Anyone who has eaten at Ballard's Bitterroot BBQ, with its lavish trays of barbecued meat and insanely good mustard barbecue sauce, knows these are people who understand proteins. So one would assume that Mammoth (2501 Eastlake Ave E, 946-1065, mammothseattle.com), the gorgeous, brand-new, meat-focused restaurant from the owners of Bitterroot, would exhibit a similar expertise. The menu is packed with 16 sandwiches with ridiculous names echoing the mammoth theme—the Cro-Magnon (a modified Italian sandwich), the Neanderthal (a BLT with pork belly in lieu of bacon), the Hunter (a steak sandwich with salami).
So I walked in and immediately ordered the Predator ($10). Surely a restaurant of this pedigree, one that festoons itself with meaty imagery from top to bottom (the silhouette of a mammoth even decorates pint glasses), would manage to put together a world-class fried chicken sandwich topped with pork belly, Swiss cheese, arugula, red peppers, and a tangy caper aioli.
I'm as shocked and disappointed as you are. The Predator is a failure of a sandwich. The problem is the fried chicken leg. The crust is righteously crispy, but in spots it's nearly inedible due to excessive salt. And the meat inside is slimy. I found myself doing impromptu surgery, excising a thick chunk of the leg so I could appreciate the rest of the sandwich. (It's not like I generally have a hard time with this sort of thing; my creaking arteries can attest that I eat Skillet's delectable fried chicken sandwich way too often for my own good.)
There's a lot to enjoy about the Predator—namely, everything but the chicken. The strips of pork belly are crisp and flavorful, and I would've happily eaten the caper aioli with a spoon. Every sandwich comes with a small bag of house-made potato chips, which are the perfect side for a monster of a sandwich like this—not too greasy, not too salty, but just the right amount of quality potato sliced thin and fried golden brown.
Alongside the overwhelming 42 beers on tap, Mammoth offers a few house-made sodas. The root beer ($4) is sadly just as disappointing as the chicken. It's flat and too sweet, which ruins the complex anise aftertaste. Despite the promise of Mammoth's shiny-new decor and luxuriant high-concept theme, the meal turned out to be so disappointing that I developed the dining equivalent of Stockholm syndrome; I couldn't help but feel as though I had let the restaurant down somehow by not appreciating clammy, oversalted fried chicken. I'll give Mammoth another try in the near future—the restaurant has already acquired a vocal fan base online—but this is the last Predator I'll ever try to eat.