There are places we dine because the ambience is lovely, even though the food is questionable. There are restaurants we frequent because the food is great, but the décor is as comfortable and inviting as a carnival ride. And then there is Pierside Kitchen at Semiahmoo Resort — a fine dining restaurant that ought to be on everyone’s list of top five favorite restaurants. The décor is elegant yet inviting, the seasonal cuisine always exceptional and the ever-changing craft cocktails sublime. Serving comprehensive — but not overwhelming — breakfast, lunch and dinner menu items, Pierside Kitchen is gastronomic nirvana.
Entering Pierside Kitchen’s dining room, one wanders down a long hallway that opens into a bright, open foyer. Just stand for a moment and take in the elegant décor. The distressed wood walls imbue the sense of time passing, while the contemporary floor to ceiling windows provide views of the Strait of Georgia, Point Roberts, White Rock B.C. and Peace Arch Park. The soaring exposed-beam ceilings and washed paints give the space dimension and a lovely weathered seaside cottage look without being kitschy.
In the fishing industry’s heyday, the property was the site of a large fish cannery, and the building’s architecture is meant to reflect this history. An expansive dock extending over Drayton Harbor provides space for Pierside Kitchen’s outdoor dining. This open space is an ideal spot to read a magazine while lingering over breakfast, have a lunch with family or enjoy a sunset dinner. Inside or outside doesn’t really matter because there simply is not a bad view from any table. To the west, watch as morning breaks over Blaine Harbor and the distant mountain range. Or watch commercial fishing vessels and personal boats cruise through Drayton Harbor in pursuit of the morning catch.
Born and raised in Paris, France, Eric Truglas is Semiahmoo Resort’s Executive Culinary Director. His culinary training originated in the family kitchen, and he completed his formal training in Versailles. Eric is quite enthusiastic when he states, “The Mecca of being a chef is here, in Whatcom County. We have fresh local produce, seafood, poultry, and beef. And, some of the best wines in the world are made here, in Washington State: it doesn’t get better than this!” Committed to a philosophy of farm-to-table cuisine, Eric impresses upon his entire staff the importance of quality local ingredients and French culinary techniques to produce exceptional food. Motivated to develop a food service department, Eric set about to build a culinary team that lives and breathes this philosophy. He has instituted practices that assure diners enjoy dishes that are expertly executed with diligent attention to detail.
Preparation of pristine ingredients is entrusted to a staff of culinary professionals including Executive Chef de Cuisine Martin Woods. A noted chef in his own right, Woods spent two years training in France before returning to the United States, where he has cooked at some of the Northwest’s best restaurants.
Both Truglas and Woods are completely committed to sourcing ingredients from both local purveyors and farmers alike. Pierside Kitchen’s local suppliers include Drayton Harbor Oysters, Pleasant Valley Dairy, Cloud Mt. Farms produce, Willie Greens and Hempler’s Meats. Pierside also has its own kitchen garden, complete with greens, edible flowers and produce. Fresh ingredients are only one half of the equation — the real wonder of it all is what wonderful things the culinary team is able to do with these ingredients.
When dining at Pierside Kitchen, it is always best to start with an appetizer or two, even if dining alone. Impossibly fresh oysters on the half-shell are dressed with just enough Apple Mignonette to provide flavor without obscuring the bivalve’s delicate salty ocean flavors. There are also the wood-fired clams, a heaping bowl of Manila clams accented with chorizo and a wonderful white wine sauce scented with garlic and roasted tomatoes. It is a dish that one craves in the middle of the night, yearns for all afternoon, and remorselessly devours.
A well-rounded meal should always include soup and salad. At Pierside Kitchen, these hearty dishes are served with a glass of wine, and are a meal unto themselves. French Onion Soup Gratiné holds to tradition like barnacles on a rock, and the Walla Walla Sweet Onions very nearly melt on the tongue.
At many restaurants, a seasonal salad consists of the same lettuce and tomatoes they always serve. This is not the practice at Pierside Kitchen, where salads are constructed with seasonal ingredients that represent the best of a farmer’s crop or fisherman’s catch. The Dungeness crab and Shrimp Louie salad is a reincarnated classic large enough to share, but so delectable that one wouldn’t want to. Dressed in a wonderful house-made sauce and garnished with perfectly cooked hard boiled eggs with large crab claws and a generous mix of crab meat and shrimp, this salad alone is worth a drive to Semiahmoo Resort.
It’s always difficult to select just one entrée, so don’t do it – even if you’re dining alone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having everything one wants. It isn’t greedy, it is indulgent. Don’t bother if people stare, they’re simply envious. The Cedar Planked King Salmon is a phenomenal entrée. A generous portion of salmon is cooked to moist, tender perfection in the wood-fired oven and served with grilled radicchio and Potatoes Anna. The salmon quite simply flakes apart, and its subtle flavor is accentuated by the caramelized starches of the cedar plank. Crispy, buttery Potatoes Anna pairs wonderfully with both the salmon and a glass of Jovino Pinot Noir.
Follow the salmon with the Dry Rub Harissa flat iron steak. This spicy version of a traditional Middle Eastern paste adds a new dimension to the juicy, tender beef. This entrée is served with grilled onions and mint yogurt sauce and it pairs beautifully with a Terra Blanca Arch Terrace Cabernet. This wine also happens to pair quite nicely with the tagliatelle, a garlicky rich tomato, basil sauce with a drizzle of olive oil. It makes an exceptional side dish to pull both entrées together.
Of those who would compromise gastronomic certainty for a comfortable setting there are many interesting restaurants to choose from. For those of us who consider such a compromise unconscionable, the obvious and only choice is Pierside Kitchen at Semiahmoo. From the décor, to the menu selection, to the diverse wine list and creative cocktails, Pierside Kitchen has everything a discriminating diner could want. Now, make a reservation at semiahmoo.com/pierside-kitchen.