Altura, means height or elevation in Portuguese and Spanish.
Seattle’s Altura most certainly lives up to the elevation of culinary adventure.
I had not left the restaurant, and I already wanted to go back — just the thought of the food I had that night while I am writing makes me salivate.
Altura is on the quieter side of Capitol Hill, near Harvard Exit.
Greeted by the beautiful bronze garlic blossom at the door, the world I stepped into was completely different from the street — busy, lively, energetic; the open kitchen allowed us to watch the greatest show performed by the chefs.
We had requested to sit at the counter to absorb the whirlwind of actions.
Serving dinner only, there are two ways to dine at Altura: three course menu for $75 or tasting menu for $137.
As much as I wanted the tasting menu, I knew we were going to waste food that night because DH was not too hungry, so we went for the three course, and they certainly did not disappoint.
It was an understatement to say I was wowed by every dish.
There was a hint of citrus in it too, very delicious.
Next, came a tiny dish, with fermented potatoes and vegetables; garlicky, smooth and savory, a little sour, and the potatoes were very creamy.
It reminded me of Japanese mountain potato, tororo, minus the graininess.
This super soft bread came with choice of fat: melt-in-the-mouth butter and coarse grains of black sea salt, or olive oil with garlic and anchovies.
I was trying hard not to fill up with bread, but both of the fats are so delicious that next thing we knew, we inhaled our loaf.
Then, our 3-course meal truly started.
There are 5 categories to choose from to make up the 3-course meal: appetizer, pasta, entrée, dessert and cheeses.
DH and I coordinated to maximize our variety, but we both picked appetizer, pasta and entrée.
My appetizer was a duck liver two-way.
One encrusted on the top with the distinguished flavor of ground pistachio; the other, plain with a caramelized, crisp, crust of honey; complimented with the most excellent rhubarb, strawberries, mint and balsamic vinegar — all our basic tastes tended to.
What fascinated me the most was the different forms of rhubarb: sliced chunk, paste and diced, the details and creativity was entertaining for the eyes, fun to eat, and showcased the amount of thought that went into the dish.
These one-sided fried ravioli skin was the vehicle for duck liver: very soft inside, puffy and playful; I was not sure whether it was the best compliment to the liver, but it surely received points for novelty.
DH picked octopus, amazingly tender with a spicy chili rub; the rub also delivered an earthiness to the overall flavor.
Potatoes and watercress added extra layers of flavors to this well executed dish.
Pappardelle dish with tripe caught my eyes instantly, since it was such an unusual ingredient outside of Asian restaurant in the States; a stinging nettle agnolotti was our other pasta dish.
Both pasta dishes’ noodles were soft and excellent, I could slurp them all down like ramen noodles.
My tripe sauce was memorable: the tripe flavor came through mildly and elegantly, playing hide and seek with the beef flavor from oxtail, and fishy flavor from the anchovy crumbles on top.
The addition of inert gave a very deep dimension to the overall flavor, yet the dish was lightened by its spiciness — such a smart play with our senses.
This was the second time I recently had food prepared with stinging nettle, and ashamed to say I still could not pin-point its flavor; aside from the green color impact on the pasta, I was not able to appreciate its flavor.
The sauce with fresh porcini mushrooms and fiddle head fern was heavenly; fresh porcini mushrooms were a lot milder than their dried counterpart, and I thoroughly enjoyed their meatiness and plump texture.
Sweetbread was the primary stuffing inside the pasta: very soft, ricotta cheese-like; there was something a tad sour inside the filling but I had no clue what it was, definitely interesting.
Lovage was used in this dish, and I never had lovage in isolation.
Wikipedia said it had celery-like flavor, wonder if lovage was the sour contributor in the filling?
Mental note to add that along with stinging nettle to try on their own.
By now, I was earnestly wowed by chef Nathan Lockwood’s ingredient usage and the flavor parties he had thrown.
Then, the stars of the night arrived.
I could not decide whether the rabbit or the wagyu beef was the bigger star.
The rabbit preparation was out of this world.
It was literally five rabbit preparation in one small dish: one garlicky, tender, tiny bones, rack of rabbit ribs, next to a sweet, herby, wild-game rabbit sausage that was neighbor to a well marinated lean loin with crispy skin, paired with brussels sprouts.
On one end, there was a fried tender liver; on the other end, looked like a piece of potential heart.
Yet, with all these rabbit parts, they were tied up neatly by the fermented flavor of black garlic, green flavor of the wild greens and tartness of the pickled radish.
The plate was such an enjoyment, I did not know where to begin.
Compared to the rabbit, the beef was simply prepared: grilled fantastically medium rare, and sitting on top of a forest of wild earthy foraged mushrooms, evergreen tips and fiddle head ferns.
The wagyu beef was moist, fatty, tender like a soft pillow — superb quality.
I was excited to try the foraged greens as I just saw the fiddle head fern and evergreen tips at the Ballard farmers market, wondering how they would taste like — and there they were on my plate!
Eating fiddle head fern reminded me of eating just the outside of the green beans: familiar green flavor, and a firmer thicker vegetable wall texture.
With a upcharge of $76, patron could choose to have a full, bone-in, wagyu beef rib eye for two or more people.
We were so wonderfully full in the stomach, and eyes feasted with such beautifully plated meal, I was surprised to find a treat at the end for my birthday, a creamy, lightly sweetened gelato with aged balsamic vinegar and rhubarb.
I was thoroughly admiring the chocolate writing on the plate; I certainly could not write this pretty even with a pen!
We will return to Altura in a heart beat!