On vacation from my daytime job on a particularly gorgeous summer Wednesday, I shot off an email to one of my regular dining companions. Unrestricted by my usual schedule, I suggested we check out the Early Bird Dinner at Chanterelle in Edmonds.
I had been eager to try Chanterelle for some time. When first becoming acquainted with the Edmonds dining scene, Chanterelle was a restaurant often recommended to me as one of the area’s best. Thus, I went into my dinner with expectations of excellence.
Serving since 1986, and under the direction of its current owners since 1997, Chanterelle is perched along Main Street. The historic building’s façade in no small measure adds to the strip’s charming ambience. Much to my surprise, at the ungodly early dinner hour of 4 pm, there were already several occupied tables.
Chanterelle’s regular prices are far from exorbitant. The highest-ticket item at the time of my visit was a New York steak special (including soup and salad) for $24.99. However, for the true bargain-seeker, from 4-6 pm Monday – Saturday the restaurant offers a limited Early Bird selection featuring several regular entrees paired with a choice of soup or salad for $11.99.
Though my dining companion and I were keen on taking advantage of our Early Bird status, I nevertheless scanned the full menu. The collection of comfort foods included the likes of pasta, crab cakes, and chicken in pastry. The innovations were few, but it was a serviceable line-up featuring familiar flavors with some global touches. No trendiness here; among the most “exotic” ingredients in Chanterelle’s repertoire were goat cheese and mango.
After being supplied with refreshing glasses of tangy-sweet strawberry lemonade ($2.59), my fellow diner and I made our Early Bird selections. Moments later, the pleasant server proffered our soup-and-salad starters as well as a basket of warm bread, appropriately crusty with a dense, soft interior.
Whereas my companion’s mixed green salad was nothing more than an oily plate of greens scantily dressed with a few purple cabbage ribbons and a scattering of chopped nuts, my tomato bisque was impressive. As well it should, Chanterelle clearly takes pride in its trademark soup. The creamy bisque was laden with herbs, sautéed onion and chunks of stewed fresh tomato, elevating it above more predictable versions.
Our dinners arrived soon after completion of our starters, a testament to good kitchen timing. My entrée was the Main Street Meatloaf, and my friend chose Pork Loin Sauteed with Madeira, Cranberries and Apricots.
Both main courses arrived identically plated with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Although it seems only logical to serve meatloaf with mashed potatoes (Really, is there any other option?) the menu hadn’t explicitly heralded their arrival. I was slightly gleeful.
Let me expound briefly: I love mashed potatoes. I eat them on a weekly basis, and while keeping my ego in check, I’ll go so far as to say I’m no slouch at making them myself. Not that it’s a difficult dish. Salt, butter, and a dash of cream or milk will take you far in the world of mashed potato-making. It was thus with delight that I found a sizable cloud of whipped potatoes on my Chanterelle dinner plate.
Given my history with pureed papas, perhaps you can understand what grave disappointment I felt when I sampled my first delightfully fluffy spoonful of Chanterelle’s mashed potatoes and found them essentially flavorless. It was almost tragic. My dining companion quickly began dressing her spuds with salt and pepper, but I was momentarily paralyzed by the letdown. I did find that a scattering of salt improved the dish, and I wondered if it would be too gauche to mix in one of the foil-wrapped butter squares that came with our bread.
Like the mashed potatoes, the Main Street Meatloaf came as a generous portion. Also like the potatoes, the meatloaf was under-seasoned. It wasn’t as egregious of a misstep, but the pork-and-beef blend simply lacked any “wow.”
Much more pronounced in flavor were my dining partner’s slices of pork loin, the meat perfectly fork-tender. The buttery Madeira wine sauce was deceptively rich, sweet with maple notes. Combined with the bits of cranberry and apricot, it could have been as fitting to glaze a dessert as to cover pieces of pork.
I can't overlook the spears of asparagus and carrot that accompanied our entrees, as they were perfectly cooked and rife with flavor. All too often such vegetable sides are a careless afterthought, but in the hands of Chanterelle’s kitchen the carrot retained its sweetness while the asparagus was crisp with pleasant tinges of char.
Admittedly, my bar for Chanterelle was high. Whereas my experience there was pleasant on the whole, I felt the cuisine wasn't the sensation I'd expected. Though it didn't yield one of my most memorable meals in the Edmonds scene, Chanterelle's comfort fare and charm clearly have long-standing appeal.