THE RESTAURANT BY HOTEL RL
I tend to use Restaurant Week to explore places I've either never been to or that opened since the previous year. The Restaurant by Hotel RL has undergone a major facelift, along with the rest of the hotel, so I headed over, drawn by the trout fish and chips on the menu. Fish and chips are pretty common around here, but trout fish and chips aren't, and this batch coated in River City Ale batter was delicious — not too heavy, not too oily. The gherkin tartar sauce was another nice, subtle twist on an old standby and the house-made potato chips were served hot. I was tempted to go for the black truffle popcorn or boneless sriracha wings for my first course, but I can't resist onion rings, and Hotel RL's were perfect — fat rings with batter that didn't slide off on first bite. They were served with a tasty chipotle crema sauce. I resisted yet another fried dish for dessert and went for the mini huckleberry crumb sundae. The portion of Milk Bottle huckleberry ice cream was small but satisfying, and the whipped cream and chocolate cookie crumbles lent a nice sweet finale to a meal that was actually worthy of drawing locals to dine alongside the Hotel RL's guests, especially for just $21. (DAN NAILEN)
FLEUR DE SEL
Not even the snow and ice this past weekend could keep us from making our long-planned trip out to Post Falls to enjoy a Restaurant Week dinner at this impeccable French eatery. My partner and I first dined at Fleur de Sel during Restaurant Week two years ago, and it's a place we now recommend to others without hesitation, regardless of the season. After seeing the restaurant's three-course menu more than a month prior, I knew exactly what I was going to order. I enjoy salmon in any preparation, and Fleur de Sel's coulibiac entree is now one of the best I've had: a puff pastry filled with salmon, mushroom and spinach duxelle, and served amid a creamy, savory lobster sauce. Fleur de Sel's sauces are always dreamy and true to their European origins — this was no exception and was so good I wished it was publicly acceptable to lick my plate clean. Before the coulibiac, I treated myself to the foie gras panna cotta. The sweet and savory unification came with two petite slices of soft brioche bread and a side of bacon jam. To savor the creamy, whipped spread I made quick use of the sliced baguettes complementary to the table. To cap off the evening's delightful exploration of flavors and ingredients, the chocolate lover I am was naturally drawn to choose the dark velour on white chocolate, a half-sphere of fluffy mousse and a drizzle of blackberry coulis. Meanwhile, my partner ordered the 63 degree egg salad, the veal gratinée and the house-made orange sorbet, called The Admiral, though I'm pretty positive the three dishes we didn't order were just as delicious. (CHEY SCOTT)
The best meal I've ever had, back in 2011, in Spokane was a duck dish at Italia Trattoria. This year's incredible Inlander Restaurant Week deal made for the perfect excuse to return to see if Trattoria, whose head chef Anna Vogel was just named a semifinalist for the James Beard award, still had it. I took my younger brother with the clever strategy that we'd get twice the selection of dishes if we both snagged a few bites off each other's plates. It worked marvelously. I started with the duck liver mousse pâté. Pâté is inherently a weird looking dish, resembling a meaty Nutella, but the pâté's taste had a rich and complex palette. Even more interesting was my brother's choice of appetizer, the Italian ricotta and spinach malfatti. Think of it almost like manicotti, deconstructed and transformed into a delicious little dumpling. For the main course, I went with the grilled pork steak. The steak was solid, particularly when you included the dark green salsa verde topping in your bite. But even better was my brother's choice: The pan-seared sole. The skin of the fish in particular was perfectly crisp, with a peppery zest. I had no idea what this dish, described as a salmon "quenelle," was. Turned out it's pureed salmon, ground into a mound, almost like fishy mashed potatoes. Don't worry, it totally worked.
We bypassed the ice cream sundae for dessert (who goes to a gourmet restaurant and orders the ice cream sundae?), instead ordering the Italia tiramisu and the caprese chocolate torta. They made for a fine epilogue, but the sole remained the meal's climax. My brother, the manager of a local sandwich shop, left a massive tip. "It was just really good," he says. (DANIEL WALTERS)
As the typical millennial on a tight budget, Restaurant Week is always a great time to pass on the avocado toast and head out to some of the finer restaurants around town. My first stop was Casper Fry in the South Perry District. The combination of locally sourced food, delicious vegetarian options and a great selection of regional microbrews makes it my ultimate dining experience. To start my meal, I went with the mango and drunken goat cheese salad and ordered a pint of Silver City Tropic Haze IPA. The sweet mimosa vinaigrette paired well with the juicy, citrus-packed IPA. Underneath the dressing was a savory blend of goat cheese soaked in red wine and candied pepitas. Next up was the smokey mushroom stroganoff. I know I have to order a dish when it features roasted wild mushrooms in lieu of a hearty meat. As if that wasn't enough, it's also covered in a smoked mushroom and herb cream sauce and topped with pickled wild mushrooms. Casper Fry's twist on a classic dessert was the perfect way to end the night. Its cupcake-shaped piece of carrot cake is served with ginger orange cream cheese frosting, with candied ginger and almonds. The best part? It sits on a puddle of custard known as crème anglaise. After one taste, I was on a mission to soak up every last drop of the sweet cream. (DEREK HARRISON)