Someone Tell that Barbecue to Chill

By

Sean Kenniff
Megan Swann
Charred Walla Walla Onion Salad; Summer Squash; King Salmon Tartare; Scallop Crudo
Charred Walla Walla Onion Salad; Summer Squash; King Salmon Tartare; Scallop Crudo

Chef Robert Palmquist shies away from the terms “simple” or “unfussy” when describing the avalanche of small plates he composes nightly at Renee Erickson's Walrus and the Carpenter in Seattle. What Palmquist isn't shy about is bringing nuance and literal cool to familiar ingredients. And cool was the key word this summer in Seattle, where temperatures spiked to unheard-of highs and HVAC systems are not the norm. Palmquist’s soothing summer menu includes ingredients common to any backyard barbecue—charred onions, summer squash, potato—but prepared with cleverness and finesse.

“I didn't want to do hot things. At cold and room temperatures you taste the food more,” he says. “Raw preparations are more my style. We can be a lot more creative and playful here, which is beautiful. People will try anything on the menu because we get so packed and they’ve come to expect dishes a bit out of left field.”

Palmquist’s summertime style is also practical. He and just two cooks serve 350 to 450 plates a night. These dishes have a short pick-up time, and not having to constantly fire up a burner or grill keeps the ambient temperature of the small restaurant cooler—not to mention saving the cooks a lot of sweat. Here’s how his chilled out summer “barbecue” breaks down.

A cold salad that indulges the dark, smoky, sweet flavors that get people gathered 'round the grill:
Charred Walla Walla Onion, Japanese Turnip, Pineapple Sage, and Urfa Biber

Reminiscent of potato salad, in this dish squash ribbons are salted to remove water, and marinated in peanut oil, cider vinegar, and garlic:
Summer Squash, New Potato, Yogurt, Ras el Hanout, and Peanut

Subverting ceviche or gravlax, this salmon tartare is firm and fresh, caught by tribal fisherman daily:
King Salmon Tartare, Cucumber, Oats, and Dried Lime

Cold cream is the hero here, infused by puréeing and poaching lemongrass. It plays with the sweetness of scallops and mutes the heat from the jalapeño, letting their bright green-ness come through:
Scallop Crudo, Kohlrabi, Lemon Grass Cream, Jalapeño, and Cilantro

 

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