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Caldos and antojitos. Inquire within. Photo via Gracia/Facebook.

Two of 2016’s big-deal new restaurants opened their doors over the weekend. 

After three years cooking in New York, Chester Gerl returned to Seattle to open Gracia, a white-walled house of antojitos—small snacks made with masa ground in house from heirloom corn—on Ballard Ave. Gerl, who was the chef at Matt’s in the Market during his tenure in Seattle, is now a full-blown devotee of Mexican cuisine; Gracia also serves tacos and full-size plates and Mexican caldos, or soups, like pozole, menudo, and birria. 

Gracia did some trial runs over the weekend and is now open for dinner; the website is still just a landing page, but you can keep an eye on the restaurant’s Facebook page for more specifics (and Eater Seattle has pictures). Given Gerl’s background and obsession-level devotion to sourcing, I’m excited for this one. 

Meanwhile, at Ninth and Pine… 

DK Kodama, a well-known Hawaiian restaurateur with a fittingly mellow demeanor, started his mini tour of Sansei in the women’s room. Well, technically he stayed outside the door and urged me, “No really, go in the stalls.” The ladies facilities at his fifth location of Sansei, his first restaurant outside Hawaii, has fancy heated toilet seats and bidet capabilities, all operated via a slate of buttons on the wall by the commode. Kodama really wants to make sure customers feel cared for here. 

Sansei bills itself as a seafood and sushi restaurant, though there's lots of beef on the menu. It's named for Kodama’s status as a third generation Japanese American. He likens the menu to his place on that spectrum of Asian and assimilated American: The food is clearly Asian influenced, but not rigidly so. Plenty of Seattleites eat at Sansei when vacationing in Hawaii; the menu of colorful sushi rolls and plates like ahi sashimi crusted in panko should look familiar to Sansei fans. But a daily fresh sheet will have dishes particular to the Seattle location, drawing on our own region's seafood and produce.

Though the menus are similar, this Sansei doesn't look like the ones in Hawaii; it's spare and streamlined like the building it occupies. There's a sushi bar and a separate lounge, which is where Kodama says he'll institute another tradition from his Hawaii Sansei locations—late-night weekend karaoke should start up some time in March. Sansei's happy hour should endear it to the neighborhood; on Mondays the entire menu is half off from 4:30 to 6, and it's 25 percent off Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The newly minted Sansei website has hours, menus, and reservation info.

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