I spent over a year planning our trip to Alaska and during that period I’m sure I spent more hours researching the three week holiday than I actually spent on it. But it was worth the effort. The trip was superb, everything I had hoped for – and more! And a big part of the “and more” was the food.
The fine dining that we experienced nearly everywhere we went was a pleasantly surprising aspect of our wilderness and adventure holiday. It was a quantum leap above our dining experiences in the tourist hot-spots of Italy and France. You could do Alaska purely as a Gourmet Tour. But perhaps this should not have been such a surprise given the quality of the ingredients. Alaska is a seafood heaven.
Our favourite foods were the giant King Crab, halibut, a delicious fish that can be as big as a man and hence has thick chunky fillets and of course wild Alaskan salmon. But whilst eating halibut or salmon is an easy (and enjoyable) task, I had to wonder, is there a polite way to eat crab? A first date food it is not and after seeing me demolish a delicious Dungeness Crab in Petersburg, my wife suggested it could potentially be an end-of-marriage food!
But back to King Crabs. Whilst their sheer size makes them easier to eat than their smaller cousins, an easy to eat meal they are not. And nearly every restaurant we went to served them up differently. Some gave you no assistance at all in separating the meat from the shell. All they did was offer some tools to assist in the task. A nut-cracker was a standard, but we were told that this only worked on crab that had been frozen at some stage, and did not work well on fresh crab. On this point, we had some crab that we picked out of a tank whilst alive and some from unknown sources – which assumedly included some that had been frozen. Fresh crab was “juicier”, but did not guarantee a superior meal.
Other restaurants put a slice through the shell which helped a bit, but still left a lot of effort on the diner’s part to get to the meat. As well as being unattractive to watch for anyone else with you, this meat extraction process is slow, and as a result the cooked crab goes cold before you are halfway through it.
But we found one restaurant that made eating King Crab both civilised and tasty – “Ray’s Waterfront” in Seward. Here, half of the leg shell is cut right off so that you have immediate access to the meat. And to help keep the meat warm, the other legs are placed on the plate with the open side face down. As an added bonus, the restaurant has beautiful boat harbour views. Ray’s Waterfront was only the second restaurant that we visited on our holiday, but it was the pinnacle. Many other places were good, but none were as good as Ray’s.
Restaurants in Alaska
In our (admittedly limited) experience of Alaskan restaurants, one thing that we noted was that there was no direct correlation between the quality of the restaurant and the quality of the food. We found the food in some “family” and small town restaurants to be better than what was served at some of the fancier restaurants that we visited. But a common theme to our favourite restaurants was that they prepared the meals very simply. With such good raw ingredients, a fancy sauce or seasoning can overwhelm rather than enhance the flavour of the meal.
So our favourites:
Eddies Fireplace Inn (for halibut)
King Salmon (King Salmon is the name of a town, and ironically, salmon was not on the menu!)
Alaska AK 99613
Sea Galley (for salmon)
4101 Credit Union Drive
Alaska, AK 99503
Ray’s Waterfront (for King Crab)
1316 4th Avenue
Small Boat Harbor
Seward Alaska AK 99664
* All photographs are courtesy and copyright of Craig C.
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