The Corson Building
5609 Corson Ave S, Seattle
For my birthday James and I went to The Corson Building which is one of those farm-to-table restaurants that is so popular in Seattle. It’s gotten great reviews and is on the pricier side ($100 a head plus $40 wine pairing) so I had pretty high expectations. We went on a Saturday since that’s when they have a more elaborate tasting menu.
First of all, the location is beautiful. It’s in industrial Georgetown but looks like an upscale French cottage. When we arrived we were given an apertif to sip while we strolled around, which felt pretty chic. The inside was very loud (which they warned us about at the start of the night) – it’s one of those interiors where sound bounces off everything.
We explored the gardens and found a a bunch of herbs and a woodfired oven:
And got to look in the kitchen where the chefs were preparing our food:
And now for the bad part:
Motherfucking family style communal dining.
It’s not mentioned obviously on the website, but it is (kind of) there. In the What We Do section it says “sharing at the table, we can open up our senses and our consciences to our place in the world, along with the place of our neighbors”. I thought it meant figuratively, like the restaurant is sharing its food with you – not literally, in that you have to share your food with complete strangers.
Part of that is my bad, because I’d deliberately avoided reading reviews of the restaurant so as not to spoil the surprise. It is mentioned in a few reviews, but you’d think they’d have it prominently on the website. Looking at the reviews, I’m not the only person who felt a bit blindsided.
We were fortunate that our table was really friendly and we got along really well with one particular couple. But even when you get along, when you’re chatting with new people you have to be “on” in a way that you’re not normally, you know? And imagine how awful it would be if you were seated with shitheads.
So that was OK. But then it was freaking family style dining! I mean, there was plenty of food, but at a high-end meal I’m not expecting to have to pass a heavy dish around the table and try to estimate the size of “my” portion. Communal dining? Fine. Family style with a private table? Also fine. Put the two together? Oh HELL no.
But anyway, here was the menu:
Rabbit rilettes with grilled bread pickles and wood fired bread
A salad of chicories, avocado, radish, cara cara and tahini with a herb dressing
Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon butter, stinging nettles and oil poached artichokes
Deep fried Puget Sound smelt with paprika aioli
Roasted black cod with charo raita
Seared scallop with creamed, roasted endive
Guanciale and black trumpets with a lettuce garnish
Duck confit with boiled potatoes, roasted cabbage, pine nuts, currants, capers and sage
Meyer lemon tart with cream and kumquats
It matched the ambiance really well – European rustic but modern. James’ favourite dish was the rabbit. I liked the salad and the scrambled eggs the best (and the bread!). There were one or two individual dishes – the tart and possibly the scallop. I don’t know if I’m just a grump, but food has to be pretty outstanding for me to put up with that communal family style nonsense.
But anyway, setting that aside, while everything was very good none of the dishes were particularly memorable. Which was a disappointment given The Corson Building’s reputation and price. It didn’t help that our Lazy Bear experience (also communal seating, but not family style) was still in recent memory and The Corson Building fell far short of that.
On the plus side, the wine pours were generous, the waiters were great, and the actual restaurant was beautiful. Everything was fine – fresh, tasty, interesting flavour combinations – but it wasn’t spectacular and given the awkward dining arrangement and price point … eh.