When you think about a place named Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor, what comes to mind? You start thinking throwback right? The 1930s with Dilinger? I began picturing a place where the only window is in the door. You walk into a room with tapestries on the walls and old chandeliers providing minimal light. There are bronze sconces on the walls, and velvet on the seats. Everything is dark and dimly lit. The clientele consists primarily of men wearing dark suits and skinny ties, with overcoats hung by their sides and fedoras on the hat rack. The few women there are dressed to the nines, drawing attention. It’s the type of place the guys from Mad Men are going to at the end of their day before going home to their wives.
This is the picture I had in my mind, as did the Food Girl (a.k.a. my wife, Jennifer). So when I received a gift certificate to Frank’s (thank you Seattle Restaurant Week), she opted to pass, suggesting it might be more fun if I go out with one of the “boys”. So, when one of my friends invited me to an early Huskies basketball game (5:30 start) in return for dinner at a “Deck on Food approved restaurant”, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to make a visit to Frank’s.
After the game was over, and we headed over, I debated changing. I was wearing my basketball fan gear which was just jeans and a t-shirt. But with my mental picture of Frank’s I thought it might be more appropriate to change back into my work clothes. In the end, I decided to just stick with it. As I walked up to Frank’s, I was a bit surprised to see that the entire front was glass. And walking in, I wasn’t transported back to the 1960s; rather I never left the present. The bar area had a very modern look to it (though the behind the bar display was a little retro). I grabbed a seat in one of the big overstuffed chairs and waited for my friend to show up by checking out the bar and the interesting, modern wall design.
When the bartender stopped by, I figured i had to order something with sparkling wine in it (I was in a Champagne Parlor after all), and decided on the Tufted Cowboy. And while the name might be a little odd, the drink was actually pretty good. It combined sparkling wine with Jack Daniels, lemon, sugar and bitters. Everything kind of balanced everything out, making it a pretty mild, slightly sweet drink. I only ended up ordering one, and then switching to beer, but it wasn’t because I was disappointed at all.
After my friend showed up, we decided that we would try to fully take advantage of the gift certificate and order enough food to fill the table. We started by order a half dozen oysters (again, when in Rome…), the scallop carpaccio, steak tartare and lobster rolls. For dinner, we both went with the buttermilk fried chicken. Sounds exactly like the dinner you would have from a place that has Oyster House and Champagne Parlor in its name, right? It didn’t take too long for the appetizers to start coming out, and we were able to quickly get to the point that the table was overwhelmed with food. We had to move the candle off the table and handed our individual appetizer plates back, electing rather to just eat directly from the plates.
Ranking the appetizers, we have to start with the lobster rolls. They were done very simply, letting the sweet and delicious lobster shine through. There was a nice crunch from the toasted bun, and the whole thing had a very New England feel (which is good when you are talking lobster rolls!).
My next favorite would have been the scallop carpaccio. It was pounded out paper thin and served with some Asian pear, cucumber and a very simple vinaigrette. On it’s own, the scallops were good, nice and sweet like you would expect from a scallop. But when you got a little bit of everything, it worked as a very refreshing bite. The pear add a little additional sweetness and combined with the cucumber to add a bit of crunch. And the vinaigrette added just that right amount of acidity to bring everything together.
Next would have to be the oysters. We asked for a variety of oysters and were brought three different varieties. The ones that I remember were the Kumamoto’s which were very tasty. I was a little surprised that there wasn’t any type of simple granita or anything on the oysters, but there was a little on the side that was good and simple.
And finally was the steak tartare. I’m a huge fan of steak, and by default a huge fan of steak tartare, but I was a little let down by this one. It seemed to be missing the egg yolk that adds the creaminess and extra depth of flavor. And the mustard flavor was a little overwhelming, unexpected, and quite honestly unnecessary.
When dinner finally arrived, I was feeling pretty full and pretty happy. But as soon as I could smell the fried chicken, my mouth started watering and I was ready to dive in. The first bite of the chicken was excellent. Nice and crispy on the outside, and wonderfully juicy on the inside, which was especially impressive given that it was all white meat and boneless. Served with the chicken was a simple potato puree and a bit of gravy, both of which were very tasty and complimentary, though under-peppered for my taste. And if that wasn’t enough, there were two homemade biscuits with a honey butter that were quite excellent. It definitely isn’t the type of meal you order if you are on any type of diet…but it is one if you want a nice portion of good food!
At this point I should have stopped, but I was buoyed by the gift certificate and had been impressed thusfar, so I went ahead and ordered a dessert, opting for the banana split. There were elements of it that I enjoyed like the creme bruleed bananas and the candied pecans, but the whole things was a little disproportional. The bananas were small compared to the tower of ice cream that was in the middle of the plate. And the ice cream was frozen solid; to the point that I couldn’t put my spoon all the way through it. In fact I was more chipping it off in chunks, trying to keep my plate from sliding across the table. And I didn’t get any of the cherry ice cream supposedly included in the dessert (or I did but didn’t taste it).
Satiated, we kicked back, sipped our beers and savored an great meal. There were ups and downs, but the ups were definitely way up and the meal as a whole was very good. It was definitely different than I had expected with both the vibe and food being more “modern American” than “60s Madison Avenue”, but I enjoyed it. And knowing that it does not have that expected vibe and look means that I can take the Food Girl next time.