Samara’s signature dish is a Dungeness crab lover’s dream

For Eric Anderson, the creation of a dish often begins with a simple spark of an idea. Sometimes the spark takes hold, others smolder until suddenly the idea ignites.

“I just wanted to have a basic menu with crab. I love Dungeness crab and that’s kind of how the call started,” said Anderson, the chef/owner of samara. “I didn’t realize it would necessarily be the signature dish. We wanted something that could be any season, that doesn’t necessarily have a highlight.”

Born outside of Chicago and trained in top restaurants in Portland and then Seattle, Anderson opened Samara in Seattle’s Sunset Hill neighborhood in 2019.

“This is a sophisticated yet casual restaurant serving organic vegetables and organic wines, sustainable seafood and heritage breed animals from the Northwest region,” Anderson said. “The reality is that we’ve created a place for special occasions. People come for birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations and date nights. We see a lot of couples having great meals together, and that’s is good for us.”

The restaurant has an electric oven and induction hobs, but during service, all cooking is done over a wood fire.

“I like the look of real fire. I like building the fire. I like watching it burn. I like the smell of it. I think people gathering around the fire, it’s a source of comfort It’s a source of heat, and it really helps this space set the mood,” Anderson said.

The emphasis on fire and the insistence on using hyper-local ingredients provide Anderson and his team with the lifeline of a dish, the constraints of creation. From there, they put it together like a puzzle.

“Some of these dishes we will spend – we usually try two versions each season, and it will take two to three years for the dish – we won’t even put some [the menu]. We’re going to think about things and work and work and work on them, but that doesn’t make the cut for some reason. Then, several years later, we will revisit it and the magic will finally appear. The other dishes arrive almost immediately. I do not know why. That’s just part of it,” Anderson said.

This magic is apparent in a dish that could be Samara’s signature dish. The menu simply explains it, “butter Dungeness crab, charred rice cake, tarragon”. It’s a description that belies the complexity of each component.

“We have clean Dungeness crab meat warmed in a giant pool of butter. We make a seasoned rice cake and char it on the grill. We pile the crab on top. parsley, then the real magic is the crab reduction, we build a crab sauce and reduce it like a half or a double half, we only have a few drops. [on the plate]. So it shakes up the [crab flavor] very high,” Anderson said.

Each part of the dish adds flavor, texture and color. Individual components that together form an ideal bite.

“The rice cake is going to be just a little crunchy. You’ll have a good smoky flavor, but a slight smoky flavor. Then you just have all the richness of the crab. That crab broth just adds a bit of saltiness to [the dish] and the tarragon keeps everything from feeling too rich and heavy. So it’s comforting. It’s also light, but it’s filling,” Anderson said.

This dish tells a story in itself, but it’s also a chapter in a larger story, one that Anderson shares every day through Samara’s menu.

“I hope we tell my version of life in the North West, my experiences in other restaurants and the chefs I learned from, the way I see things now and the way I like to present the generosity of the Northwest,” Anderson said. “When I say ‘the bounty of the North West’ I always feel a little corny, but that’s the reality. It’s an incredible growing region.”

Learn more about Samara here.