With Fresh Faces of the Future in SkyCity, Space Needle Resto Preps for Next 50
A meal at SkyCity, the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle, is generally saved for a visit from out-of-town guests. A leisurely, safe dinner while slowly rotating above it all–that’s one rotation per 47 minutes, friends–would be ideal for Dear Great-Aunt Edna or a business acquaintance from the Deep South. But SkyCity is hoping to change that perception with the Fresh Faces of the Future tasting menu.
The restaurant’s bid in the collective Seattle Center look to the future, The Next Fifty, has local up-and-coming chefs under the direction of SkyCity’s Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield through the end of the month. At $62, it ain’t cheap–nothing at the Space Needle is, silly–but proceeds from the menu benefit each participating culinary school’s scholarship fund. And there’s that view.
Claire Elise Mitchell, the student chef from Seattle Central’s Seattle Culinary Academy, made Northwest tapas, pairing fried potatoes with seafood, but I think this is one appetizer I’d rather have off the stick. I don’t care if others thought Varin Keokitvon’s pâté looked like cat food–it was smooth and not too iron-heavy, so I gobbled it down. The Farestart chef’s warm mushroom salad was flavorful, but if I don’t see another gel-for-the-sake-of-gel ever again, it will be too soon.
Seemingly, the consensus for the highlight of the menu was South Seattle Community College’s scallop entree. Will McNamara embraced the idea of The Next Fifty by thinking globally: he used spices and ceci beans, a North African cousin of the chickpea, to highlight his belief that in five decades “the African continent will emerge as a major player on the world stage.”
Unfortunately, the biggest miss of the night belonged to the house chef. Jeff Maxfield’s creamed collard greens were smooth and decadently rich, but you don’t make a reservation at the Space Needle for creamed collards. The idea of a pretzel made out of beet is enticing, but this version was a flavorless cracker. The chef’s description of bland pork unnecessarily dolloped with huckleberry jam is warmed-over near-caricature cribbed from an old episode of Portlandia:
This dish is inspired by the roots of harvest cooking, using an old European style of roasting meat in freshly harvested hay, a modern twist on a classic dumpling and home-style canning recipes passed down from generation to generation.
And the dessert? It was fine. Richard Carpenter and Brian Figler of Le Cordon Bleu made a little financier cake with local apples care of Jones Orchard, Whidbey Island port syrup, and cardamom chantilly crème. That sounds delightful, but the finished product was too dense–this should be a light dessert, a fleeting taste of something sweet to end the meal. Of course, I ate it all.