Copacabana, in the Pike Place Market, is touted as Seattle's only Bolivian restaurant. It's named for the town on Lake Titicaca, but that's beside the point. The llama on its menu, beside the point as well. The food here has become deracinated, its South American roots withered. What made the Copa distinctive 20 years ago, the assertive flavors of its sopa de camarones, for example, have gone wan: a pale tomato broth, tasteless bay shrimp fleshed out (as it were) with canned carrots and peas. (Legend has it that Omar Vizquel wanted to buy the recipe before he was traded to Cleveland 15 years ago; he wouldn't bother today.) The salteña (meat pie) lacks punch and vigor. The vaunted paella, at $16, contains precisely two each prawns, mussels and clams along with one chicken drumstick. But, surprise! There's some decent pork buried below the mound of saffron rice.
No, tourists don't flock to the Copa for its food but for the incomparable setting. For decades, it had the only deck with a view at the Market (now there are several), and it's still the most spectacular. Surrounded by colorful potted plants, you're one flight above Pike Place, with the Public Market sign, Elliott Bay and the Olympics in the background.
So do go for cocktails (pisco sours or caipirinhas) and sit on the patio at sunset. There's no better view in Seattle.
PS: You want to know more about the term copacetic? Creole? Italian? African? Native American? Not even David Mamet knows for sure Go here and read your fill.
Copacabana, 1520 Pike Place, 206-622-6359
Posted by Ronald Holden at September 5, 2008 9:00 AM