Things have changed since the last time I ate at Kincaid Grill. The outdoor seating is gone -- which may be a blessing in our present spell of wet, windy weather -- the hours are reduced, the portions seem larger but some of the exotic edge may have softened. Of course that's been the case since the Grill took over the location from wildly adventurous Gesine's, where I ate whole bass sealed in salt, ostrich, musk ox and on one occasion gumbo so spicy I could barely finish it.
That said, it remains one of the most elegant eateries in Anchorage, probably the farthest west best restaurant on the American road system if not the whole continent. An evening at Kincaid Grill is like a mini-vacation to a place where English is a second language, food is venerated and meals are prepared and received with the earnestness of a religious rite.
At recent services my party started with two appetizers ($12 each). A pair of king crab cakes -- crisply crusted, firm and savory inside -- came with a peppery corn-tomatillo relish and delicious serrano-lime aioli. Three lamb lollipops -- tender baby mutton served on the rib bone "stick" -- were grilled with a lip-smaking curry marinade and served with grilled pita and tzatziki, which seemed a bit chalky to me (goat cheese?) and unnecessary.
I availed myself to a bowl of gumbo with rice ($9), much milder than Gesine's caloric concoctions, a relatively light and somewhat floury roux, excellent sausage and two terrific, beefy, wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico.
The roasted beet salad ($7) had separate portions of yellow and sweeter red beet divided by a green salad and service with fried balls of goat cheese. A daily special salad (also $7) featured mixed greens topped by sweet pickled red cabbage, crisp and fresh. The "green goddess" dressing was accompanied by balsamic vinegar, producing a nice swirl of sweet and sour.
Main courses were another daily special, sirloin steak ($36) and Kodiak scallops ($30). The steak -- not nearly as tough as most restaurant sirloin -- was served as a "baseball," 9-10 ounces and 2-plus inches thick. It was topped with a pesto-like chimichurri with local new potatoes and roasted cauliflower and other vegetables topped with bread crumbs.
The scallops, six on the plate, were big and excellent, arranged around a mound of whipped potatoes topped by fried potato shavings. They came with green beans and an olive tapenade with tomato that was mainly of interest for the brothy juice it produced.
Patrons of the Grill should expect to spend at least 90 minutes or two hours for a complete meal; it's an evening-long experience. And they should expect to spend, even on coffee. Admittedly, it's Kenya Gatugi Peaberry coffee, but it costs $8.
But mainly they should plan for dessert. It takes 15 minutes for the kitchen to prepare the chocolate bourbon souffle -- I'm tempted to swing by the wine bar just for that and a red wine or Belgian ale while I wait. There have been times when they've run out of creme brulee, happily not the case when I was there. A dessert addition I had not seen before was something called "Ben's Cake," made from rhubarb, drizzled with rosemary-infused honey and served with house-made ginger ice cream, another concoction that warrants a trip to the place all by itself.
The best part may be that once the mini-vacation is over, you can return home to Anchorage without having to deal with customs, jet lag or baggage.
Reservations are advised, particularly for Friday and Saturday nights.
• Reach Mike Dunham at email@example.com or 257-4332.
By MIKE DUNHAM