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Fine dining finesse

The owner/operator of Tacoma’s Sel has a new space and it does not disappoint. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

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ANNOUNCER: There is no shortage of fine dining in the South Sound area considering the accessibility to fresh Pacific seafood. However, in search of an opportunity for an upscale meal with a European flair, Dutch and Jackie find themselves in Gig Harbor at Animarum on Harborview Drive.

DUTCH: Sandwiched between an auto shop and the Harbor History Museum, this is not a place that is easy to find. There isn't a sign to draw you in, but rather, you are most likely heading in as your planned destination. Like much of Gig Harbor, Animarum is simply a house turned restaurant, and an intimate setting at that. With just a handful of tables available, you are sure to have an intimate meal.

JACKIE: It may be intimate but it's teeming with personal touches that make it feel warm and lush. Bonus, there's a pianist tickling away at the keys, and upon one of my visits a trumpet playing along. The ambiance for a date night or special occasion has been set! Naturally, I had to indulge in a cocktail ... or two. Both the French Quarter and the Old Fashioned were executed with finesse: swank glassware, metal pick, a luscious cherry in the Old Fashioned, both well balanced sippers all around.

DUTCH: It isn't often that I pass up a steak at an upscale restaurant, and this was no exception. The Porcini rubbed Ribeye Bisteca is a tender cut that is flavored with a veal scallion reduction sauce poured over the top. The steak was an evenly balanced medium rare throughout just as I ordered. Though sauce over steak isn't common with NW steakhouses, I couldn't get enough as it was both light in flavor, but also drove the flavor of the steak. Normally served with asparagus, of which I am not a fan, the chef offered up sautéed carrots and greens which were also full of flavor, and I found myself wanting more.

JACKIE: Being situated so close to the water, I opted for seafood with their Squid Ink Pasta. It did not disappoint. The jumbo prawns were cooked to perfection atop a bed of squid ink noodles, and a delectable spicy red sauce with a heat that builds with each bite (encouraging me to drink down that cocktail of mine and order another). My date had the rabbit dish which boasted tender rabbit aloft sautéed greens and a silky cauliflower purée.

DUTCH: There are a handful of desserts available as well. From European cheeses with honey to a Foie Gras ice cream sandwich. An ice cream made from duck liver may not sound like it belongs on a dessert menu, but when sandwiched between a molasses cookie, there is a balance of sweet and savory that somehow really works. If you are insistent on a sweet dessert, give the Lychee ice cream, or one of the liqueurs a shot.

JACKIE: I was tempted by the Foie Gras ice cream sandwich but ultimately found myself feeling satisfied after the dinner course, I'm trying to teach myself this thing called self-control. I think it's working. My next trip will be for cocktails and dessert only.

ANIMARUM, 5:30-9 p.m., Wednesday; 5-9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, 4107 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor, 253.720.6005

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