Chatting with Michael Mina About RN74 Seattle

The big-name restaurant from the big-deal chef will open on Fourth and Pike in June.

By Christopher Werner March 28, 2011

The interior of Michael Mina’s RN74 San Francisco. A Seattle offshoot is opening this summer in the Joshua Green Building downtown. Photo courtesy

When Michael Mina was in town for Taste Washington, I had the chance to chat with the chef and restaurateur. Soaking up Friday’s glorious sunshine and sipping iced tea, Mina fielded a bundle of my questions about his newest venture, RN74.

First up: why he’s opening the restaurant and wine bar downtown versus, say, the booming South Lake Union, where he had just lunched.

"There was a lot of consideration, but the building itself was the real selling point to us. RN74 just really fits that Joshua Building,” he explained. "Once you fall in love with a space, it’s really hard to find another one. It’s like buying a house. Once you’re in love with that house, it’s really hard to like anything else."

The decision to shack up in the historic emerald-trimmed property meant the end of Mina’s nine-year “aggressive pursuit” for a first foray into Seattle dining. What took so long? Mina and co.—they oversee 18 restaurants nationwide—couldn’t quite pin the right concept for Seattle. But during a year-and-half hiatus from scoping the Seatown market, Mina opened the original RN74 in San Francisco.

RN74 Seattle, the primary offshoot, makes sense. There are of course this city’s vino-swilling, fanatical food lovers who will gobble up the Mina-modernized Franco-American classics. And the Northwest’s buzzy grape industry provides plenty of ammo for the ambitious wine program of Rajat Parr—half of the wine list will be dedicated to the region. But then there’s the fact that Mina grew up in Ellensburg, clocked in at several Seattle kitchens, and still has family in eastern Washington.

“I’m here all the time and love the city and feel like I understand it very well.” (About 20 times a year, to be more specific.)

Back to that menu. Mina says to expect a bunch of shareable plates—five snacks for under $5, 10 consumables under $10, another 10 less than $20—all of which go down best with a pour. Parr will tell you that unlike at most restaurants, the wine informs the food rather than vice versa. (To wit, Mina talks of adjusting acidity in dishes to harmonize with the vintages—“I’m totally into the whole idea of balance.”) RN74 is primarily a wine bar, after all (consider the rotating selection of 100 bottles for under $100), and will account for a majority of the restaurant’s real estate. The intimate dining room will seat 55.

Like its SOMA-set bro, RN74 Seattle is heavy on the industrial-chic look, and Mina envisions it catering to casual crowds (told you this is a keen fit) as well as dapper-duds types. Certain design cues will be borrowed, like the real-time train-station sign that flips as it tracks wine sales, but because of the building, Mina promises "its own identity."

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