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Beach Café

New life for an old favorite

It's been about a year-and-a-half since you've been to the Beach Café. No, we're not tracking you, they've been closed since the start of the pandemic. In early May 2021, they opened four nights a week for dinner and Sunday brunch. But you'll find more than schedule changes.

In October 2019, Chef Brian Doherty was hired as Executive Chef. He had time to change the menus and begin working on banquets when COVID hit. Carillon Kitchen remained open during the pandemic and is still serving healthy options morning and afternoon. The Beach Café continues to be touted as a "casual dining waterfront restaurant" and it does have the same casual feel from before. They did a full tableware refresh, including a new line of dinnerware. But the big change is in the menu, moving away from casual items to more elevated fare.

When you taste Brian's dishes, you understand why customers are easily accepting the change. The menu is creative and delicious. He takes some familiar dishes, does them well, and adds a twist. Consider the crispy calamari, light, oil-free, and served with a ginger shoyu dipping sauce and spicy lemon aioli. There are also unexpected items like the Smokey Short Rib Explosion, shredded smoky short ribs rolled in flour and fried, served with a Beecher's cheddar cheese sauce (in a syringe so you can inject it into the short rib ball), and a habanero tomato jam. With one taste, you realize how good high-quality, chef-driven food is. Every dish has something incredibly fresh to add another level: torn basil, chive blossom, organic greens, pistachio pesto, red chili chimichurri.

Smokey Short Rib Explosion (back), Crispy Calamari with spicy lemon aioli and ginger shoyu

Their brunch menu is no different. Corned beef hash is made in-house and shredded, served with two organic eggs, Spanish chorizo, sweet peppers, caramelized onions, and potatoes. "I've been making this recipe for a long time," says Brian. You'll find typical breakfasts like old-fashioned buttermilk pancakes next to apple fritter French toast. Other items include a bacon burger, seared wild scallops, clam chowder, and sweet corn gnocchi.

In addition to the dinner menu, they offer a daily special. "The type of service I'm accustomed to is that you never run out of anything. If it's on the menu, you can't run out. With specials, there's a limited amount. That helps keep things fresh. I'm training our two Chefs de Partie on creating the specials - it's how I learned and keeps everyone feeling involved."

They use organic produce for anything that goes from cook to guest, like salad greens. Core items used to make their soups and stocks are not. Their New York strip is Akaushi American Wagyu (as is their burger), and they don't use farmed fish. Their soda bread, part of a fun bread presentation, is baked in-house daily. Presentation is a big part of what makes the Beach Café special. It can be fun and gorgeous, and it shows how much thought goes into every detail.

Bacon Burrata Flatbread

Knowing Brian's background explains why detail is key. He grew up in Bremerton, where he flipped pizza at a local spot, then moved to Orlando and attended culinary school, "The first time I seriously thought about cooking." He loved fine dining and got into hotels, moving back to Seattle in 1996 to work at the Four Seasons Olympic. Two years later he was the Sous Chef. In 2000, he was running the Georgian Room, one of the top 50 restaurants in the country.

When Fairmont purchased the Olympic in 2005, he stayed for a short time before moving to the Four Seasons in Atlanta, staying six months. He then transferred to the big island of Hawaii to work at the fine dining restaurant in the Four Seasons Haulalai. He returned to Seattle and the Fairmont Olympic in 2007 and stayed until 2012. "Fine dining was losing ground; I moved to the Fairmont in Newport Beach and stayed five years. My daughter basically grew up at Disneyland, she had every princess dress!"

Brian returned to Seattle to be the executive chef at the SLS Hotel which ultimately never opened. He worked for a year doing events at The Sanctuary at The Mark, before taking the summer off to be with his daughter. Rod Lapasin was the GM of the SLS; he was hired as the GM at The Woodmark Hotel and asked Brian to be the Executive Chef. "I'd never worked at a boutique hotel, and it was a good challenge. Then COVID hit. Now we're happy to be back, sharing share our food and drink with customers, along with that wonderful vacation feel you get while dining here."

 

Connie Adams/June 2021

Beach Café
The Woodmark Hotel & Still Spa
1200 Carillon Point
Kirkland, WA 98033
425-889-0303

www.thewoodmark.com/dining/beach-cafe


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