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Image: Sarah Flotard

Anyone with a prix-fixe dinner stereotype—formal, drawn out, hushed—will see it crushed at Marine Hardware by the sheer volume of the chatter. Casual diners packed into the narrow, low-lit, brick-and-timber room talk across tables and swill volubly at the bar. 

In 2010 when serial restaurateur Ethan Stowell opened Staple and Fancy, he was warned that set tasting menus wouldn’t fly in casual Seattle. Six years later, he’s opened the even more upscale prix-fixe Marine Hardware next door—where, he says, most diners are not only selecting the chef’s choice menu, most order six courses ($85) over four ($55). Tasting menus are on the ascendancy in Seattle’s soaring economy because chefs like the freewheeling artistry and minimized waste—but what do diners like? “The value,” Stowell believes. “Set menus let us offer higher-end products.”

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Daurade with artichoke puree, arugula, and fried artichoke.

Image: Sarah Flotard

Indeed, at Marine Hardware a recent tasting menu included a braised beet, tarragon, and avocado salad studded with fat chunks of crabmeat; foie gras butter for the ficelle; a sweet corn risotto dusted with pepper, herbs, reggiano, and heaps of heady black truffle. Add in the estimable hands of longtime Stowell deputy Michael Gifford—and what you have, besides a vibrant challenge to prix fixe’s fusty rap, is one of the worthiest newcomers of 2016. 

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