by Lauren McAllister & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & lot of restaurants try to be all things to all people. Few can afford to be a special occasion destination, which is kind of a bummer. Finding a place that feels worthy of a celebration, without being stuffy and, well, kind of boring, isn't easy. But the search is over. Delaney's Musicafe not only offers some great food, but it also offers a chance to step back in time, to enjoy splendid food from bygone eras and to be regaled with live music by none other than your wait staff.
We arrived at Delaney's on a recent rainy Friday evening. The restaurant is housed in a Kirtland Cutter home on Spokane's lower South Hill. The home has been painstakingly restored to house a bed and breakfast -- Hannah's Garden Inn -- as well as Delaney's Musicafe.
Opening the front door was akin to lifting the lid of a music box, as we were greeted by a live performance by Abbey Crawford, billed as Spokane's one and only true cabaret singer.
We were shown to a table in the sunroom at the back of the house, with views of downtown.
Entrees are $35 and include your choice of salad or soup, bread and vegetables and rice or a baked potato. In addition, you'll get a couple little extras... more on that in a minute.
We started out with the firecracker prawns ($10). Five big prawns were served with an unusual cayenne pepper and cinnamon rub and served with spring greens. This was certainly an interesting preparation, and the prawns were tasty and nicely cooked, but it didn't quite deliver the outstanding burst of flavor one expects of an appetizer.
Next came the little extras. The "intermezzo" was a lovely and delicate mint and lemon sorbet, with a splash of champagne to refresh the palate. This was nothing short of a delight.
I chose the Hannah's house salad -- baby spring greens with dried cranberries and a very light vinaigrette. It was a light and fresh plate, holding all the promise of spring. My companion's Titanic Wedge salad was successful if not particularly memorable, with a nice blue cheese dressing over crisp lettuce and tomatoes. Our guest of honor swooned over her creamy wild mushroom soup.
On the evening we visited, the amuse bouche was a morsel of lobster perched on a fresh mushroom slice with a drizzle of chive oil. What a festive little treat this was. I always enjoy the concept of an amuse bouche -- which literally means "mouth amusement" -- a little greeting from the chef in between courses.
The main courses at Delaney's are the shining stars of long ago, from legendary Big City restaurants -- Lobster Thermidor, first served in 1907 at the famous Delmonico's in New York City, Oysters Rockefeller, invented in New Orleans around 1900 and said to be so rich that customer upon eating it exclaimed, "Why this is as rich as Rockefeller!"
My companion and I couldn't resist the Chateaubriand for Two ($70). It sounds so over the top, it practically invites disappointment when it becomes a reality. But this is another historic dish with an intriguing legend behind it. Most stories about its name involve the 19th-century French writer and diplomat Francois Rene, the Vicomte de Chateaubriand. The dish, and its accompanying bearnaise sauce, were probably created by his personal chef, Montmireil. A more intriguing possibility relates to the way the filet is prepared. Because it is more than twice as thick as an ordinary steak, getting it done in the middle without turning the outside into a close approximation of shoe leather is a bit of a trick. This could be accomplished, however, by insulating the filet with two other steaks that could essentially be charred and then discarded, leaving the perfectly cooked tenderloin. But I digress...
Suffice it to say, this had to be one of the most wonderfully delicious creations I've tasted in a long while. Accompanying the filet were crisp, fresh green beans accented with diced red pepper and a vertically presented baked potato. All in all, a fabulous entree. Our guests were equally pleased with the succulent Lobster Thermidor, with its luscious cream sauce. Less successful was the mixing of historic and modern in the Vegetable Wellington. Here a big chunk of tofu vied for attention with fresh vegetables in a crisp, puff pastry crust. The tofu just didn't have the presence to carry this version of the justifiably more popular Beef Wellington. Our desserts also fell a little short of the high standard set by the entrees.
Service at Delaney's is relaxed and friendly, which occasionally led to a longish span between courses. All that was forgotten, however, when our own server began to sing, "As Long As He Needs Me."
All the waiters and waitresses take turns with the wireless microphone, choosing Broadway show tunes to regale the diners with, as they wander through the main floor of the old home. Each one has an impressive resume, with credits on local stages and music schools.
I actually felt proud of our waitress as she burst into song, just after taking our orders. "Wow," I imagined the other diners would be thinking, "their waitress can really sing!"
But of course, at Delaney's, the amazing thing is everyone's waiter or waitress can sing.