Oh, it’s not that I hate the award…it’s actually a tremendous way to honor a restaurant that has proven extraordinary over the last year. Last Thursday when we released the name of the winner and the November issue hit the stands, 160 lucky readers found out where they’d be dining that night. (They’d bought advance tickets to Seattle Met’s First Annual Secret Supper, which was reportedly a blast but which I did not allow myself to attend. Damn that anonymity.)
No, the thing that drives me nuts is choosing just one Number One in an eater’s town like Seattle. Because what about Bar Sajor, with its whitewashed rusticity and primitive concentration on the roasted and the raw? Or Joule, which landed on my short list on the strength of its astonishing weekend brunch alone? Or Shanik, whose creamy interior and dishes like lamb popsicles explode narrow expectations of what an Indian restaurant can be?
And then I sat down for my fourth meal at Mamnoon. Stop the presses, boss—we got us a Restaurant of the Year.
In the spankin’ new November issue of Seattle Met, Mamnoon owners Wassef and Racha Harroun, Syrian by birth, discuss the home cooking of their homeland, which they brought to Seattle—to Capitol Hill, across from Melrose Market, to be precise—as a way of bringing their two cultures closer. They hired the gifted Garrett Melkonian as their chef, himself a product of Armenian-Egyptian-Lebanese heritage, and built a restaurant as sleek and modern as these blended and layered Middle Eastern cuisines are rustic and ancient.
The result is a place whose setting screams 2013 sophistication, but whose food had to have been made by a little old Syrian grandmother. (The handsome young Melkonian dug this.) It’s prepared with an embrace of tradition and a heady dose of invention…then served with all the hospitality of these deeply gracious cultures. In a city whose gastronomic world is overrepresented by Western Europe and the Far East—here is a place with food that's genuinely exotic.
In short: The kind of place that it is my highest pleasure to endorse. Maybe I don’t hate this award after all.