Hitchcock: The Other Island Restaurant Hot Spot

With international accolades from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal labeling Willows Inn on Lummi Island as the next big restaurant, I feel compelled to share that the Seattle area has more than one island hot spot.

It's easy to pass time in the ferry queue when you have a view of the Olympic Mountains at your fingertips

 

Set on the main drag of quaint “time has stopped” Bainbridge island, I feel myself starting to walk slower as I make my way towards 1.5 year old Hitchcock.  With a cute ol’ skool typeface sign and a Sopranos-style white lace curtain, I can already sense chef/owner Brendan McGill’s gem of a restaurant is more than worth the 30 minute ferry ride from Seattle.

 

Hitchcock is named after generations of McGill's wife's family who settled on Bainbridge Island

31-year old McGill appears tough with the propensity of being unapproachable until you see him bringing out a dish to a 70 year old lady with the enthusiasm resembling that of a devoted grandson.

He then makes his way to another table earnestly shaking hands with a couple in their 50′s, then moves to the bar and jokes with the 30 somethings.  As former Executive chef for Via Tribunali and stints at many of Seattle’s reputable eating establishments, Harvest Vine and Cremant to name a few, McGill is anything but a novice to the restaurant world.

The menu is tricked out with so many tantalizing options I am instantly relieved when I get to the bottom and see the “Chef’s tasting – we cook for you, name your price.”

I dig how the sliding scale of the tasting menu makes it more financially accessible to diners who want to experience a chef's choice without the large price tag attached

How it works:  You decide your price-point somewhere between $35-$60 and the kitchen takes care of the rest.  No thinking involved.

We choose an arbitrary mid-point amount of $50, and as I overhear the kitchen is on it last pieces of rockfish (for the crudo) and sablefish, I make a special request to have those two included in our tasting menu.  Our waitress books to the kitchen so she can make our dream a reality.

I can see why the rockfish crudo goes like hotcakes.  Thick buttery slabs of gleamingly fresh Neah Bay rockfish stare me in the face with an uptown  ”South of the Border” interpretation as the dish is accompanied with jalapenos, lime and tangy citrus.  The dish is finished off with slightly larger than crumb-sized crunchy salty pancetta smoked in-house.  I am so happy with this starter dish that if a huge power outage were to strike in that moment preventing the kitchen from bringing out any additional edible treats, I would feel satisfied.

Thankfully, the food gods continue to smile upon me and and the power stays on so half a dozen oysters appear, consisting of three differing species from Washington state with various preparations. My favorite oyster companion is the apple granita, although the grenache vinegar black pepper olive oil is a close second.  I am partial to the Otter cove oyster with its traces of iron flavor, but I always have a soft spot in my heart for the Baywater sweets.

The other hits include a duck prosciutto with pickled beets and elderberry syrup.  The salty chewiness of the fowl is offset by a tart smoothness of the beet and finished off with subtle sweetness.

Just as I am savoring the starters, the Neah Bay Sablefish comes out and blows the other dishes away with its crispy skin placed among a regal variety of peppers that are grown right on Bainbridge Island, grounded with creamy polenta.

I am loving the meal so much I almost don’t want to end on dessert, worried that it will be an anti-climatic experience.  Not so.  A profiterole with creme fraiche apple ice cream drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with candied hazelnuts and lava sea salt is the perfect end.

My eating companion and I left that night with such an ecstatic high we decide to come back the next day for lunch.  I order the PELT (pancetta, duck egg, lettuce and tomato) and make a vow to never eat a BLT again.

Diggin' the housemade chorizo and manchego pizza almost as much as the PELT

Get ready for more Hitchcock love as McGill is targeting a November 1st completion of his next-door charcuterie and deli.

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