Triple your pleasure with prix fixe 3-course lunch
Special to The Seattle Times
No more slumming it for this Dealmeister, folks — just in time for your holiday shopping I bring you uptown and upmarket, into a land of upholstered lobbies and prix fixe luncheon menus. Welcome to the Warwick, an undistinguished downtown corporate hotel, which three years ago benefited richly from the addition of an understatedly classy little Continental performer called Brasserie Margaux.
It's a manicured matron of a place, its glossy surfaces and pretty fabrics adding up to a vaguely characterless whole, but as all-day-every-day joints go downtown this is undoubtedly one of the classiest.
Measured against other downtown hotel restaurants it's also one of the more affordable, although the dinner range ($16 to $24 for entrees) vaults it clearly over the threshold of a Dining Deal.
So, for this review we aimed instead straight into the middle of the day, where a mere $12.50 will buy you the three-course lunch du jour.
If you go expecting an unpronounceably gourmet French menu, however, you may be disappointed to encounter, say, Wednesday's prix fixe lineup: A cup of clam chowder, a club sandwich and chocolate Heath-bar ice cream. Sound pedestrian? So did Tuesday's — the delectable repast described below.
Judging from what we sampled, Chef Chris Zarkades can pack more verve and finesse into a simple Reuben or rigatoni plate than many chefs can do with fancier fare. (And don't be fooled by the name: The oh-so-French-sounding Brasserie Margaux might actually be better labeled Northwest Nouveau Continental.)
As for the advisability of three courses at lunch — salad or soup, then the main, then dessert — I usually don't like to pack myself so full during the day. (I do my packing after dark, thank you.)
For pastry chef Valerie Mudry's artful finales, without question among the best in town, I happily make an exception. Indeed, recalling the glorious sweetness of the warm Heirloom apple pudding cake with caramelized apple compote, I hereby submit my vote for three-course, prix fixe breakfasts.
It all adds up to a solidly inviting experience, crowned by a most welcome coup de gras: Two hours' free parking in the Warwick lot while you dine. For an old slummer like me, it just doesn't get any better.
Prix fixe lunch special: The Wednesday special got off to a solid start with a cup of French onion soup, richly layered with onions and cheese and very good bread, and scattered with chives.
Thank God I didn't finish it all before the Cobb salad arrived, a bountiful platter of crisp romaine sporting brilliant rows of diced tomato, avocado, cucumber, chicken, crumbled bacon, egg and blue cheese. Notable about this Cobb — besides its heft — was the simple quality of its ingredients, from vegetables consistently fresh and ripe to an uncommonly lush blue cheese.
Thank God I stopped myself from finishing it all before dessert arrived, perhaps the finest I've had this year. The phrase "Heirloom apple-walnut pudding cake" should perhaps be rethought, the word "heirloom" — though descriptive of ancient apple varietals and deeply meaningful to apple nerds — probably doing a dessert's public relations more harm than good. We dispatched it regardless: Both pyramids of sweet, moisture-saturated spice cake scattered with sweet apple dices and drizzled with caramel, and the entire scoop of homemade cinnamon ice cream over walnuts. A real swooner.
Shellfish panzanella: Reason aplenty to come back again Thursday is this menu item off of that day's prix fixe lineup, a luscious bread salad featuring beautifully cooked mussels, clams and shrimp. Some mysterious alchemy between the large chunks of grilled herb bread, peppers and onions, shreds of romaine and lemony-garlicky broth produced a superior and hugely satisfying rendition of the Italian classic, with the perfectly cooked seafood sending it off the charts.
Huckleberry-crabapple tart: Yes, more dessert. (Consider it de rigeur here.) Beautiful pastry cupped sweet, sweet huckleberries, doing more favors for this homespun fruit than I've encountered in ages. With it came homemade ginger ice cream, veritably breathing ginger's fiery sweetness. An artfully balanced cookie atop completed the dazzling presentation.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Prix fixe lunch special $12.50
Shellfish panzanella $10.95
Huckleberry- crabapple tart $6.50
Kathryn Robinson Robinson@KathAnRob@aol.com.