A Brief Overview
The evening started, as it so often does, with a glass of Prosecco, but it was some time before and only shortly after my dinner companion and I arrived outside the restaurant that we began to catch the enchanting smells wafting from the open kitchen. These were followed closely by the bright orange glows shining off the polished metal kitchen appliances that were visible to us, glows from whatever freshly flambéed food the Chef had been working on. Nestled on what could be considered a hill, with some imagination, overlooking west sound and its accompanying marina, Kingfish Inn (est. 1902) appears at first to be a humble house without much distinction. If not for the uncommon red paint that has marked the Kingfish building for years one might not identify it as a restaurant at all. The exterior hints only briefly at what we would later find inside.
Much like the very intersection on which Kingfish sits— Deer Harbor Road, a highway by Orcas standards, and Crow Valley Road, with its scenic wandering route— Kingfish itself sits at the intersection of rustic heritage and master-chef dining. You first begin to see the heart of the place in the dining room as the old-style charm of the rustic cedar cladding and iron signage blend with a sleek modern look. A fitting setting for the meal about to unfold.
As I said, it began with a Prosecco, or rather the Eola Hills Sparkling Chardonnay, 2015 ($16) which was recommended by our waiter. He was right. Trust your waiters, folks.
I should interject here, that my review, while being as thorough as possible, may revolve around a key idea and its derivatives that are at the core of my being, and this requires a distinction. Value. Value, when related to the dining experience is not about, say, the price of an individual item but rather the overall experience of the meal and how that individual item might fit within it. How can I experience this meal at its best and is the price that I pay to experience this meal congruent with the experience I receive? These are the questions that will be in the forefront. This may be contrary to techniques used by both traditional food “critics” and yelpers. To my mind, the traditional food critic has little, if any, concern for price as long as the food meets their standards. The yelper has no concern for quality if the price is too high. I will seek to find a happy medium where we can compare, with reason and with feeling, whether the restaurant has provided value relative to quality and within the overall experience of the meal.
For our starters, we decided on the Stracciatella Di Burrata ($20) and the Grilled Miche Bread ($4) which we shared between the two of us. As the name suggests the Stracciatella Di Burrata is not a traditional Burrata. Served with heirloom tomatoes and roasted beets the cream that you would normally find in the traditional burrata here lines the plate. While visually striking, we find my first mild frustration. The Stracciatella does not lend itself to being shared, especially with the addition of the obstacle-like vegetables strategically placed on the plate. Despite this, however, the Stracciatella was fresh, full of flavor, and the perfect pairing to the vegetables it accompanied. The bread similarly was delicious, and something I plan to imitate at home, but this brings me to my final thought about the starter. Without the bread, the starter would not have been what it was. If someone was to order the Stracciatella without also having the foresight to order the Bread, as I nearly did, the experience would be unfortunately lacking. Kingfish, serve bread with the Stracciatella, please. I would have the Stracciatella again.
It is a statement, obviously much less meaningful during Covid than it might otherwise be, when a restaurant does not provide seasoning available on the table. It is a statement of assuredness in the way each dish will be prepared and served: that it will be correctly seasoned by the standards of the chef, who will have checked; and asking for salt would be as callously rude a statement as walking into the kitchen and seasoning the plate for the table next to you. It’s the mark of a chef whether there is salt readily available or not. Of course, at Kingfish, there was none. It was not missed.
For our mains, my companion had the Fettuccine Primavera ($21) which he seemed to enjoy, and I missed the opportunity to try. On the recommendation of our waiter, I had the Bouillabaisse ($42). The Bouillabaisse was rich with flavor and did not lack for seasoning. Each element of the seafood-packed dish was cooked well within its own right which is no easy task. That being said, and as delicious as it was, my gut tells me that the Bouillabaisse is not the best thing coming from Chef Raymond’s kitchen, and were I to return, I would likely opt for a different choice.
To accompany my dinner, I enjoyed a Ryan Patrick Reisling, 2018 ($9) which provided a sweetness that sufficiently added to the broth in my dinner making what was, for me, a good pairing.
For afters, my companion decided on the Flourless Chocolate Torte ($14) and I, barely able to contain my excitement, ordered the Beignets ($13). First, the torte; in a single word: chocolate. The overwhelming flavor of chocolate was left in my mind while recalling the experience to write this review. If I were given a second word (because we must ration words after all, right?) it would be smooth. If you are someone who likes chocolate to the exclusion of everything good and happy in life, get the torte. As for my decision, I will begin with an expression of gratitude to Kingfish for having the decency to offer Beignets on a primarily Italian-themed menu. I do not think any less of you for it. Rather than describe to you how the beignets were I will say this: if you are not someone who likes chocolate to the exclusion of everything good and happy in life, then get the Beignets.
I ended the night with an Opulento Port-Style Dessert Wine ($16) which brought the evening to its best possible conclusion.
A brief thought about the service
In the totality of what ended up being just over a 120-minute meal I found two instances of the service being less than perfect. The first, our starter plates hung around far longer than what was called for. Our waiter, upon coming to clear the plates, did ask if we were done, which seemed clear to me, but then again I was the one that was done. You can’t fault prudence after all. Second, and admittedly easy to miss, was an unidentified black particulate in our second bottle of table water and, after requesting new water, all was taken care of. If it’s not obvious by my account, I was impressed.
Kingfish provides upscale dining that satisfies the soul just as well as it will satisfy your appetite. I came away from my meal better off than when I went in and that’s where the value of the meal lies with me. Kingfish is the loving result of a chef who is quite obviously dearly committed to excellence in food and dining and also to providing a top-notch dining experience for both locals and visitors alike. You can expect to pay for the environment that chef Raymond has created, and that’s okay. It is probably not going to be a restaurant best suited for family dining, or for larger groups. Small, intimate groups who are willing to splurge a bit will have the best experience at Kingfish, and they will be all the better for it.