Terra Plata, it seems, is one of those truly reliable Capitol Hill gems in Seattle that will always be fantastic no matter when you go. The first time I came here was summer 2012, when my dad and I, after a gruelling two days of apartment hunting, celebrated signing a lease by treating ourselves to a delicious lunch (and likely a drink or two). I remember being charmed by the quirky triangle-shaped restaurant situated oddly at the apex of the melrose market development. Perhaps more charming was the food – my dad and I both had some sort of delicious lamb meatball wrap with a harissa aoli and other ingredients that are long forgotten. With the parents back in town for a visit, and always in need of an impressive local-fare venue to wow them, we figured we’d revisit Terra Plata for dinner.
On this visit, we started with the bone marrow appetizer, which came with a sort of apricot-raisin chutney/mostarda. For $14, I was expecting two small marrow bones, enough for each of us to have some spread over a couple crostinis. What we got were two huge marrow bones, with so much roasted marrow we needed a second helping of crostini to eat it all. The flavours were great, with that beefy depth that likely comes from grass-fed cows. The dried fruit accompaniment was sweet and tart enough to cut through the heavy, oilyness of the roasted marrow. Needless to say I made it my personal mission to demolish it.
Usually, Terra Plata is all about groups ordering a number of dishes to share around, but on this night I guess we were feeling a little selfish, and each ordered a main for ourselves. My stepmum had the Mediterranean mussels in red curry cream with mint, lime, sofrito, and toasted coconut. I didn’t try this dish having an aversion to mussels, but I dipped some bread in the broth. It was surprisingly light and clean tasting for a cream-based broth, and was bright in flavour from the lime and mint. My stepmom spent most of the visit obsessing over how the broth must have been made, in order to replicate it at home somehow.
My dad ordered the salmon, with a cauliflower polenta and savoury dumplings. I tried a bite of his salmon, which was cooked to perfection (possibly sous-vide followed by a quick sear for that caramel colour?). Like my stepmom, my dad loved the cauliflower polenta, and was likewise determined to figure out how to make it at home.
Lastly, I ordered the charred octopus with chorizo, potato, and radicchio. The octopus was first braised before charred on the grill, giving it an amazing tenderness to complement the smoky flavour of the char. The radicchio was also lightly grilled before being tossed in a lemon viniagrette, which added a nice acidic contrast to the saffron aioli. The chorizo was also the perfect meaty addition, supporting the octopus and rounding out the flavours of the dish with its bold spicyness.
I feel like the service should get a special mention all on its own. The server was extremely attentive without being too invasive, and was knowledgeable enough about all the wines and dishes as to offer great, informed recommendations. At one point the manager stopped in to check how we liked the wine, as well as to clear some of the used dishes from our table. We were so impressed with the staff’s kindness and professionalism we made a point of saying so to the hostess as we left, to make sure everyone serving us got a special thank you.
With graduation on the horizon this May, my family has already requested we do a post-ceremony dinner together at Terra Plata. I will definitely be making a reservation here to show my other non-Seattleite relatives what real Seattle cuisine can be.
Terra Plata, 1501 Melrose Avenue, Seattle WA 98122