In the Vessel days, the corner space at Sixth and Olive was aggressively spare. Now it looks like the set from Hollywood's golden age, from the serpentine rows of curved banquettes to the thicket of chandeliers and a staircase seemingly made for Joan Crawford to descend in some slinky gown.
This is Circadia, a restaurant that opens Saturday, November 19 as an intentional departure from Seattle's prevailing restaurant culture. It's largely the work of Jake Kossef and Jeanie Inglis, he most recently the head of all things wine-related at nearby Miller's Guild, she the mastermind of this stylish room, gilded in everything from gemstone agates to mirrored tiles. Inglis made sure every compartment of this room offers an engaging view (the streetscape outside, the action at the glimmering bar). The main dining room is done in champagne-y daylight hues, then things get progressively darker and more nighttime-moody at the bar and finally the lounge beyond. In keeping with the sort of nocturnal activities that might happen after a few cocktails, the resplendent circular seating in the back corner is informally dubbed "the makeout booth," a joking moniker that might very well come to pass once the gray silk curtains are installed.
Not that food was an afterthought. Circadia's partners gave over the kitchen to chef Garrett Melkonian, most recently of Mamnoon. The three-course menu setup recasts fixtures of old school fine dining and aims for dishes too labor intensive for mere mortals to make at home. Beverage director Andréa Fulton-Higgins is a 30-year veteran of all things wine and cocktail, and Kosseff and Inglis promise service that isn't the least bit stuffy, despite the opulent surroundings. In lieu of tips or a surcharge, service is built into the prices on the menu.
Five years ago, a restaurant like this would get immediate Seattle side eye. Recently, though, city known for its skepticism of anything overtly fancy is increasingly enthusiastic about high-end dinners. To me, Circadia—perched in the original downtown home of El Gaucho, now just on the edge of Amazon's boom town—will be a litmus test of sorts. But of course, what matters most is whether the food's good. Circadia launches dinner service with a limited menu on Saturday the 19th, and will expand to full capabilities as everyone settles in. Lunch service debuts December 1. Scope out all things Circadia on the website and its Facebook page.