Eatery - The Walrus and The Carpenter (WA)

The Walrus and the Carpenter on Urbanspoon

4743 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107 (Neighborhood: Ballard)
Pricing - $$/$$$ | Dining - Casual, Dressy Casual | Cuisine - Seafood, Small Plates

Stick a literary reference into a restaurant, and I'm interested. Blame it on the book nerd in me and that I am a philanderer of words (not women) who is drawn towards such mentions. Toss in the rave reviews and constant barrage of suggestions from others prior to our travels to visit this coveted spot in Seattle, and we are sold. The first stop that Duc and I made once we landed at Sea-Tac was at this restaurant to catch their Happy Hour (started at 4pm that Thursday) for some oyster deals. Apparently there were plenty of other people who were hunting the same specials so even before 4pm, there was a line. The restaurant itself is behind another so a long hallway forms the entrance - make note! I say to make a note of it because I know you'll be going there too if/when you visit Seattle. After all, it is dang delicious...

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

- Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll

The Happy Hour at The Walrus and Carpenter is most beneficial to the oyster lovers because the progressive discounts to the fresh shellfish apply during this time. The first hour saves you a neat 50% off of the regular price of their haul (all market-priced but our ranged from $2.75+), and I believe the second hour shaved just 25% off for you. Because of the line that formed prior to the restaurant's opening, most of the tables were full by the first seating. We opted to be outside because the weather was great and the wooden patio felt quite seaside. We went for two of each oyster available that afternoon which were listed from least buttery to most. Overall, every single one was as fresh as fresh could be and without a trace of grit or broken shell from the shucking. The Walrus and The Carpenter sure knows what it is doing. Here's what we got to try that day:

  • Little Skookum (Marinelli Shellfish Co., Skookum Inlet, WA)
  • Treasure Cove (Emerald Acres Shellfish, Case Inlet, WA)
  • Glacier Point (Alaska Shellfish Farm, Kachemack Bay, AK)
  • Sea Cow (Hama Hama Oyster, Hammersley Inlet, WA)
  • Patriot Point (Penn Cove Shellfish, Hood Canal, WA)
  • Stellar Bay (Penn Cove Shellfish, Deep Bay, BC)
  • Drayton Harbor (Drayton Harbor Oyster Co., Drayton Harbor, WA)

When you go out for a meal, willing to hand yourself over to the experience, the ambiance and service really make a difference, and we were really pleased with how helpful our waiter was. He guided us through the different oyster options (though we just wanted it all regardless, hah) and the sections of Pantry, Garden, Fish & Shellfish, Meat, Cheese, and Sweets. To start, we went with the Steamed Manila Clams ($14 - basil, tomato, garlic, and grilled bread), a colorful dish with plenty of clams to slurp up. The basil and tomato melded into the shallow broth that the clams came resting in, giving it a fresh vibrance and mixing together the natural sea brine taste with garden-ripe flavor. The clams were executed well so they were more tender than chewy. I just about could not get enough of the broth which also had a strong scent of garlic in it. Luckily there was plenty of grilled bread to sop up the juices and make it a highly recommended dish.

And yet, though we very much liked the clams, they did not hold a candle to the Steak Tartare ($14 - egg yolk and rye toast) we also opted for, despite the restaurant primarily being a seafood spot. A generous portion of soft, cool beef nestling in its own finely minced rawness was presented on the plate with a golden single egg yolk on top. The abundance of chopped herbs, capers, and sea salt had me understandably excited but even then, my expectations were surpassed. This was easily one of the best steak tartare orders we've ever had for its freshness (how many times can I say "fresh" about this place?), even balance of herbs and tangy capers, and inclusion of a creamy, rich yolk that bound everything together lusciously. The temperature on it was perfect and each bite was a gift as we crunched through the toast, taking in moist, savory tartare. Our only complaint was that we were done with it so soon but that is a good sign. Overall, what an excellent meal from environment to food. It's a must-return-to type of place!

Photography by Duc Duong.