TNT Diner

First bite: WildFin American Grill at Point Ruston

Manilla clams are served with a chardonnay, butter and garlic sauce at WildFin American Grill, which opened Jan. 19 at the Point Ruston development.
Manilla clams are served with a chardonnay, butter and garlic sauce at WildFin American Grill, which opened Jan. 19 at the Point Ruston development. skidd@thenewstribune.com

Come on spring, hurry up.

The days need to get longer, now.

I’m antsy because I need to see the view from the window seats at WildFin American Grill, a Tacoma waterside restaurant that had the misfortune of opening when the days are the shortest.

The regional chain with locations in Issaquah and Renton opened its first South Sound location Jan. 19 at the Point Ruston development, which straddles the city line between Ruston and Tacoma.

I could see a glimmer of its view potential through the windows into the darkness: a barely discernible outline of a container ship. I’ll be returning for lunch when daylight yields views of Maury and Vashon islands, the Vashon ferry, the mountains and water.

I traipsed to the adjacent pavilion after dinner in search of a better look. The view was so breathtakingly distracting, I almost got shot by a neon burst of water from the pavilion-wide water feature. Beware of walking into shooting water in the middle of winter, but definitely take in that view.

It’s this newspaper’s policy to curtail criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s opening month, which is why I’m focusing this report on descriptions of food and decor.

Inside, the restaurant was handsome in that industrial Northwest sort of way, with tall ceilings, heavy wood beams, tables made of refurbished old wood, and black-and-white graphic art of fish swimming across the wall. I appreciated the extensive baffling that softened the din, although it was still fairly loud (but also at full capacity).

Turn the corner from the entry to find a bustling bar, with table and booth seating starting just beyond and continuing all the way to the dining counter with a display kitchen fully on view. It’s a big space, seating about 190, and reminds me in spirit and design of Boathouse 19 at the Tacoma Narrows Marina.

The menu mirrored the Issaquah and Renton locations, with dinner entrees from the teens to high-$30s. The Tacoma location has the added bonus of a few luxury items that the other locations don’t — King crab legs ($39.95), fresh oysters on the half shell ($14.95 half dozen/$24.95 baker’s dozen) and striploin steak with grilled Pacific white prawns ($36.95). Co-owner, president and operating partner Attila Szabo noted before the restaurant’s opening that the menu would reflect the “special feel” of the higher-end restaurant on the Ruston waterfront.

The restaurant also is grabbing a slice of diners from the nearby movie theater. Servers asked at the start of the meal whether a movie showtime was of concern. There are plenty of sandwiches, flatbreads and pastas— priced from $11.95-$17.95 — that would appeal to those in search of more casual fare while on a showtime deadline.

The menu swings heavily in favor of Pacific Northwest seafood, with nearly every seafood description including the origin: Three Alaskan halibut preparations ($34.95 each), Alaskan salmon ($24.95), Alaskan cod fish and chips ($19.95) and boneless Idaho trout ($18.95). Pastas also featured seafood, with a smoked prawn macaroni and cheese with lobster cream sauce ($17.95) and fettuccine alfredo with Manila clams, smoked salmon, cod and white prawns ($25.95).

Three steaks make up the turf list — a flat iron ($19.95), a ribeye ($29.95) and that striploin with prawns ($36.95). A burger ($16.95) and ribeye sandwich ($17.95) also are listed.

The beer list favors Northwest finds, with South Sound brews from 7 Seas, Silver City and Fish. The wine list was split between nearly 30 whites ($25.95-$53.50) and about 40 reds ($26.95-$67.95) by the bottle, with all but about a half dozen bottles from Northwest wineries. Capturing a growing wine trend, the restaurant serves wine by the barrel, with 6 ounce ($8.95-$11.95), 9 ounce ($11.95-$15.95) and liter pours ($28.95-$35.95). The spirits menu listed 20 specialty cocktails ($8.95-$12.95) with an emphasis on sweet martinis and classics.

WildFin American Grill

Contact: 5115 Grand Loop, Tacoma; 253-267-1772; wildfinamericangrill.com.

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