In a town full of new construction for rent, one could argue turning a 4,000-square-foot architect’s office into a steak house is a form of madness—punching holes in the ceiling for light, cutting into walls, creating a kitchen, not to mention a wood-burning oven and its attendant smoke-inhaling apparatus, where there was none before.
Eric Banh wonders if whole animal butchery is another form of madness. It’s labor intensive and you need enough space to take down a quartered cow, plus expensive things like bandsaws and a walkin cooler just for meat.
But, what the hell—he went ahead and did both of those things. No surprise, the project had some construction delays, but Banh and his sister Sophie open their newest place, Seven Beef, tonight at 1305 E Jefferson. That painstakingly installed kitchen is the domain of head chef Scott Emerick, who used to own Cremant in Madrona. As diners become more aware of the provenance of their meat and the joy of vegetables, Banh believes the traditional steak house model is due for a shift. And he's going big.
“Like I said to Scott, either we’re going to be a couple of stupid guys, or we’re geniuses,” he says. “No middle ground.”
The lineup of steaks includes classics like a massive $120 cote de boeuf porterhouse and T-bone, plus a fresh sheet of increasingly ready for primetime cuts like oyster steak or the teres major, sometimes called petit tender. There are potato sides—pommes dauphine, frites, dressed up sweet potatoes, poutine—and vegetable sides like roasted sunchokes or grilled romaine, plus non-meaty dishes like clams or albacore or salmon.
Every week, Heritage Meats will deliver quartered cows that are 100 percent grass fed. Whole-animal butchery doesn’t usually pencil out for a traditional steak house, says Banh, since more people are likely to want ribeyes and filets than flap meat and chuck. The result is more good-quality ground beef than most people know what to do with, short of opening a burger joint next door.
Here’s where the Banhs’ Vietnamese background comes in. Seven Beef takes its name from Vietnam’s bò 7 món, a traditional celebratory meal of seven courses of beef. Most of those seven traditional dishes call for ground beef. While most of the menu isn’t overtly Vietnamese, Sophie Banh has been busy schooling Emerick and his sous chef on the finer flavor points of bò 7 món. It’s available every night for a shockingly reasonable $35, plus a vegetarian version bearing the excellent moniker Seven Beet.
Seven Beef is just around the corner from the Banhs’ street food-inspired Ba Bar, but Eric Banh says the service will harken back to the high-end French restaurant where he bused tables after arriving in Canada from Vietnam in the early '80s. Banh wasn’t a fan of his required jacket and bow tie getup, but he did admire the restaurant's elegant, attentive service. Thus he’s thrilled to have Ian Harris, an alum of Keith McNally’s Manhattan bistro Balthazar and Brooklyn’s polished Prime Meats installed as Seven Beef's GM. Like his boss, Harris bussed a few tables early in his career...at the Banhs’ original restaurant, Monsoon. Now he’s charged with making the steak house's service attentive and detail oriented, but not stuffy. “Obviously we’re not going to dress in the monkey suit I wore back in 1981,” says Banh.
This isn't a room for stuffy service, anyway. Strings of white lights glow above wood beams and exposed steel supports and 90-odd seats; the bar is tucked to one side. Cocktails skew classic, courtesy of able beverage director Jon Christiansen, the wine list skews natural, and oh my god there's valet parking. It's $10, available from 6 to 10pm.
Seven Beef opens at 5pm every day and takes reservations for parties of six or more. The Seven Beef website should have menus and more details shortly.
Edited at 11:20 to reflect updated menu prices/info from the restaurant.