Heong Soon Park (he just goes by Park), the guy behind Bacco Cafe and the lovely Chan in Pike Place Market, is opening a new spot on Leary Way this fall. At Tray Kitchen, servers will wheel dim sum-style carts around the dining room. Instead of dumplings or egg tarts, the carts will be filled with small seasonal plates. Rather than read a menu, diners just spot a plate they'd like to try and summon it off the cart and onto the table.
Hold the phone. This sounds an awful lot like State Bird Provisions, the San Francisco restaurant that's won basically every award in the history of restaurantism.
Exactly, says Park. When he was thinking about opening a third restaurant, he visited State Bird Provisions and says he received a lot of guidance from chef Stuart Brioza. The company that built State Bird's carts, Splinter and Slag, is actually based in Seattle, so Park commissioned a similar set for Tray Kitchen—table height, powder coated a bright red, and no onboard steam tank.
The menu will consist of about 10 mainstays, but the rest of the night's offerings—15 to 20 little plates, ranging from $3 to $9—will be based on whatever just arrived from Park's half-acre farm in Woodinville. Meats and seafood will also hew local, and plates will sport various Korean twists, similar in spirit to Chan.
Park has installed a Stoneburner vet, Ben Reden, as sous chef and says he's hiring one extra person for the kitchen line so his cooks can spend one night a week pushing a cart through the dining room with the servers. According to Park, this gives customers a chance to hear more about a dish and how it was made. Giving his kitchen staff a night of front-of-house tips doesn't hurt, either. "It's nice to make some extra money."
Park's farm started yielding produce in March; he says it's next to Jason Stoneburner's plot, and the one owned by Homegrown. Can these guys please start getting together and planning farm dinners?
Recreating a formula so associated with another, much-lauded restaurant is a little risky. But it sounds well-suited to Seattle and I'm eager to see what Park can do in this space, a brand new building at 4012 Leary Way NW. Graham Baba Architects is handling the design, which Park says will have a 16-foot butcher block table in the middle and a layout conducive to carts.