I’ve been a fan of Jason Wilson’s Crush for a long time. We went after it newly opened and were captivated by the vibe, decor, service, and especially the food. We had one of those dinners that connected you to a place. Since Crush opened in 2005, Seattle’s food reputation has grown by leaps and bounds. When we went a week ago, we left wondering why we’ve been away so long.
It’s not like we haven’t been fans of Crush. I recommend it to friends all the time. And they’ve all enjoyed it too. From the food to the decor, Chef Jason Wilson and his team at Crush have grabbed all sorts of accolades. In fact, in 2006 Food & Wine named him one of the 10 best new chefs in the country. Stepping into Crush, you’ll be inside a charming old home, juxtaposed with modern touches like fancy white plastic chairs. Plastic you say? Yes, but it’s a design masterpiece of a chair. And that’s what cool about Crush, they’ve taken something unique, looked at a bit sideways, and found their own spin. Like using plastic chairs in the dining room.
It was a local TV show that was OnDemand to trigger our desire to go back to Crush. In the segment with Jason and Thierry Rautureau, Chef Wilson dropped this nugget of info; he exclusively uses Alaskan sea salt. Then when we were at the Chefs Table event at Rover’s last month we were able to converse with Jason about the salt and why he likes this type so much. When he invited us to visit the restaurant and after tasting his lamb saddle, which left us longing for more. Done – we had to go to Crush.
We found ourselves at Crush on an innocuous Wednesday evening with reserved seats at the bar. We’ve mentioned how much we enjoy sitting at the bar before; it is the best seat in the house. You’re a part of the action, you get to talk with the staff and you get to see the details into what makes each dish; it is all a spectacle that makes the evening visually entertaining. And because there is always someone from the crew around, you get the best service.
And the service at Crush is excellent. Every time we had a question someone was there to answer. We were curious about their fancy water system, they answered that. We were intrigued about what they threw on the grill – pork belly. On the grill? Well when you cook it sous vide, you can do that. What’s sous vide? We’ll get to that. But at Crush the conversation was flowing between guests and staff and that is a good thing.
Here are three really cool things about our evening at Crush:
- They cook Sous Vide
While sitting at the bar I noticed an immersion circulator. This grabbed my interest for two reasons. One, because immersion circulators cook sous vide. The other, because I don’t know of many other Seattle-area restaurants that cook with this technique. I know that Tilth does, but there are may only be a handful of others.
But what is it? Sous vide is a process of cooking food under controlled conditions at a steady temperature for a certain amount of time. The food is vacuum packed and because it’s under pressure, the food is meltingly tender and full of flavor. Some of the great chefs in the world (Thomas Keller, Wylie Dufresne) love this technique. I find it interesting because it provides chefs a new outlet for creativity.
Sous vide is something that Crush was doing with some of their dishes. One, was was with the poached duck egg that came with our starter of handrolled gnocchi, gruyere, chanterelles, and truffle oil. This dish was perfect and the duck egg was absolutely amazing. The egg felt like silk on my tongue and, because it was cooked sous vide, the yolk was still soft, but not runny. When an egg is cooked this well, it’s a thing of beauty. I’ve only had one other experience where eggs were this good and that was at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville, CA.
The other sous vide dish we had was the Painted Hills Short Rib cooked for 24 hours. This was delicious. Unbelievably tender, the texture of the short rib was unlike most other dishes that use this meat. I would eat this every day of the week if I could. I loved it because it exemplified what I love most about short ribs – unctuousness mouthfeel and flavor, and the standard was raised via sous vide.
- Hawaiian Moi
We love seafood and were instantly curious with a dish Crush had on the menu called ‘Crispy Skin Hawaiian Moi & Dungeness Crab.’ We weren’t familiar with Moi, but the folks at Crush said that moi is a small Hawaiian white fish only found in those waters. A fun fact is that Moi used to only be eaten by Hawaiian royalty. They also said that when commoners got caught for eating moi it was grounds for punishment!
Luckily, we were bereft of such injustices, so we ordered it gleefully. And it was phenomenal. The crispy skin had a sharp crisp that balanced well with the sweet meat of the moi, it was almost like a puff pastry. Flaky, tender, and full of luscious flavor that was almost buttery. Moi is something I hope to eat more often. But it’s not on many Seattle menus, so more visits to Crush are in our future. Which is fine, because we were swooning over Moi.
- Nordaq Fresh Water
I first read about Nordaq’s Fresh Water on Crush’s website and they spent a bit of time touting it. Color me skeptical, but it’s water! So when we were sitting at the bar and saw the tap, we had to order it! It was quite good. They serve Fresh still or Fresh sparkling, we opted for the still so that we could compare it to tap water. We tasted both and the Fresh definitely had a clean, refreshing finish that allowed the flavors of the food to linger longer. It was really nice. Tap, on the other hand, felt ‘heavier’ on the tongue, had a slightly oily finish relative to the Fresh, and washed the down the food once we swallowed it.
You can call BS on me with Fresh, but it was true! In fact, Maggie from Seattle Weekly, put Nordaq’s Fresh through the ringer and she really liked it. And coolhunters are starting to notice Fresh as well. Very cool that Crush is spending the time and looking at the details to bring a unique and true dining experience to its customers. And that includes putting their water under a microscope.
Photo from jdong’s flickr