Opening a restaurant is already as unpredictable as checking a certain 71-year-old man’s Twitter feed at two in the morning. But reopening a beloved Seattle dining fixture in one of Seattle’s ubiquitous new developments, even if it’s just a block away from the original, requires serious brass. Ten years ago, Art of the Table was a supper club—and the first rule of supper club is: You do not choose your supper. A mere 20 or so diners would assemble inside a snug, squat Fremont bungalow to eat a parade of dishes from the mind of a chef. Dustin Ronspies’s mind, that is, from which sprang prix-fixe dinners that combined his culinary whims with the season’s freshest yield. But this February, Ronspies and his co-owner and wife, Shannon Van Horn, decamped for a room full of windows and tasteful blond woodwork on Stone Way. The couple had outgrown their restaurant, both literally (storage had become Tetris, Pantry Edition) and creatively—Ronspies wanted to express himself in bigger ways.
Now diners gather in a high-ceilinged space, to watch the kitchen from the curved 10-seat chef’s counter, or to enjoy the natural wood tabletops’ considerable elbow room. While there’s a new a la carte offering, Ronspies’s tasting menu is still the beating heart of Art of the Table. Everything hits, one deftly presented plate after another: a chilled bowl of peppery pea vine soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, an asparagus terrine so green that Kermit himself might offer a fist bump of solidarity. Neah Bay black cod swims among chili oil and fennel pollen and it’s not unheard of for diners to order a second foie gras torchon, even amidst a nine-course meal.
Sure, dinner is more expensive than it used to be (tasting menus run about $125 per person), but even in more sophisticated surroundings, Ronspies is immune to pretension: “If you’re going to spend the money for it, it needs to be super cool and super baller.”