Tarsan i Jane seats just 10 diners at its counter for 12- and 18-course tasting menus.

Image: Luke McKinley

Archipelago

Just eight people per seating file in from Rainier Avenue to sit at Aaron Verzosa’s kitchen counter. What follows is a meal of 10–12 courses that breaks Filipino cuisine down to its essence—in both flavor and cultural context—and builds them up again using only ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. That might mean a bread course of heirloom wheat pandesal with shallot butter, miki noodles with dungeness crab and bacon marmalade, and clever shifts, like sinigang whose tamarind flavor profile gets replicated with puckering accuracy thanks to Oregon cranberries. Verzosa introduces each course with a bit of backstory, but in this tiny Hillman City storefront, with a group of fellow diners small enough to share an elevator, the result is more magical than precious.

By Tae

On weekdays, Sun and Erin Hong put out a sign-up sheet for three daily seatings at their eight-stool lunch counter, hidden in the heart of Capitol Hill’s Chophouse Row. That sheet can fill up fast, which makes perfect sense. For around $30, Sun delivers three impeccable hand rolls straight to your fingertips—eat them fast for maximum crackle on that nori—plus a few extra bites that borrow flavors from Japan, Korea, and Sun’s background in kitchens like Matt Dillon’s Bar Ferdinand. This singular concept cracked the code on a counter that’s seen a few failed projects. And let’s not forget the astonishing value. By Tae’s two-person operation means hours can sometimes vary, but news of an occasional “drinking hour” surfaces on Instagram whenever the Hongs muster extra energy.

Canlis

Nearly seven decades of history, hospitality, and unstoppable views from atop Queen Anne Hill cemented Canlis’s icon status long ago. But third-generation owners Mark and Brian keep Canlis in league with the country’s fine dining vanguard. That’s thanks in no small part to chef Brady Williams, who incorporates more spare, Japanese influence into the menu (currently your choice of four courses, plus a round of fancy snacks). The wine program is best in class, with the James Beard medal to prove it.

Il Corvo

The lines cannot be overestimated. Neither can the pasta that prompts them. Mike Easton’s order-at-the-counter, lunch-only joint delivers pasta that’s legitimately transcendent, quantum leaps ahead of the field in creativity, and usually less than $10 a bowl. These days, the menu gets announced on Instagram each morning, and Mike’s wife Victoria Diaz Easton runs the show, ensuring service is smooth and gracious, even as they process an astounding number of Pioneer Square office workers in the course of a lunch hour.

Il Nido

We'll say it again: Most people know Il Corvo as the Pioneer Square lunch destination where the line is a given—as is the conclusion that those bowls of pasta were well worth the wait. So chef Mike Easton’s first foray into dinner service with Il Nido is an automatic big deal, even before you factor in the uncommon space, a 1904 log cabin now known as the Alki Homestead, which underwent a multiyear restoration process after a fire in 2009. A dual effort with his wife, Victoria Diaz Easton, the West Seattle restaurant focuses (unsurprisingly) on hand-formed pastas—the sort of labor-intensive stuff that won’t fly at Il Corvo given the volume—with a handful of secondi, vegetable dishes, and small starters. Reservations are nigh impossible to secure, unless you use this trick.

Taneda

Deep inside the neon hodgepodge of Broadway Alley, Hideaki Taneda serves elaborate omakases in a serene dining room a world away from the smoke shop across the hall. The chef weaves a handful of kaiseki dishes, elaborate plates that celebrate the season, amidst all the pristine nigiri. This combo isn’t strictly traditional, but in Taneda’s hands it flows like a sharp knife through chutoro. Taneda has only nine seats, so reservations go fast.

Tarsan i Jane

A few years back, Perfecte Rocher replaced his dining room tables with one long, curving black counter that reflects both candlelight and the desire to reimagine dinner as a one-on-one experience. Now, just 10 people assemble here at a time, in a semicircular arrangement that casts Rocher’s open kitchen as the stage, his progression of Valencian-Northwest flavors the players. Dinner as theater isn’t for everyone, but if you’re into it, these modernist Catalonian riffs make for a pretty astounding meal. Sunday five-course paella dinners offer a more relaxed entry point.

The food at Canlis makes waiting for a reservation totally worth it.

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Editor’s Pick

Tarsan i Jane

$$ 4012 Leary Way NW

A few years back, Perfecte Rocher replaced his dining room tables with one long, curving black counter that reflects both candlelight and the desire to reima...

Editor’s Pick

Taneda Sushi in Kaiseki

$$$ Japanese, Sushi 219 Broadway E, Ste 14

Sure, part of the charm of this place is traversing the beat-up passage of Broadway Alley, only to find a nine-seat sushi restaurant hidden behind a barber a...

Il Nido

$$$ Italian 2717 61st Ave SW

The only thing crazier than the buzz levels surrounding Mike Easton’s new dinner destination in West Seattle: the chef’s ability to deliver, fully, on those ...

Editor’s Pick

Il Corvo Pasta

$ Italian 217 James Street

The lines cannot be overestimated. Neither can the pasta that prompts them. Mike Easton’s order-at-the-counter, lunch-only joint delivers pasta that’s legiti...

Editor’s Pick

Canlis

$$$$ Northwest 2576 Aurora Ave N

Nearly seven decades of history, hospitality, and unstoppable views from atop Queen Anne Hill cemented Canlis’s icon status long ago. But third-generation ow...

By Tae

$$$ Japanese, Sushi 1424 11th Avenue, Ste E

On weekdays, Sun and Erin Hong put out a sign-up sheet for three daily seatings at their eight-stool lunch counter, hidden in the heart of Capitol Hill’s Cho...

Editor’s Pick

Archipelago

$$$$ Filipino, Northwest 5607 Rainier Ave S

Just eight people per seating file in from Rainier Avenue to sit at Aaron Verzosa’s kitchen counter. What follows is a meal of 10–12 courses that breaks Fili...