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A French Chef and an Egyptian Pharaoh

IMG_1240This last weekend we joined our good friends Randy & Margaret in Seattle for a French dinner and a visit to the ancient Egypt tomb of King Tut.

Our global adventure started Friday evening at the famous Rover’s restaurant, where the “Chef in the Hat” Thierry Rautureau of Top Chef Masters fame reigns supreme.  The restaurant called me Friday to confirm our reservations for the following night, even though I had called several weeks prior and changed our reservations from Saturday to Friday evening. Fortunately, we got the snafu figured out.  However, there was the possibility that we would experience a bit of a wait for our table.

We arrived promptly at our reservation time of 8 pm to see our friends sitting in the foyer, waiting for us.  We joined them and began catching up.  Not soon after, 4 glasses of pink champagne were brought in.  The hostess said Chef Thierry felt bad for the mix up and offered the champagne with his complements.  The fact that Chef Thierry was in the house (as it were) was more impressive than the excellent champagne.  About 9 o’clock we were shown to our table, still with humble and sincere apologies.  None of us were grumbling mind you, we were simply happy to be there and looking forward to a great meal and the possibility of seeing Chef Thierry.

Even before ordering, an Amuse Bouche (translated: mouth amusements, which was part of all the menu levels) came to the table.  Once again, since we had waited, they wanted to get us something to eat right away.  Ordering at Rover’s, one can choose from one of three tasting menus.  We all chose the second option or Menu Degustation, offering 6 courses with an optional wine pairing.  After placing our order another unexpected surprise came to the table.  Not included with our menu, but again given with complements of the chef, was the renowned Scrambled Organic Egg with White Sturgeon Caviar.  This egg shaped dish is one of the items Chef Thierry is famous for and was epic on the scale of deliciousness (see photo) as well as generosity.

I shan’t clinically recount our evening course by course, but I will list the items we had as printed on our menu.

Seafood Mouse, Philo Cup, Citrus, Sea Urchin Dressing

Braised Pork Belly, Parsnip, Apple Cider Sauce

Salmon, Fennel, Leek, Quince Puree, Saffron Sauce

Coconut-Lime Granite (palate cleanser)

Roasted Duck Breast, Chard, Lentil, Thyme Sauce

Symphony of Desserts (3)

Mignardises (tiny finger desserts)

Sometime around dessert, we were greeted by Chef Thierry.  We had seen him greet other tables earlier in our meal.  This is old school, classy treatment of customers that has long since passed.  Todays chefs rarely make the rounds in their dinning room.  Margaret was so elated by Chef’s table side visit, we all thought she might hyperventilate.  Chef even offered her some water and was clearly touched by her reaction.  After some small talk, he bid us adieu after thanking us for the visit and wishing us all a wonderful Holiday Season.

A number of things, I suppose, could have ruined our evening.  But none of us were really in the mood for a bad time.  We all had been looking forward to this dinner and knew all too well the caliber of the chef and his food.  They clearly went above and beyond to make us feel not only welcome but to right the wrong of the reservation mishap.  I know of a few restaurants that could learn a fantastic lesson about exceptional service and how to guarantee repeat customers.  It’s experiences like this that not only make for a great story, but will ensure our return to Rover’s.

The following day we started our journey with a hearty breakfast at Tom Douglas’ Lola.  Tom and Thierry are great friends and have a weekly radio show and podcast together as well.  After breakfast we ventured down to the Pacific Science Center to see the exhibit of the boy king and the IMAX film Secret of the Pharaohs.  Impressive as the exhibit is, I was a little disappointed that the gold sarcophagus and the funerary mask that visited Seattle in 1978 remained in Egypt this time around.  I saw the exhibit in Seattle in 1978, I was 4.  But even at 4 years old, I remember the massive gold coffin and mask were stunningly beautiful.

My favorite items of the display were a special stone sarcophagus for the King’s brother’s cat, as well as gold sandals and gold finger & toe caps.  The IMAX movie Secret of the Pharaohs was another highlight.  I actually feel like I got more out of the movie than I did the viewing.  The film showed the real mummy of Ramesses II (reign 1279-1213 BC).  It was most curious to actually see the mummy of someone who is mentioned in the Bible.

Our voyage came to an end after a warm Starbucks refreshment enjoyed together inside the Center House of Seattle Center.  Our time together with our friends was somewhat bittersweet.  They will more than likely be moving to another state soon and such adventures will be harder to orchestrate.  But as they say, nothing is impossible, for we went from France to Egypt in less than 24 hours, and without a magic carpet, but it was magical nonetheless.

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