We have been known to travel for food. It is not unusual for a dining experience to be the impetus for trips ranging from short car rides to more lengthy excursions by plane. It was by accident that we discovered Tilth, a Seattle-based restaurant opened in 2006 by Iron Chef competitor and James Beard award winner Marina Hines. While planning a weekend getaway to Seattle a few years ago, we were searching for restaurants that offered both good vegetarian options and an experience that differed from the downtown scene very much dominated by restaurateur Tom Douglas. We came across Tilth, a very modest looking spot tucked away in Seattle’s Wallingford neighbourhood. After this initial visit, we have planned many trips to Seattle with only dinner reservations at Tilth on the agenda.
With a menu that changes seasonally and an emphasis on local, sustainable and organic ingredients, Tilth is a restaurant that begs for quarterly visits; you will never have the same dining experience twice. While Tilth does have an à la carte menu, we highly recommend splurging for one of the 5 or 8 course tasting menus – offered in both regular and vegetarian varieties – to really get the complete experience. Everything we have eaten here has been unusual and memorable; we had a peanut butter soup a few years ago that still enters our dreams on occasion. It’s not just the fresh ingredients and the inspired menu that make Tilth worth the trek, Hines has also outfitted her kitchen with some unusual equipment – an immersion circulator and a combi oven – that ensure that your meal is cooked using techniques that preserve the full flavour of the food. Both salmon and eggs cooked sous vide using the immersion circulator were delectable. You have no idea how good food can be until you’ve tasted something cooked using this technique.
While the food at Tilth is clearly the draw, they have spent an equal amount of energy creating an extremely warm and inviting space with attentive service. The restaurant is located in an old house and the atmosphere is casual and relaxing. Every effort is made to ensure your comfort; the waitstaff are knowledgeable and chatty and during one lengthy delay in our taxi’s arrival, the manager brought us some delicious Italian digestifs, even though we had already paid the bill, to make our wait that much more enjoyable. Next time you are in Seattle, or have a few hours on the weekend to kill, a visit to Tilth is definitely in order. Hines has recently opened a Mediterranean street food restaurant, The Golden Beetle, in Seattle’s hip Ballard neighbourhood and we can hardly wait to check it out on our next visit.