By Craig Sailor
Dining at Anthony’s Hearthfire Grill blurs the line between water and terra firma. And only a brief stop in the kitchen separates the fish on your plate from their still-swimming brethren a few feet below your perch.
Hearthfire, the three-year-old restaurant at the very northwest tip of the Port of Olympia peninsula, occupies the spot that once belonged to Genoa’s. Windows so big that they seem to defy physics frame Budd Inlet and the Olympics. Translucent sailboats ply the waters as curious seals watch diners on the outdoor deck. Friendly humans wave from their standup paddle boards.
Anthony’s is the well-known regional seafood chain with properties from Bellingham to Bend, Ore. An Anthony’s HomePort is just west of Olympia Farmers Market and another is at Tacoma’s Point Defiance. An associated seafood company works directly with local fishermen and shellfish growers.
Hearthfire shows its kinship to its sibling restaurants with its design and open kitchen, though it offers a slightly more upscale feel. But there’s more than just looks that separate Hearthfire from its HomePort relations. The kitchen features a rotisserie, a charcoal- and applewood-fired grill, and the restaurant’s namesake: a gas-fueled hearth oven. The restaurant uses them all to great effect on a menu expanded from Anthony’s usual seafood selections to beef, pork and pizzas. It also differs from HomePort with its a la carte menu.
Head chef Tony Radanovic is a 12-year veteran of Anthony’s. He’s been at Hearthfire for more than year. Previously, he was at Olympia’s HomePort.
Though menu choices involve the opinions of several decision-makers in the Anthony’s management structure, Radanovic says he feels like he’s put his stamp on the restaurant in the time he’s been there. He uses the grill for a variety of dishes and marvels at its versatility.
“It’s just like having a giant barbecue at your fingertips. You have complete control over your fire,” he said.
The hearth oven provides an even heat, and Radanovic uses it to cook tenderloin, pork chops, seafood and the straight-to-the-table flat bread that introduces each meal, which is how our meal began on a recent sunny July evening.
Quarter-sized pan-roasted Manila clams ($12.95) came swimming in a broth of onions, red peppers and beer gravy. The broth begged to be spooned up with its mild seasoning and Black Butte Porter background.
Tempura Portobello Mushrooms ($6.95) featured tender slices of the giant mushroom encased in a crispy panko crust. An accompanying roasted garlic aioli was a bonus but not really necessary. The mushroom flavor oozing from the juicy flesh was enough on its own.
An Ahi cocktail ($9.95) was the sole misstep of the evening. The raw tuna, fresh fruit chutney and crunchy wonton skins were overwhelmed by a dressing of toasted sesame oil and seeds.
A medley of greens held a slab of wild silver salmon ($19.95) – one of two dinner salad entrees. (Seven starter soups and salads are also offered.) Even the admitted beet hater in our party enjoyed the crunchy shoestring fresh beets nested on top of the salad. Fresh blueberries and dried cranberries were a nice contrast to the salmon, which was flaky but not dry with a smoky undertone from the applewood grill. A citrus shallot dressing was mild and complemented the fish and greens.
A garlic herbed rotisserie chicken ($17.95) was tender with a crispy skin. The half bird was gently kissed by fresh rosemary and rounded out on the plate by parmesan mashed potatoes and gravy.
A surf and turf entrée ($23.95) featured an applewood-grilled top sirloin steak with a hearth oven-roasted Dungeness crab in the shell. Half a dozen legs arrived with a modest-sized steak. The steak was tender and flavorful, the crab sweet and tangy with “margarita butter” – unsalted butter, black pepper, shallots, olive oil, rum, sriracha hot sauce and lemon zest. The plate was ringed with salt, sugar and lime zest – a horizontal margarita. A moist towel and nutcracker were thoughtful accoutrements.
The star of the evening was a fish described as halibut but this version was so transcendent that it seemed like a wholly new species ($28.95). Covered with lightly browned, paper-thin slices of Yukon gold potatoes, the generous portion was firm yet buttery. Marinated in white wine, the fish had just the right amount of dill and red onion in a sour cream sauce. The fish’s texture and preparation was so sublime other halibut dishes can only dream to compare. Forget about cell phones being a driving distraction, I kept flashing back to the halibut on the trip home.
Disappointingly, the halibut’s accompanying rice bore the signs of a kitchen that is churning out a lot of plates at a furious pace. Dry patches indicated the rice had been cooked well in advance.
But we never felt rushed, our server happily delayed our entrée ordering at our request, and urged us to stay when she presented the bill.
Other entrées include St. Louis-style ribs, Kobe beef burgers, filet mignon, garlic prawns, pizza and pork chops.
Hearthfire features regional beer and wine with an intensely local skew. Beer on tap includes Centralia’s Dick’s and Olympia’s Fish Brewing ales along with seasonal selections. They also offer about 15 wines by the glass from a Northwest-themed list. Several Thurston County wineries are featured.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony’s Hearthfire Grill
Where: 1675 Marine Drive N.E., Olympia
Hours: Lunch is 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. every day; dinner is 3:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 3:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Happy hour: 3-6 p.m. every day. Features wine, draft beer and cocktail specials and half-priced appetizers.