WildFin American Grill offers surf, turf options to reel in diners

October 25, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

The menu at WildFin American Grill roams across the landscape, and borrows from enough culinary traditions and trends to fill a Rand McNally atlas and a Zagat guide.

A kitchen toiling to round out such menus can often lose focus, although WildFin remains consistent — and excels.

WildFin offers surf-and-turf options dolled up in New American flourishes. The concept is not unique on the Issaquah restaurant scene, but WildFin puts a more memorable effort into execution.

The menu taps trends — such as small plates designed for sharing — to laudable effect.

Calamari is tender and just elastic enough beneath a gossamer coating. The squid sits in a spicy aioli and alongside fried jalapeño rings — a piquant counterpoint to the mild calamari.

The slaw and salsa heaped atop corn tortillas add bounce to rockfish tacos. Order a couple of tacos and a beer from the substantial offerings on tap for a satisfying midday respite in south-of-the-border style.

The lime chili shrimp salad is a textbook study in restaurant greenery.

If you go

WildFin American Grill

  • 835 N.W. Gilman Blvd.
  • 427-0127
  • www.wildfinamericangrill.com
  • Lunch: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
  • Dinner: 4-10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday
  • Bar: 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday
  • Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close daily
Restaurant reviews are a regular feature of The Issaquah Press. Reviewers visit restaurants unannounced and pay in full for their meals.

Built atop cabbage, romaine and spinach, WildFin adds Granny Smith apples trimmed down to matchsticks, Mandarin oranges and, for crunch, candied walnuts. On top, basil and cilantro tangle. The pièce de résistance is a heap of shrimp in a Mac & Jack’s beer batter tricked out further in a chili-lime glaze.

(WildFin offers the same shrimp, sans salad, on the appetizer menu at lunch and dinner.)

The crunch from the shrimp, apple and walnuts is a pleasant contrast against the juicy oranges.

WildFin Chowder melds a sherry-spiked base to corn, fennel, peppers and hunks of salmon and other seafood. Bacon plays a much-appreciated supporting role.

WildFin peddles a monstrous — and monstrously flavorful — burger beneath a pile of pulled pork and onion straws on brioche. Extra oomph comes from pepper jack cheese and barbecue sauce. Despite the meat-on-meat action, the pulled-pork-and-patty combination is no gut bomb. The french fries in a ramekin alongside the burger add a nice touch.

Skagit Valley chicken breast is tender inside a crunchy breading. The attractive presentation is straightforward and satisfying: mashed potatoes, green beans and a mushroom-bacon sauce.

Sometimes the menu promises but comes up short. Flatbread, for instance, promised artichoke hearts, but the promised topping did not materialize. Cajun meatloaf is flavorful, but a touch dry beneath a spicy mustard smear.

Dessert is a highlight, especially a deep-dish apple and grape cobbler. Scoop some Tillamook vanilla ice cream into each forkful for the full effect.

WildFin deserves points for careful attention to details far from the plate.

Service is attentive and quick to offer menu recommendations as diners pore over the expansive menu.

WildFin is a popular destination, so expect a wait to be seated — sometimes even at lunchtime.

The eatery also earns props for programming a playlist ranging from respectable — The Decemberists, of course — to guilty pleasure. Paula Abdul, anyone?

The design team banished the last occupant, a FedEx Kinko’s, to distant memory.

Overhead, a lattice of wood beams crisscrosses the dining areas. Closer to ground level, whimsical metal sculptures and filament bulb lamps dot the restaurant.

Some tabletops, plus the handsome bar, feature a rough-hewn edge. (Guests can sidle up to said bar and sip a bacon-topped Bloody Mary.)

The fireplace — guaranteed to act as a magnet for customers during damp months — manages to make a large space feel more intimate. The kitchen, if not quite open, is exposed enough for diners to catch the culinary team in action.

The kitchen sends out handsome meals as enjoyable to eat as to ogle. Sometimes, at other eateries, such a ratio places too much emphasis on aesthetics and not enough on taste. Not at WildFin.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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