fine ingredients alone can sometimes double or triple the cost of an item. Before I found Seattle Caviar on Eastlake, I used to have my foie gras shipped to me from out of state. It had to be shipped overnight in special packaging and that cost about $50 for a 1.5 pound foie.

Another example is restaurants in Chicago or Jacksonville who want to get on the Copper River salmon bandwagon will need to have it shipped overnight if it's going to qualify as a 'fine ingredient'. This explains why it's about $10 a pound after the first week of availability here in Seattle and $30 a pound at Dominick’s or Jewel in Chicago.

There are many regional ingredients that require special handling, and people who live out of a region and want that regional ingredient fresh are going to have to pay for it

In addition, labor costs fluctuate around the country. Some areas require minimum wage for servers, other areas allow restaurants to pay their servers $2 or $3 an hour with expectation that tips will make up the difference. Restaurants paying higher wages need to get that money from its customers.

There are many things that can add to the cost of a plate simply because of a restaurant's location, IMHO. :rolleyes:

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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I think that seastar's problem is that it fails to excell.  I used to work right across the street from it back in the day.

The menu does not seem to have focus and the place just does not feel special.

Food wise, I never had anything there that was poor, but I never had anything there that was great.  Most things are prepared fairly well but are priced as if they are much better than they turn out.

Ben

I guess what you're saying is that in the Seattle area - there's a price point where people won't frequent a restaurant unless it's extraordinary. That is also true where I live with one exception. All the tourists/convention people etc. will drop big bucks at expensive chains like Ruth's Chris, Morton's, etc.

It's really a bit of a conundrum - because fine ingredients (as well as a lot of other things) don't cost more in Chicago than they do in Seattle or Jacksonville. Yet I find myself unwilling to patronize a local restaurant that costs $100-150 for 2 when it is merely good - as opposed to spending more - sometimes a lot more - in a big city where the food is terrific. For example - I rejected going out to a new restaurant here tonight because we would have wound up with a bill in that general price range - and it didn't have a full liquor license (I enjoy having a cocktail before dinner).

Anyway - regarding Seastar - I really like raw bar things - and I especially like raw bar things from the Pacific Northwest (e.g., love the oysters). So perhaps that's why I enjoyed this restaurant more than most people here. Robyn

Robyn,

I think you did certainly choose the right things to order at seastar. I am certain that the restaurant does get good ingredients and one of the best ways to serve a fine ingredient is to not mess with it much.

My old co-workers reported very good raw bar items for lunch in the past. I had some one time and also thought they were fine. When we went for dinner, however, the raw bar is not pushed much and the cooked dishes are typically ordered. I think this is where Seastar's inconsistency comes from.

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Anyway - regarding Seastar - I really like raw bar things - and I especially like raw bar things from the Pacific Northwest (e.g., love the oysters). So perhaps that's why I enjoyed this restaurant more than most people here. Robyn

The nice Seattle people are behaving so sweetly to you. I have to wonder if you've read anything from this board before? Have you missed the hunt for Stellar Bay oysters? The testimony to toro? The searching for still squirming shrimp? The followers of fugu? The undying adoration of uni? I believe you are not alone in your enjoyment of raw things.

And please - do tell us your theory about dining - happily, I frequently sit at the bar at the dinner hour, in a full restaurant, so I won't be the target of your theory either. And I generally feel well treated and served.

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The nice Seattle people are behaving so sweetly to you. I have to wonder if you've read anything from this board before? Have you missed the hunt for Stellar Bay oysters? The testimony to toro? The searching for still squirming shrimp? The followers of fugu? The undying adoration of uni? I believe you are not alone in your enjoyment of raw things.

And please - do tell us your theory about dining - happily, I frequently sit at the bar at the dinner hour, in a full restaurant, so I won't be the target of your theory either. And I generally feel well treated and served.

No - I haven't read the "Seattle specific" posts extensively. Mostly because I haven't been to Seattle since I first started to read this message board. I will definitely "tune in" before my next trip.

My theory was basically that 2 younger women had gone to a relatively fancy crowded restaurant - and occupied a table while ordering a couple of drinks and a few appetizers. And I thought the server might have been PO'd with having a relatively small check (and tip) at a table during "prime time".

I mean no offense to the diner here with this theory. I personally play tennis and golf - and have seen groups of 10 women go to a nice restaurant - occupy a lot of space - split 5 ceasar salads with glasses of water - and then ask for separate checks. Makes me shudder (so I don't dine with them anymore).

Obviously my theory wasn't correct because this diner - quite properly in my opinion - ate at the bar when she and her friend were having a few drinks and a couple of appetizers (which is exactly what I would have done).

So I have to think that 1) the food in this restaurant is inconsistent (the raw food being better than the cooked offerings); and/or 2) the server had a problem with (young) women. When I get back to Bellevue - I'll test the first premise. As for the second - I've had enough problems dining as a single woman - or as a twosome of women - to know that the latter happens more often than it should. My favorite was once when I went to a fancy hotel restaurant in Atlanta on a business trip - dined alone - the whole restaurant was empty - and they seated me at the table next to the kitchen door :wacko:. I never returned to the restaurant - or the hotel for that matter. Robyn

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I think you did certainly choose the right things to order at seastar.  I am certain that the restaurant does get good ingredients and one of the best ways to serve a fine ingredient is to not mess with it much.

My old co-workers reported very good raw bar items for lunch in the past.  I had some one time and also thought they were fine.  When we went for dinner, however, the raw bar is not pushed much and the cooked dishes are typically ordered.  I think this is where Seastar's inconsistency comes from.

Ben

I think you gave me a lot of insight here.

Guess I lucked out. Actually right for the wrong reason. I smoke - and (at least when I was there) - you could only smoke at the bar at Seastar. So that's where I ate. And - apart from really liking raw seafood - the raw bar chefs were so personable - willing to recommend things - say what was great - what wasn't so great - so interested in making nice presentations - that my husband and I never did get around to ordering from anything other than the raw bar menu.

At some point during both of the meals we had there - the chef appeared - and insisted we try a couple of things we hadn't already tried. The modest wines we ordered were appropriate for the food. And we had interesting discussions with the people on both sides of us (they were from Seattle - high tech kind of work - and my husband and I don't get to talk with people who do that kind of work too often - so we just - to use a phrase - "ate it up" :wink:). We had two meals where everything just kind of "came together". The "Jupiter aligning with Mars" kind of experience. Good eats. Lots of fun.

By the way - even when it comes to cooked seafood - I agree with you that "less" is generally "more". Whether it's a nice deep fried flounder - or a poached fillet of sole - or just peel and eat shrimp (served with small portions of appropriate sauces). I cook a lot of seafood at home - and high quality seafood usually speaks for itself.

You know - I have to ask you Seattle people a question. Our Costco here in Florida sells whole Dungeness crab - previously frozen. Is this a product that can be decent if previously frozen (obviously it would be better fresh - but we're not likely to get it fresh here)? Robyn

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Transportation of fine ingredients alone can sometimes double or triple the cost of an item. Before I found Seattle Caviar on Eastlake, I used to have my foie gras shipped to me from out of state. It had to be shipped overnight in special packaging and that cost about $50 for a 1.5 pound foie.

Another example is restaurants in Chicago or Jacksonville who want to get on the Copper River salmon bandwagon will need to have it shipped overnight if it's going to qualify as a 'fine ingredient'. This explains why it's about $10 a pound after the first week of availability here in Seattle and $30 a pound at Dominick’s or Jewel in Chicago.

There are many regional ingredients that require special handling, and people who live out of a region and want that regional ingredient fresh are going to have to pay for it

In addition, labor costs fluctuate around the country. Some areas require minimum wage for servers, other areas allow restaurants to pay their servers $2 or $3 an hour with expectation that tips will make up the difference. Restaurants paying higher wages need to get that money from its customers.

There are many things that can add to the cost of a plate simply because of a restaurant's location, IMHO.  :rolleyes:

This is a very good argument for "ordering local" except perhaps in the finest of restaurants (e.g., we have a shrimp fleet here - and the local shrimp are terrific). Robyn

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Dungies can freeze fairly well, and of course the final quality also depends on the handling before, and during it's frozen state.

I will say that I have noted that many of the Dungies sold at the Pike Place Market have been frozen. It was one of those 'Damn, I wish I had my camera' moments. A couple of summers ago, I was in the Market very early, and saw a pallet of clearly marked FROZEN crabs in front of one of the seafood vendors. I was horrified. I don't know who they're selling to, but they've been doing it for a long time, with success. So maybe, if that's all you can get, frozen Dungies may not be so bad. Maybe better than no Dungies at all. :wink:

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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My theory was basically that 2 younger women had gone to a relatively fancy crowded restaurant - and occupied a table while ordering a couple of drinks and a few appetizers. And I thought the server might have been PO'd with having a relatively small check (and tip) at a table during "prime time".

I mean no offense to the diner here with this theory.

So I have to think that 1) the food in this restaurant is inconsistent (the raw food being better than the cooked offerings); and/or 2) the server had a problem with (young) women.

robyn - i'm wondering why the (mis)perception of my age happened, and why it should matter? (women of all ages get married and have bridesmaids - if that was the reason)

for the record - i thought the bartender was clueless but competent. i don't think i ever implied i was unhappy with the service - just the food - some of which was raw - but not delivered as advertised.

the one thing that nags at me is your hypothesis about why i might have been unhappy. unwelcoming service in a restaurant that's aiming for a high-market clientele would be my #1 reason not to return. the fact that it's an inconsiderate diner that monopolizes a table isn't relevant - all guests should be treated with warmth and respect. besides - if i'd been there alone and not wanted to be in the bar but wanted to order a full meal at a table - wouldn't that have been ok?

i'm glad you had a good experience there, and i see why you feel protective of it - i hope for your sake that i was there on an off night, but i just can't see returning to eat.

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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  • 4 weeks later...
robyn - i'm wondering why the (mis)perception of my age happened, and why it should matter? (women of all ages get married and have bridesmaids - if that was the reason)

for the record - i thought the bartender was clueless but competent. i don't think i ever implied i was unhappy with the service - just the food - some of which was raw - but not delivered as advertised.

the one thing that nags at me is your hypothesis about why i might have been unhappy. unwelcoming service in a restaurant that's aiming for a high-market clientele would be my #1 reason not to return. the fact that it's an inconsiderate diner that monopolizes a table isn't relevant - all guests should be treated with warmth and respect. besides - if i'd been there alone and not wanted to be in the bar but wanted to order a full meal at a table - wouldn't that have been ok?

i'm glad you had a good experience there, and i see why you feel protective of it - i hope for your sake that i was there on an off night, but i just can't see returning to eat.

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

Yes - women of all ages get married and have bridesmaids - but I think the latter tends to become more infrequent as women age (there's just something a little weird about a 40 year old bridesmaid IMO - I think the dresses were made for younger women :wink: ).

I agree that at a fine restaurant - all guests - no matter who they are - or how they behave - should be treated the same. On the other hand - wait staff who have a limited number of tables during a busy shift - when they rely on tips for a living - sometimes cannot avoid showing their hostility toward diners who put them in a position of not making the tips they would like to get (whether it's because they don't eat a lot of food - like a group of 10 women who split 5 salads - or because they're just lousy tippers - like a group of very young people like my nieces or very old people like my parents who think that 10% is plenty - or a group of Europeans who aren't accustomed to US tipping practices). I think most wait staff have a set of stereotypes when it comes to tipping - and some of the stereotypes aren't unjustified. And this may show up in the type of service a diner receives. I'm not saying it's right. I just think it happens. Robyn

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wait staff who have a limited number of tables during a busy shift - when they rely on tips for a living - sometimes cannot avoid showing their hostility toward diners

yes they can, and they should. i'm speaking from experience - any hostility i showed as a waitress (and believe me - i had my nights) was wrong. when the blind people came in and wanted water while i read them the menu while i was slammed - i was frustrated. but it was my job to help them graciously and not their fault that i was busy. that's an extreme example but it illustrates a point.

with respect to the folks who don't tip well - there are a lot of generalities but one universal truth - people in the business always tip well and as a waitron - you never know who's who. the light eaters may order 4 cocktails or an expensive bottle of wine. regardless - good waiters (at decent restaurants) always make their money.

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not remembering the largely negative tone of this thread, I took Ms Toast to Seastar for one of her many birthday dinners yesterday (following in the footsteps of Malarkey, Ms Toast is celebrating from her actual birthdate through the remainder of the month).

In short, we had a very good meal: excellent food for the most part, attentive service. I'm quite willing to gripe about the overall cost, which seemed a tetch high to me. But I gripe about price most everywhere I eat; where isn't it high? Well, maybe Salumi - but I guess that's another thread.

Non-standouts: calamari poppers: good, tender, but not outstanding; lemon foam dessert: this just didn't impress me.

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boy! me neither! I seemed to remember some negative reviews of Seastar, but I guess I never read through the whole thread. :shock:

I was with Mr & Mrs Toast at Seastar and my feelings are pretty much the same. The food was good, the service was good, the prices are a titch high. and there were a few things I tasted that I thought were damn good.

so there ya go. They must have (or had) some inconsistency problems. They were fairly busy for a Tuesday night, too.

but my overall feeling is that I would return.

Born Free, Now Expensive

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  • 4 months later...

I was on the Eastside yesterday (shhhh, don't tell anyone! :raz: ) so a friend and I had dinner at SeaStar. Having heard such a mix of reviews I was bracing for a not so great meal.

First off this is like a little power business spot. Many men in blue suits at large tables. Then there are the special event tables- birthdays and anniversarys.

The wine list is really nice and has a great area in the front with lots of recommendations ranging from $22 to $358. The only glitch in our service all night was at the beginning when I waited 20 mins for my server to come over and ask if I wanted something while I waited for my friend. Duh!! So I ordered a 4 oz taste of a white that sounded promising for dinner. She brought me a full glass without the extra charge.

Baskets of bread- flatbread, wheat and baguette were also a bit "Benjamin" in style but the flatbread was really good! We ordered a very inexpensive 2002 Domaine de Puoy, Gascogne and were surprised when the sommelier came over and presented it to us. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised but I laughed to myself as this is a $9 wine at the grocery store! haha! Perfect with our meal though.

We shared the Washington roll to start- salmon, apple and crab. I really liked the apple with the rich fish in this!

I had the parmesean crusted talapia and my friend had the escarol with pineapple/pomegrante salsa. Hers won for flavors and kick! Both of our dishes were done perfectly. Crispy seared on the outside - light and moist on the inside. Large portions also.

No dessert for us. Thought the bill was fair. Also when I went to grab my car out of valet park I noticed that it said it was $5 with validation. When I mentioned this outloud the valet said, 'you already paid don't worry' but it wasn't on our bill inside. Not sure if the waitress comp'd or the valet did but it was nice.

on a side note my friend got seastar and seagarden mixed up. She parked and went into Sea Garden, they laughed and said that happens all the time.

Edited by little ms foodie (log)
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<just joined, and adding a Sept experience>

Back in September, my wife wanted to try Seastar. She had talapia (loved it) and I had a steak (decent for a seafood restaurant). Overall, I thought that it was a decent place for a nicer dinner, but I did think they're prices were a little high.

Perhaps they were going through some growing pains earlier?

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maybe my experience was unusual...but i don't think i'll revisit. i'm very rarely on the east side, and i'd definitely go to one of the indian places recommended on this board over a place i'm now pre-disposed not to like. but i'm kind of a bitch. :blink:

see?

Holiday spirit (from the weekly)

This holiday season, 300 pounds of turkey, 75 pounds of stuffing, 100 pounds of potatoes, 75 pounds of yams, and 12 pounds of cranberry sauce are being put to good use at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar. On Thanksgiving Day, the Bellevue restaurant will host a lavish three-course holiday meal for over 60 financially challenged families (around 250 people in all). The Thanksgiving feast, which will last from noon until 4 p.m., will be cooked by the Seastar kitchen staff, with other services (dishwashing, etc.) provided by friends and family of employees who also want to volunteer their time. After the Thanksgiving dinner is finished for the attending families, chef/owner John Howie and the volunteers will sit down to their own Thanksgiving dinner together. What a great way to put the spirit of Thanksgiving back into America's most bloated holiday . . . and wouldn't you want to spend Thanksgiving with someone who's planning to bake 48 pumpkin pies?

how cool are they? glad lots of you have had positive experiences there, and am very impressed with their generosity.

happy holiday y'all!

edited to welcome daves (welcome daves!)

rk

Edited by reesek (log)

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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John Howie is opening a new place back in Seattle - near Seattle Center somewhere - a "Sports Restaurant". Says him.

Could it be the new sports "bar" in the Fisher Plaza? Next to the Cheese Cellar? That might be fun.

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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John Howie is opening a new place back in Seattle - near Seattle Center somewhere - a "Sports Restaurant". Says him.

Could it be the new sports "bar" in the Fisher Plaza? Next to the Cheese Cellar? That might be fun.

I love quoting myself :biggrin:. I was at The Cheese Cellar and they tell me the new place is John Howie's. It's supposed to open in January.

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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