Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dinner for two. Kingfish Café.

Late in the afternoon we walk downtown and wander around, lobbying dinner choices back and forth all the way, all the way through the displays of handbags and shoes at Nordstrom and the aisles of cookware at City Kitchens (where I find four more red Staub ceramic cocottes, just right for individual portions of macaroni and cheese or Shepherd's pie, my fall-through-winter standbys). Italian is out. Sandwiches are too casual. C. does not care for savory crêpes. We could just walk until we find something, but it is really far too hot for that. It is unusual for me to have no ideas at all, but I am too tired to think of anything. Then a possibility strikes me: Kingfish Café. I've always wanted to try it, ever since we passed it on the way to Monsoon several months ago. We head home in the muggy warmth of early evening, and drops of rain begin to fall just as we reach the car (although they stop immediately).

Kingfish Cafe is on one of those leafy Seattle neighborhood streets, clustered with restaurants and cafes and funky little shops. Every neighborhood has one. The restaurant is divided into two long rooms, one with a few tables and a long counter (the open kitchen, I think); the other with more tables and a bar. It has a vintage feel to it, with mis-matched chairs and giant enlargements of old photographs on the wall. (Later I find out that the photographs are of various family members of the owners, two sisters). I waver between the fried chicken, the catfish, the barbecued ribs. Then I see the crab-and-catfish cakes, and my choice is made. We order our dinners and strawberry lemonade, and feel as though we were somewhere far south of here with the muggy heat of the day and the platters of comfort food moving through the room.

My crab-and-fish cakes comes with a sweet potato that seems to have been soaked in butter, and a dish of coleslaw. C. has the fried chicken, which comes with potato salad, and we have also ordered some cornbread, which way better than mine. I suppose I need a couple of decades more of experience, and a cast-iron skillet. And drippings. We eat slowly - it is so good I am already planning our next visit - and try not to eavesdrop on the incredibly strange conversation to our left, difficult given the close proximity of our tables. Then it is time for dessert. Our waiter breaks the shattering news - the next table is busy eating the last slice of red velvet cake. I am momentarily heart-broken, but rally enough to go for the strawberry shortcake.

What arrives is two giant biscuits in a deep bowl full of strawberry sauce, topped with whipped cream. The look of horror on my face when I realized that all that strawberry and biscuit and whipped cream was for us, according to C. (who had her back to the waiter and therefore did not see him approach with our dessert), was indescribable. So must have Ichabod Crane looked when he beheld the Headless Horseman. But like everything that came before it, the strawberry shortcake was incredible, the strawberries intensely sweet, marrying perfectly with the crumbly lightness of the biscuits and the drift of whipped cream that topped it all. I regret that I had eaten a main course at all. But not really.

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