BELLINGHAM - The Chrysalis Inn & Spa has given its restaurant a makeover. What used to be Fino is now Keenan's at the Pier.
After its opening in 2001, Fino had a good run at or near the top of the local restaurant food chain, with a splendid bay view and an emphasis on wine. But its popularity seemed to be waning, based on what we could see on recent visits.
Keenan's has the same splendid view, and you can still get a good wine to go with your meal, even though the new place is more like a restaurant and less like a wine bar. The menu selections from Chef Robert Holmes' kitchen struck me as a tad less complex than what we expected at Fino, but complexity doesn't always correlate with great eating. While the dishes may be less complex, they are not much less expensive.
Holmes was formerly executive chef at The Majestic Inn & Spa in Anacortes.
We started our meal with a bowl of steamer clams, $12. They were prepared in a zesty broth with chorizo, onion and fire-roasted tomato - a satisfying and rich approach.
For our main courses, we picked garlic-roasted chicken, $23, and a halibut special, $32.
The chicken was served with rosemary butter sauce, Yukon mash and broccolini. It was moist and delicious and the sauce was original and effective, although this dish seemed a bit expensive for what it was.
As for the halibut, anything that costs $32 is expensive for Bellingham, but when halibut is in season I have to get some, and you should too.
Bellingham has a long history as a hub of the halibut fishery, and years ago you could buy a big slab of it at the supermarket for a very reasonable price. Those days are not coming back, and fresh halibut is out of my price range as a general rule.
The Keenan's fish came perfectly cooked, enlivened with a sake glaze and something similar to a Thai-style peanut sauce, which was delightful. It also was coated in a sesame seed crust, which I could have dispensed with, but it didn't stop me from enjoying this local delicacy. The portion seemed a bit on the small side, but that is becoming the rule with this costly fish.
We closed our meal with an apple tart, $8. This was my favorite dish of the night, featuring golden puff pastry, sumptuous and rich vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
With an extensive menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus some tempting happy-hour nibbles in the $2-$7 range, Keenan's should be able to attract its share of discriminating diners.
KEENAN'S AT THE PIER
Address: 804 10th St, Bellingham.
Phone: (360) 392-5510.
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Price range: Entrees $15-$32.
Reach John Stark at email@example.com or call 715-2274.