Tulalip Resort Casino’s restaurant ‘glorifies the local bounty,’ chef says

Don’t expect typical steam-table casino food if you eat at BlackFish, the Tulalip Resort Casino’s new restaurant.

Expect an upscale dining experience that celebrates fresh local ingredients and American Indian culture.

“I wanted a restaurant that glorifies the local bounty, not just touches on it,” said Chef Perry Mascitti.

BlackFish is set to open Wednesday, not long after the rest of the new hotel and conference center.

The casino already offers a fine-dining restaurant, Tulalip Bay, run by chef Dean Shinagawa. Tulalip Bay combines Northwest ingredients and tropical flavors in pan-Asian cuisine.

At BlackFish, Mascitti wants diners to get the true Pacific Northwest experience.

That experience includes fresh oysters shucked to order at a raw bar, fresh-off-the-boat fish and salmon cooked on spears over an open fire pit.

Admittedly, it’s a view of the Northwest from a California guy. Mascitti grew up in Los Angeles and worked in an architecture firm before attending the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. Now 48, he has built a career working in California casino resorts before taking an executive chef position at Tulalip last year.

As an outsider, he appreciates the bounty in the Pacific Northwest and the polite locals, he said.

Mascitti writes all the menus for the casino’s dining outlets, with the exception of Tulalip Bay. He oversees a staff that includes seven chefs, 14 sous chefs and 110 cooks. Mascitti wrote the menu for BlackFish and he plans to hand over the restaurant to David Buchanan, a chef with extensive fine dining experience. Both have been in the kitchen the last two months testing and developing the recipes.

The concept of BlackFish is to incorporate as much of that fresh local bounty as possible, he said.

The restaurant will feature blackboards that will change daily, and even hourly, with the latest catch. Diners can choose to have that fresh fish prepared any way they like: sauteed, steamed, seared, baked or broiled, and they can pair it with a variety of relishes and sauces and a menu of sides, such as Walla Walla potato cakes, corn and bacon fritters or local grilled vegetables.

“It enables guests to be their own chefs,” he said.

For those who prefer to leave choices to the experts, there will be a selection of chef’s signature dishes, such as Alaska halibut with chanterelle mushrooms and chervil relish with Walla Walla crisp potato cakes, or black cod with dark miso glaze and shaved cucumber relish served with red curry toasted orzo.

Desserts include huckleberry souffle and fritter trio of apple pear.

Creativity is a hallmark of Mascitti’s cooking, he says. He searches for fresh ways to combine flavors, and he appreciates chefs who do the same, rather than retooling the same tired flavor combinations.

“When I go out to dinner, I know what I appreciate,” he said. “You know when the chef really thought about the marriage of different tastes.”

The chef also likes to understand the unique cultural context of food. That’s why this restaurant includes salmon prepared in a traditional Salish method called salmon-on-stick. Salmon fillets are skewered onto ironwood spears and cooked over the open pit.

The menu will include an extensive wine list of Northwest wines along with local microbrews.

The 130-seat restaurant will resemble a long house with wood beamed ceilings and a long community table in the center for large parties. The centerpiece will be a glassed-in alderwood pit adjacent to the kitchen. The curved raw bar will be semi-open to the casino.

“This was never intended to be a quiet, subdued restaurant,” he said. “The whole idea is that this is not a white-table cloth restaurant. It’s more on the casual side.”

Appetizers will cost $8 to $14, salads $9 to $16, entrees $26 to $48 and desserts $7 to $11. BlackFish will be open for lunch and dinner.

Mascitti said it would thrill him if diners leave thinking “they have people here who really care.”

“When people leave I want them to say, ‘Wow, we had a great time. He really woke up our taste buds. He made us rethink food a little bit.’”

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com

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