There is an unwritten understanding when it comes to hotel restaurants – especially hotel restaurants that have a view  – go for the view, and don’t expect anything from the food (in other words- get a drink, a harmless appetizer, and find someplace to have dinner).

View from the Captain Cook Hotel, and Crows Nest

The Crows Nest on the 20th floor of The Hotel Captain Cook has one of the most spectacular views in the world- surrounded by the Chugach Mountains in Alaska, and seeing Mt. McKinley off in the distance a person gets to see Cook Inlet, at sea level- to the tallest peak in North America. From sea level to the peak of McKinley represents the highest peak one can see on planet Earth, 21,000 feet – Everest, by contrast, starts at 11,000 feet – so you only see a 13,000 foot mountain). The décor of the restaurant is—well, could be cardboard, with a view like this I am not certain one would pay attention to the table settings.

Mt. McKinley in the background- The Crows Nest has an impressive view

Sitting at the bar waiting for a table, there is an impressive wine list- with some hard-to-find wines, such as Leonetti and Quilceda Creek.  A great view, great wines – can’t wait for dinner.

An impressive wine list

But that is where the interest ends. Cutting to the chase- there is a bar here, there is a 10,000 bottle wine cellar here – and there are some great restaurants within a few blocks.
Alaska is blessed with availability of fresh seafood – from King Crab, black cod, and five species of salmon.  Combine that with the Matanuska Valley where the land of the midnight sun makes vegetables fresh and great.  You have to work to destroy these ingredients – and consistently The Crows Nest did.
Overcook salmon? It is a delicate fish- when fresh and served simply there is an amazing fresh taste of the ocean, great oils, and if combined with something to cut the oil (you could do it simply with lemon) – you cannot have a finer meal.  Cooking salmon is not difficult- it can be pan seared quickly – it can be grilled – it can be baked. It takes little time, and minimal talent with fresh ingredients.  Consistently, and sadly – this beautiful fish was overcooked. Not on one night, but several – not just Silver Salmon, but King salmon.

But seafood was not the only sin – duck made two ways.  Who doesn’t love a crispy duck skin, with a moist breast – overcook it and you have leather and jerky.

This restaurant has had some amazing chefs come through its doors over the years. Including Dan Jacobson who opened Corsair across the street (after your drink here, go there for dinner). The current Chef, Gary Murphy, Jr. is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America – so he probably knows how to cook these simple foods, but clearly some of the line chefs do not.

The dinners are simple- and if the line-cook wouldn’t over cook the meal you will have a fine place to eat. It is a shame- since we stay at this fine hotel often. The room service is wonderful – they don’t overcook the burgers.

This is a hotel restaurant that will see finer days and hopefully Chef Murphy will throttle his crew to produce the great food that the region is known for. For now, it is a great place for a glass of wine before dinner – somewhere else.

Crow’s Nest at The Hotel Captain Cook
939 W. 5th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska 99501
Reservations: Suggested
Hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-9:30 pm Lounge is open until midnight
Credit Cards: American Express, Visa, Master Card
Attire: Casual
Handicap Facilities: Stroller and handicap accessible