Pan Seared Sea Bass with roasted carrot puree, porcini mushroom risotto and beet chips. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

High standards, hard work help Tulalip Bay earn elite rating

TULALIP — On a recent Friday evening, Tulalip Bay restaurant was filled with the sounds of clinking silverware, the subtle sizzle of the cherry-wood fired grill and the chatter of family and friends enjoying a meal together.

That last sound is music to Jeremy Taisey’s ears.

“I want people to come in, have fun and enjoy the food with their friends,” said Taisey, the chef and general manager of the Tulalip Bay restaurant at the Tulalip Resort Casino. “That’s what brings us together is the food.”

Taisey took over the AAA Four Diamond restaurant in 2015. Since then, he’s transitioned the menu from Asian-fusion to a classic steakhouse that also offers fresh seafood and traditional Italian dishes, including fresh-made lobster ravioli.

He grew up in Bothell and attended Edmonds Community College’s culinary arts program. He spent five years in China, opening restaurants and working in hotels, where he was exposed to several different types of cuisines. Before coming to Tulalip Bay, he worked at the Woodmark Hotel Kirkland.

Taisey has a straightforward philosophy about food: Don’t mess with it. A lot of the fruits, vegetables and meats are produced locally, including steaks from the Okanogan and kurobota pork from Snake River Farms.

“I believe very strongly that my team and I are a conduit between the farmer and the guest,” he said. “We’re just there to enable the guest to experience what local farms and fishermen are providing. We try to highlight the characteristics, qualities and freshness of the product we’re getting.”

That’s not to say the food is simple to prepare. A chicken liver recipe has 21 steps — and that’s just for an appetizer.

“In Tulalip Bay, we don’t do easy,” Taisey said. “We make easy happen through hard work and learning.”

Tulalip Bay is the only Four Diamond-rated restaurant in Snohomish County, and one of only nine in the state, Taisey said. AAA inspectors define the rating as denoting creative preparations and skillful service, often with a wine steward and an upscale ambience. Five Diamonds is the highest rating.

“It has a reputation in the industry for being one of the best,” he said. “We want to keep that going.”

While being able to change the menu was an honor, Taisey admits it was a nerve-wracking experience — especially since he didn’t know when AAA reviewers would audit the restaurant. He credits his team for the continued high ratings the restaurant receives.

“I have high standards for these guys and they know it,” Taisey said. “It doesn’t matter the type of food, it’s the attention to detail that sets us apart. That’s how we’re going to keep this going.”

Those details include providing a sample of fresh pecorino cheese as you peruse the menu; allowing you to select your own steak knife; using cherry wood for the grill, which allows for a better sear on each steak; and serving a palate-cleansing cranberry-citrus sorbet before the entree.

The bread service is something Taisey’s especially proud of. After hearing long-time patrons about how much they missed the old Asian-fusion bread, Taisey came up with a croissant wrapped cinnamon-roll style with a tapenade filling and served with Parmesan cheese and arugula.

“Those little extra touches have a lasting impact on the guest’s ex-perience,” Taisey said. “We want to give the guest the best possible experience. It’s their hard-earned money, it’s their time and we need to respect that. The only way we can do that is by doing our best at every turn and every step.”

In addition to continuing to serve fantastic food, Taisey has a secondary goal for the restaurant, which he calls “breaking the pinky” — in other words, breaking fine dining free of its snooty, stuffy reputation. The phrase refers to the caricature of fine diners drinking from tea-cups with their little fingers in the air.

One step toward that goal has been moving the hostess stand outside the restaurant’s front doors, closer to the people on the casino floor. Taisey said some people still come up to the restaurant and want to try the food, but say they feel underdressed.

“I tell them, ‘No, you’re not underdressed, we’re overdecorated,’ ” he said. “Come on in. Pay no attention to the surroundings. I want you to focus on the food and focus on the people you’re sitting with.”

Another step toward that goal is the monthly Sunday supper, where Taisey “geeks out” with the menu. He then sits down with his guests — limited to about 20 people — and talks with them. He explains each dish and the inspiration behind it as it comes out.

“The idea was to introduce myself to the community,” he said, “and show that fun, geeky food doesn’t have to be served in that pretentious environment.”

Sea bass, mushroom risotto & carrot puree

Enjoy a taste of Tulalip Bay at home. This dish from chef Jeremy Taisey features pan-seared sea bass and creamy mushroom risotto over carrot puree and garnished with red beet chips. Note: Prepare the fish after the other recipes are completed. Makes 4 servings.

For the sea bass

4 5-6 ounce sea bass fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

For the red beet chips

½ ounce red beets, thinly shaved

Cornstarch, to coat beets

Oil, enough to fry the beet chips

For the carrot puree

27 ounces whole carrots

4 ounces chicken stock

½ teaspoon sea salt

For the mushroom risotto

10 ounces porcini mushrooms, cut in half

5 cups chicken stock

6 ounces chardonnay

2 ounces unsalted butter

4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

10 ounces Arborio rice

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ ounce fresh Italian parsley, chopped

For the red beet chips: Thinly shave beets and toss with cornstarch. Using a sauce pan, heat oil to 350 degrees and fry until crispy.

Remove from oil and drain. Season with salt.

For the carrot puree: Heat chicken stock to a simmer.

Peel and chop carrots. Either steam or boil the carrots until soft. Puree carrots in a blender with chicken stock and adjust seasoning to taste.

For the mushroom risotto: In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute mushrooms, followed by toasting the rice in the butter. Deglaze pan with wine.

Add 1-2 cups of chicken stock at a time, stirring continuously. When all of the stock has been absorbed and the rice is creamy, fold in the cheese and parsley. Adjust seasoning with salt.

For the sea bass: Season fish with salt and pepper. Pan sear sea bass for 3 minutes on the flesh side. Turn over and finish in a 350 degree oven for 5-6 minutes.

To plate: Smear ¼ of the carrot puree onto each plate. Top puree with two equal scoops of mushroom risotto. Place sea bass on risotto and garnish with beet chips.

— Recipe reprinted with permission from chef Jeremy Taisey, Tulalip Bay Restaurant, Tulalip Resort Casino

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