by Lauren McAllister

If location is everything, then Anthony's Homeport has it made. The new seafood restaurant occupies what must surely be one of the most amazing locations to be found in any city. From the panoramic windows lining the east end of the dining room, the Spokane River plunges down on both sides of the restaurant, which sits on a rock promontory overlooking the river. On a recent Saturday evening, the splendid autumn reds and oranges flanking the river were matched by the beauty of the frothy cascade beneath them. All this, and just a two-minute walk from the heart of downtown. It was really a bit over the top to see the moon begin to rise over the city as we dined.

The Seattle-based Anthony's opened just a couple of months ago after a renovation of the building that has housed a number of restaurants, most recently Salty's. The interior is elegantly whimsical. Undulating low walls clad in blond wood paneling segregate the dining area, which is on several levels, allowing nearly every seat in the restaurant to take in the beautiful views. The carpeting and upholstery on the booths features colorful fish, while funky lights made of twisty copper tubing are reminiscent of the curvy shapes of coral.

The menu is, of course, dedicated to seafood and freshwater fish. Appetizers include some familiar favorites, such as a chilled bay shrimp cocktail ($7) and crispy calamari ($9). On the night we visited, the fresh sheet featured an oyster sampler with five different species of oyster ($11). The Anthony's tower ($9) also sounded good, with coconut prawns and the seared salmon poke in a special presentation. But I can rarely resist a crab cake, so we opted for Anthony's Dungeness crab cakes ($12), touted on the menu as the best in the Northwest. While I am still endeavoring to try every crab cake in the Northwest, these were some of the best. The breading was confined to the exterior, which was fried crisp. Inside the two cakes was pure crabmeat, not all minced up, but in big chunks. The accompanying ginger plum sauce and beurre blanc added a rich, sweet tanginess. A sprig of watercress added color. This was an appetizer to swoon over.

Soup or a salad is included with dinners at Anthony's. The clam chowder was thick and creamy, with plenty of chopped clams, but not particularly outstanding. There are no fewer than three salads to choose among: Anthony's blue cheese, Caesar or seasonal greens. I opted for the blue cheese. This was a lovely, and generously sized serving of crisp romaine, served on a frosty plate (a nice touch), with crispy fresh garlic croutons and ice-cold bay shrimp.

The fresh sheet on the night we visited contained so many fish in so many preparations it was hard to choose. We hardly had time to peruse the regular menu. On another visit, I would like to try the prawns tempura ($18) in Anthony's "award winning" light tempura batter. The grilled mahi mahi tacos ($15) also sound good. But the fresh sheet featured three fresh Dungeness crab entrees, including an intriguing roasted garlic crab ($23), as well as a fresh Alaskan rockfish, Canadian ling cod, swordfish, mahi mahi, silver salmon and king salmon, halibut and yellow fin ahi. I hedged my bet and ordered the Northwest Duet ($23) with wild king salmon in a sweet pepper beurre blanc and Alaskan halibut. The fish was perfectly cooked and delicately flavorful, although not quite piping hot by the time it reached our table. The accompanying garlic mashed potatoes were tasty, and the roasted vegetable medley of squash and yams was a nice touch.

My companion got the yellow fin ahi ($25), which was marinated in a ginger soy sauce and chargrilled medium rare and served with homemade pineapple chutney. The marinade added a nice delicate flavor to the tuna. The sweet pineapple chutney was unusual and nicely complemented the aromatic jasmine and almond rice accompanying the fish.

For dessert, we tried the cr & egrave;me brulee ($4), which was just fine, although I would have liked a little crisper sugar crust on top. A more satisfying option though is the blackberry cobbler ($7), which was served hot with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was runny and yummy, just like homemade.

Service throughout the evening was capable, if a bit tentative, probably reflecting the newness of the operation.

Anthony's offers a sit-down brunch on Sunday, featuring omelets, seafood quiche and fresh seafood preparations. And there's an all-you-can-eat crab feed every Sunday evening for $25 per person.

If you plan to try Anthony's, get your reservations early. On the day we planned to go, though we called around noon, we ended up dining at 4:15 because the restaurant was booked till after 9 pm. Any time of the day or evening, though, the magnificent views are reason enough to visit Anthony's. The food just happens to make it worth sitting down to enjoy a meal.

Publication date: 10/28/04

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