Alden's attention to every detail is obvious at the restaurant where he is chef and owner, known -- unpretentiously -- as John's Grill in old town Mukilteo.
You may at first have some sticker shock, but look past it because perfection does not come cheap.
Though John's Grill is an upscale restaurant with classy modern decor, the atmosphere is indeed relaxing. Soothing really.
The evening my husband and son and I had an early dinner there, the sun had just begun to come out from a rain-soaked afternoon and cast a glow inside the restaurant's warm interior. The walls are painted in muted tones and filled with large oil paintings done by a relative, Val Lewton.
We entered the restaurant a bit sheepishly because we felt under dressed (we were heading to a baseball game afterward). But we noticed most of the customers were in casual wear, except for two women sitting in the restaurant's separate and cozy bar.
The sounds of Sinatra and Bobby Darin were piped in softly while we looked over the menu. I knew Alden was in the kitchen cooking and I learned later from their website that his wife, Lisa, tends bar and their two college- aged children, Nina who serves and Logan who hosts, also work alongside him.
Our service was wonderful throughout the meal, attentive and pleasant.
We were started off with a basket of herb bread that was fresh, flavorful and enclosed in a wonderful crust. Our son dived in but I managed to grab a slice.
We ordered the crab cakes to start. My husband had a Jameson -- John's has a full bar -- and I ordered a Mark West Pinot to go with my dinner.
The crab cakes arrived promptly and they were like no other crab cake I've had before. The texture was light and airy; my husband described it as like a meringue. We couldn't eat the cakes fast enough.
John's Grill is a steakhouse so for dinner my husband ordered the tenderest cut of New York steak, the filet mignon ($33.95), topped with green peppercorn mushroom sauce. I ordered the special: King salmon (from Alaska) with a pesto sauce ($29.99.) Our son ordered chicken strips and fries from the kid's menu ($7.95).
I want to mention here that Alden makes all his own stocks and salad dressings from scratch. His sauces are complex and complimented all the food while not taking away from the quality of the product.
I say that because I tasted my salmon without the sauce and it was divine: fresh and cooked to a moist finish. My husband reported that his meal was also excellent.
Both meals came with fresh and beautifully prepared asparagus topped with artfully placed carrots and other seasoned vegetables and sides of mashed potato for husband and a scoop of pasta for me.
The portions were plentiful.
Our son ate all of his thin, crisp fries. We took the chicken strips as leftovers, reheated them the next day and declared them delicious.
See, attention to details, even down to the kid's menu.
Sadly, we were too full for dessert.
I will go back to try the desserts, along with other dishes that sounded scrumptious: pork tenderloin medallion sauteed in vermouth, elephant garlic, capers and artichoke hearts ($21.95); Cajun-spiced grilled prawns in a lemon beurre blanc sauce ($23.95); vegetarian polenta primavera (16.95).
According to the website, the restaurant's menu also allows diners to ask for substitutions or to make special requests or for the opportunity to split a main dish for $4.50.
You might have to budget for this night out or perhaps you envision a trip to John's Grill as a splurge, a celebration or a richly deserved treat. Regardless, at the end of the meal, you will say it was worth it.
649 Fifth St., No. 101, Mukilteo; 425-347-1068; johnsgrillmukilteo.com.
Hours: 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Speciality: Steak and seafood
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