Congee is savored across Asia; boiled rice porridge that either embraces its essential nature—er, boring in a good-when-you’re-down-with-a-cold kind of way—or overcomes it altogether.
Put Kraken Congee in the second category. Masterminds Garrett Doherty and Shane Robinson (no relation) spent a few years popping up in temporary locations until they struck reality-TV gold, winning funding for a brick-and-mortar outpost of their congee operation on a new CNBC show called Restaurant Startup. Here it is: a flight belowground, fittingly bricked and mortared, stocked with a bar and a satisfying menu—and about as intense a sense of cozy as one can find in this town. If a measure of a restaurant’s success is the extent to which place matches plates, Kraken scores big.
These plates—bowls actually—are cozy too: The tabula rasa of the congee topped with, say, slices of rare hanger steak, marinated in nuoc cham and embellished with blistered cherry tomatoes, sprigs of cilantro, toasted peanuts, and pickled shallots. The fan favorite is pork belly adobo, its meat unctuous and winning with Chinese broccoli, green onion, and crunchy corn nuts, along with aioli made with the Filipino citrus fruit calamansi. You mix it all around and spoon up a different global blend of flavors and textures each time, each offering its commentary on the last.
Kraken offers some seven congees daily along with small plates and wok fries. It’s all, to a dish, marked by serious intention from very smart culinarians, and some of the best bang-for-buck creative value Seattle’s got going right now. For dessert, the purple disc of ube cheesecake offers light, almost frothy textured richness over a coconut-graham crust atop a drizzle of mango sauce. It’s lush, globally inspired, gastronomically intriguing—and, like everything else at Kraken, just what you want to eat in fall.