Our time in Anchorage Alaska was short. In total, during one afternoon/night and one evening in the city, we had time for only three meals. How to explore the best of a city, even a small city, in only three meals? Particularly when the city has one of the world’s best supplies of fresh-off-the-boat seafood (especially right in the middle of salmon season), its own captive garden (the Matanuska Valley), and unprecedented access to virtually any imaginable type of game.
It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
Our first meal was a quick and casual lunch at what appears to be a perpetually packed brewpub with relatively upscale pub food. Since our last trip to Alaska left us with an indelible memory of what fresh, non-processed King Crab legs tasted like, we decided to split a pound between the two of us. Although we know King Crab is not really in season, there is no way we will come to Alaska in the winter. So we made due. While the crab was certainly better than what passes for King Crab legs in Lower 48 supermarkets, it was not as sweet as we had hoped or remembered. Nor did the artificial butter that was served with the crab help.
While the crab (not to speak of the “butter”), did not quite live up to our expectations, we were glad we had it and will try it again—especially during our stay at the Glacier Bay Lodge.
Tom had to try Glacier’s wares—an IPA—while Joyce stayed with a Pinot Grigio.
Although a good brewpub sufficed for lunch, we were looking for something more for dinner. Simon & Seaforts is a local seafood palace with panoramic views of Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range.
As we were struggling to decide on two of three special fresh fish entrees, our server came to our rescue by suggesting that we combine half orders of two halibut entrees—a crab and macadamia stuffed Alaska halibut and Pan Seared Kachemak Bay Halibut Cheeks—into one order. This allowed us to have another meal—King Salmon with herb rub, roasted in a cedar wrap.
The two halibut dishes were served with a garlic vermouth butter and accompanied by smashed red potatoes and a selection of steamed vegetables (squash, onions, and peppers). Although the stuffed halibut was good, the halibut cheeks were wonderful. They were firm, sweet, and buttery and were nicely complemented by the butter sauce.
The King Salmon was our second favorite dish. It had an incredibly rich taste and virtually melted in our mouths. Although we are certainly glad we had the salmon, and will certainly order king Salmon (not to speak of Halibut Cheeks!) again, we were of mixed minds about the texture. Fish that melts in your mouth is certainly a compliment, but we did think it could have been done with a bit more firmness. But what can one really expect from a fish with one of the highest fat contents of any seafood?
Both dishes went well with a lean, unoaked chardonnay.
Okay, it is a pretty unorthodox name. It sounds more like a kid-friendly entertainment venue than a fine dining establishment. But the menu and atmosphere certainly looked serious enough, so we gave it a shot. It turns out, the name came from the fiasco of the opening night, which reminded the owners of the Marx Brother’s Movie, “Night at the Opera”.
The night we were there was not a fiasco. The staff worked in perfect harmony, with everyone doing whatever needed to be done, without reference to whose table was whose. (Our only complaints about the service were the initial response to a question about their impressive wine list and the need to ask three times for a copy of the menu to take with us.)
Our favorite of the three dishes was an appetizer—Grilled Halibut Cheeks Lettuce Wrap with jicama slaw, toasted macadamia nuts, and mango sweet n’ sour mango sauce. Joyce had the house specialty—Halibut Macadamia with jasmine rice, coconut curry, and mango chutney. Tom had the lemongrass-marinated Lamb Rack with couscous and roasted eggplant in a pineapple salsa. Although we generally liked each of the dishes, Joyce felt the halibut was a bit overdone; Tom felt the cardamom was a bit too pronounced. All dishes worked well with wines they recommended from a few that we had selected. A Cote de Beaune red burgundy to start, with a Napa Merlot with the lamb and a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with the halibut.
Overall, we enjoyed the experience and would certainly return. Although we also enjoyed Son & Seaforts, we felt that to be more of an institution. Marx Brothers was more of a personalized experience. We would return to each, albeit for very different reasons.