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“O, Oysters, come and walk with us!” {The Walrus and the Carpenter}

June 18, 2011

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The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low–And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

-Lewis Carroll

In case you managed to miss Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll or Disney’s Alice in Wonderland as a child (B looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if he remembered it), this will serve as a brief history of the name, The Walrus and the Carpenter.

Whenever I hear anything about The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard, I can’t keep from thinking about this scene in Alice in Wonderland. Watching the video now, I’m stuck by how annoying it is. Perhaps my memory is a bit skewed, but I remember watching it fairly often (on VHS, no less) and enjoying it.

Anyway, with my recently found love of oysters, my growing love for Ballard and my recent lackadaisical attitude toward sticking to our restaurant schedule, The Walrus and the Carpenter was a perfect choice. In fact, it was a perfect choice for two weeks before we got there.

This is, by far, my busiest season at work. It’s pretty busy for B too, so keeping up with life in addition to work and responsibilities can be a little more challenging than we’d like. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. While I appreciate it when we’re both super busy at the same time (it makes for a higher level of tolerance, I think), someone has to do the dishes and the laundry and clean the bathroom and the floors… Oh, and make sure we eat too. It can be a little rough when we’re both running at a full sprint. Last week was especially grueling. By the time we got to Thursday, we were desperate for a brief escape, but there was still much work to be done by both of us. So B and I did something we wouldn’t normally do. We worked late and still went out after.

The Walrus doesn’t take reservations. That’s usually enough to bump a place far down my list, but I was determined to get there. Parking proved to be pretty easy with a lot behind the restaurant (closer to the door as well). We didn’t even get close to the door, though, before I realized it was probably a lost cause. We had to weave our way through the crowd of people waiting for tables just to get to the hostess (on her cell phone) so she could tell us that it would be at least 45 minutes… It was almost 9:00. Trust me, I don’t hold that against The Walrus. I’m thrilled they’re doing so well. I repeat, though, it was almost 9:00, we’d been at work since 8:00 that morning and I’d hardly eaten all day. There would be no waiting.

We wandered out through the many untested choices on Ballard Avenue and finally ended up at Volterra at the recommendation of one of B’s colleagues. I took a couple photos and thought about writing about it, but it wouldn’t really be fair to Volterra. Even though it was great, I wasn’t super excited to be there. I’d had the Walrus on the brain for days. So, I’ll save Volterra for another time when they’re our true destination. We had a nice time there and will be back.

Anyway, fast forward a week to the next Thursday and I’m determined to try it again. We had it on good authority that we should try to arrive no later than 5:00. I was doubtful it would happen, but thanks to a long power outage at work, we headed home early and wrapped up the day in time to get to Ballard by 5:00.

We actually arrived a few minutes before 5:00 and it’s a good thing. There was already a 30 minute wait for a table, but we were able to snag two seats on the patio. Normally this would be awesome, but they didn’t exactly have a view of anything other than what looked like a parking garage entrance and people staring at us willing us to finish so they could claim our seats.

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Again, can’t hold that against The Walrus. I’m glad they’re doing well. I just know for next time that we may need to be even earlier.

Their menu isn’t particularly extensive, which I’ve come to appreciate. I’d rather have a place do a few things really, really well. B doesn’t eat raw oysters, so that reduced his choices, but as for me, I ordered a dozen rather blindly after our server assured me none of them were particularly large. I haven’t been eating them long enough myself to cope with too much oyster.

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In the end, we probably ordered too much food. We shared the roasted almonds with espelette pepper and sea salt.  B had the fried oysters with cilantro aioli and the smoked trout with pickled onion, lentils, walnuts and crème fraiche.

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In addition to my dozen oysters, I also ordered the steak tartare with farm egg yolk and toast.

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It’s one of the more separate meals B and I have eaten in awhile.  Most places we share food quite a lot more. I definitely tried his, but he wanted nothing to do with mine. He’s not a fan of uncooked food in general and aside from the toast, nothing on my half of the bar was truly cooked. He did try my steak tartare, but promptly informed me that he wouldn’t be tasting it again. His loss.

Nothing we ordered was a disappointment. B was especially happy with his fried oysters and I loved my raw oysters as well. Even though there isn’t much of a view from their patio, it’s a great place to sit in nice weather. We had sort of nice weather that turned cold toward the end. Looking out at the gray mess we’ve had today, though, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Oh, and then there was dessert. Our server asked if I needed more “toasty pieces” for my tartare (it was a lot of tartare). I told her no because I was full. B piped up to object to my claims of being full because I’d suggested dessert. Thanks, B. Anyway, I always suggest dessert and had to remind him that I keep a different part of my stomach available for this reason exactly. I felt much better when our very kind (and tiny) server assured me that she uses her third stomach for dessert.

In the end, we ordered the vanilla panna cotta. Their online menu says it comes with candied kumquat and pistachio, but ours definitely had mango on top. So, so good.

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Our check arrived quite fashionably underneath a huge seashell and we were happy not to experience and sticker shock over the number it concealed either.

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It was a very reasonable meal (for Seattle, at least). Next time I want to sit inside (unless, of course, it’s truly warm out), but there will definitely be a next time. Hopefully very, very soon.

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