BY THE TIME you read this, MistralKitchen will look like a restaurant. Light-catching liquor bottles will line shelves along a perforated stainless-steel wall behind the bar; a glow from a wood-burning Italian oven will double as the cool modern restaurant’s warm hearth. There will be tables and chairs. But on a windy day in October, the 5,000-square-foot South Lake Union space was a construction site. Slabs of plywood leaned against the walls, workmen snapped tape measures open and closed and made marks on the concrete floor. Everywhere, groups of shiny metal tubes stood upright, like cliques at a cocktail party. “They’ve already booked holiday events,” said the restaurant’s PR flack.
No one seemed worried. Though there remained just six weeks to turn this sawdust-sprinkled mess into a place where you’d want to eat, MistralKitchen was, for chef William Belickis and architect Tom Kundig, inevitable—a fait accompli so firmly rooted in their imaginations it simply had to be.
A year and a half ago, Kundig, a principal at Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen, had just won a national award from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum—a big deal. Belickis, meanwhile, had a devoted flock of foodie followers who worshiped at the altar of Mistral, his tiny culinary temple in Belltown. He was on the verge of something big, too, and both men knew it. One night, they met at the Fairmont Hotel. They had drinks. They trekked up to Capitol Hill, had pizza. Then they had more drinks. When the evening was over, they had a plan. “William was so clear on what he wanted,” said Kundig, a jeans-wearing boomer with a mellow, ’60s-rocker vibe. “What we were doing was fitting and finishing his idea.” Anyway, at a great restaurant, Kundig continued, “you don’t remember the architecture. The food, the ambience, everything sort of fits together and a magic happens. You never forget it for the rest of your life.”
That’s the kind of restaurant William Belickis dreamed of. In 2008, buoyed by the promise of financial backing, he sold his 10-table Mistral restaurant in Belltown, envisioning a dining destination on the scale of Vegas’s most elaborate eateries, where he could satisfy each guest’s personal desire—whether that be a casual cocktail or the most formal of multicourse meals.