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Ankeny’s New Menu Lives Up To Expectations

Fri., Dec. 22, 1995

Despite a recent facelift, the decor at Ankeny’s seems hopelessly stuck in the ‘70s.

The restaurant on the 13th floor of the Ridpath Hotel is laid out on two levels with smoke-colored glass dividers separating sections. That, along with the black lacquered walls and gold trim around the windows, gives the place an Expo-era feel. Appropriately, the house band in the adjoining lounge played plenty of disco hits like “Brick House,” at least on the night we visited.

That’s not to say Ankeny’s doesn’t have its charms. Besides having the best view-dining in Spokane, the food was surprisingly good.

Surprising because I had recently heard mixed reports on the new menu. I got an earful from a group of women who regularly celebrate their birthdays with dinner at Ankeny’s. While one thoroughly enjoyed her New York pepper steak, the foursome was put off by an overwhelming fish odor that greeted them when they got off the elevator, an order of lukewarm prime rib and a busboy who scrubbed a nearby table while they were in middle of their meal. Nothing like the smell of Clorox to kill your appetite.

On the other hand, I heard from a friend who recently had a great experience. She praised the gracious servers and the elegantly prepared halibut filet.

So, I approached my visit with some trepidation.

Happily, chef Daniel M. Lewis’ ambitious new menu often lived up to its mouthwatering descriptions during my dinner. (The restaurant is open just for dinner these days.)

The menu’s updated offerings include a long list of tempting appetizers. I will definitely return to sample the Napa cabbage rolls stuffed with salmon and St. Maries wild rice ($5.95), the grilled Japanese eggplant with chunky tomato sauce ($5.95) and the pan-seared prawns with Southwest seasonings and an orange-cilantro sauce ($7.95).

We tried the prawn spring roll-won ton ($5.95), which was a nice try at hybridizing those two Oriental favorites. The prawns in the won ton were nicely cooked and looked nice on the plate. Unfortunately, the wrapper that encased the shellfish and some veggies was too thick, so it was too chewy. And the sesame-soy dipping sauce it was served with was strictly ordinary. I would suggest livening it up with fresh ginger and more sesame oil, maybe a few red pepper flakes.

I was impressed with my next course, a curried pumpkin soup. The golden-hued soup had just a hint of curry and was nicely garnished with sour cream and roasted pumpkin seeds. It was creamy-rich and just the thing to chase away a winter chill.

My companion enjoyed his salad ($3.25) - a nice combination of greens served with a balsamic vinegar dressing. The roasted-then-peeled tomatoes served with it were a nice touch.

Entrees run the gamut from traditional (prime rib, pepper steak, roast pork) to cutting edge (duck with wild mushrooms, a New Orleans-style pasta dish with crawfish and andouille sausage). Some dishes show a Southwest influence, while others have Oriental, Italian and Cajun flavors. (Not coincidentally, the chef’s resume include stints at restaurants in New Orleans, the California wine country and a resort on Maui.)

For my main course, I ordered the salmon ($16.95), which was sauteed with red onions, garlic and dill. It was flamed with Scotch whiskey. I liked the slight crust that had formed on the filet during cooking and found the fish still moist and flaky, but I thought the seasonings were too subtle. I didn’t taste the dill, garlic or any trace of a Scotch flavor.

I was gladly distracted by a potpourri of accompaniments, including deliciously different braised turnips, Brussels sprouts and a baked tomato filled with goat cheese.

My companion raved about his tenderloin ($17.50). The perfectly tender, flavorful filet was seared with spicy Southwest seasonings and was served with a smoky tomato salsa and roasted chili butter. Those dramatic flavors were a nice complement to the steak, which arrived medium rare, as ordered. He also liked the roasted potatoes that accompanied the entree.

I found Ankeny’s wine list expensive and fairly limited, especially those wines offered by the glass. Of the eight wines available by the glass, there were two chardonnays, two cabernets and two merlots, along with the ubiquitous white zinfandel and riesling. Why not offer a sauvignon blanc by the glass or a pinot noir, both of which work well with food? Spokane wineries were underrepresented, too. As a major downtown hotel, it is some visitors’ only contact with Spokane, and only two of the six wineries were among the offerings. Tsk, tsk.

Service throughout our meal was efficient, but rather cool. The place was not busy, yet we were kept waiting for 10 minutes before we got our water and bread and for our waiter to appear.

Also, when I made the reservations, the receptionist informed me that Ankeny’s was now a nonsmoking restaurant. Great. But I could still smell the smoke drifting over from the lounge.

Still, I enjoyed my evening at Ankeny’s. I liked looking down on Spokane’s streets and watching the trains whiz by on the nearby overpass.

Next visit, though, I might just stop in for a quick bite, order several different appetizers and another bowl of that wonderful pumpkin soup.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Ankeny’s Located in The Ridpath Hotel, 515 W. Sprague. Dinner is served nightly. For reservations, call 838-6311.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, RESTAURANT REVIEW - Checking back

This sidebar appeared with the story: Ankeny’s Located in The Ridpath Hotel, 515 W. Sprague. Dinner is served nightly. For reservations, call 838-6311.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, RESTAURANT REVIEW - Checking back

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