Critic's Notebook


Between the raw food and the guts…where do normal foodies go to eat?

By Kathryn Robinson September 6, 2011

Spring Hill

Surveying Seattle menus gives me increasing cause to wonder: Where are the regular people eating?

You know, the people you had visit from the heartland this summer. The in-laws. Your meat-and-potatoes colleague from the ‘burbs. Your college kid. Even epicureans…of a tamer inclination.

Take them to Artusi, Spinasse’s swanky aperitif adjunct, and here are three of their seven choices: black rice polenta with slow roasted goat, borlotti beans with wild fennel pollen and smoked salmon roe, and tripe with bone marrow and local black truffles.

Goat. Fish eggs. Tripe with bone marrow and local black truffles.

Artusi, you may argue, is a known sophisticates’ playground. Alright, then what about Madison Park Conservatory, where four of the eight small plates on a recent visit were the following: octopus Bolognese, Pacific octopus crudo, Anderson Valley lamb tartare, and grilled Wagyu beef tongue.

AKA: slimy sea creature, raw slimy sea creature, raw lamb, and tongue of cow.

Once calamari, stinky cheeses, and raw oysters were edgy. Then pork belly was the New Scary Thing. Now you can’t throw a sweetbread in this town without hitting pork belly in some permutation. Our sustainability-driven interest in nose-to-tail dining has strewn offal (er, guts) all over menus; raw beef has infiltrated such mainstream joints as Spring Hill and Matt’s in the Market.

Offensive? Heck no! Delectable? At times, extremely: I’m thinking now of the aforementioned octopus Bolognese at MPC, a stunner. OctoBolo.

But popular? Unquestionably getting more so, as Anthony Bourdain acolytes grow ever more adventurous about what they’ll eat, and a certain “fearless foodie” cred attaches to those who really will go to Taiwanese restaurants and go right to the section labeled “Intestinally Interesting.”

But I suspect that most diners, even discerning ones, would rather be satisfied than challenged in a restaurant. These diners don’t much care to be a player in a restaurant’s bid for a more sophisticated-than-thou reputation, and would prefer more menu choices of foods they’re familiar with—done really, really well—than foods they’re supposed to open their minds to.

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