Best Restaurants

Seattle Best Restaurants 2011

The 25 best restaurants in Seattle right now.

By Kathryn Robinson October 27, 2011 Published in the November 2011 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Olivia Brent

It’s the question I’m asked more than any other: What are the very best restaurants in Seattle? In an industry where the newest and trendiest can seize the spotlight—we’re bringing you the best. Restaurants with strong culinary identities and consistency of execution. Restaurants with smart, affable servers and assuredly crafted senses of place. Most critically: restaurants where the food dazzles with invention and intention. I’ve been eating all year to identify the very best in this world-class dining city, presented here in no particular order, and find this to be one magical moment in Seattle dining. Here’s who’s doing it best of the best…right this very minute.




Grand Marnier French toast

Image: Olivia Brent

Sometimes it takes a chef venturing off her specialty to make the people recognize how special it was. Don’t misunderstand: Maria Hines’s Golden Beetle, her new Eastern Mediterranean bistro in Ballard, reveals her mastery of an exotic new landscape of classics, hummus to falafel. She’s good at that.

But what she does at Tilth she’s great at. The lavishly awarded (James Beard, The New York Times, Iron Chef) Hines is a culinary intuitive, with an innate sense of what flavors and—more importantly—textures belong together, and as ironclad a commitment to organic ingredients as any chef working in Seattle today. (The toughest organic certifier in the land pronounced Tilth one of just three organic restaurants in the country.) The room, a renovated house in sweet tones of spring green and butter yellow, exudes charm over elegance; the food—down to earth, toothsome, playful—delivers both.

Tilth, prettiest with sun slanting through its windows, is a weekend brunch kind of place. If the citrus brulee is on the card, don’t miss it: orange and grapefruit slices torched to caramel, scattered with tarragon, heaped with arugula, and spangled with hazel-nuts. In the manner of Hines’s greatest successes it sounds random but tastes veritably written in the stars.


This model of modern design, a multichambered jewel box where downtown gives way to South Lake Union, is the restaurant I probably recommended most this year, on the sheer strength of its something-for-everyone versatility. It does affordable, accessible lunches of wood-oven pizzas and halibut and pork belly buns, hipster happy hours with thinking-person’s cocktails, sophisticated multicourse dinners with Euro foams and big price tags, or comfort-textured lamb leg or wood-oven pork a la carte dinners for weary drop-in shoppers.

Best, whichever of these Mistrals you visit, it’s a virtually guaranteed win, thanks to the blessed culinary OCD of chef and owner William Belickis. This guy is simply incapable of letting a subpar dish leave his kitchen. So the level of everyday execution is extraordinary: to wit, an organic half chicken, as moist as the day it was born, served alongside a puddle of fathomless mole dolloped with ricotta—the ricotta parts speckled with black sesame seeds, the mole parts with white ones. Sigh.

A cocktail for sure: some of the most creatively conceived in town. Meat, of any kind—chops, lamb loin, rib eye; it’s exceptionally well treated in this house, and thoughtfully plated with harmonious sides.

Sushi Kappo Tamura

Taichi Kitamura is the terrific sushi chef—affable, expert, rigorously picky—who gave us Chiso (no longer his) and Chiso Kappo in Fremont (now closed). If those were good restaurants, his Eastlake blend of the two concepts—sushi bar and omakase house—is a great one. For starters it’s a looker: a classy room as smooth and sumptuous as caramelized cod, in texturized shades of sand gray and bamboo blonde, from the sushi bar to the field of two-tops.

Then he offers food to match: sushi for aesthetes. Sleek pieces of unagi sashimi; albacore you can slice through with your tongue; always a list of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s top sustainable choices. And not just sushi, but a long list of ippin—Japanese small plates—like Oregon bay shrimp, cucumbers, and wakame seaweed sunomono, or tempura Pacific prawns with red snapper, lotus root, and Satsuma yam. These are flat-out sensational; combinations that showcase Kitamura’s stature as a sushi chef–plus—a master not just of simple raw fish, but of the considerably more complex business of cooking and offsetting it.

This isn’t a sushi roll kind of place. Go for the omakase (chef’s choice) dinner, as Kitamura creates the best omakase in town. Finish with creme brulee crackling with black Okinawan cane sugar. 

Image: Olivia Brent

Sitka and Spruce

Matt Dillon obeys the muse—and more often than not the muse has one heck of a palate. Religiously Northwest-seasonal and brazenly unbound by convention, Dillon’s free-flowing style brings diners home-kitchen-esque combinations like “fried paneer, tomatoes, stewed greens and pine nut brown butter,” and it will be the most inspired, inevitable creation they’ve savored all year. Indeed, Dillon’s menus almost never sound as good as they are, so his cultish fans have learned to trust that when they read, say, “olive-oil poached albacore and pole beans with muhammara,” what they will get will be a mouth-filling Middle Eastern stunner, the beans and the dense fish and a mound of unbilled crunchy-chewy rye berries all wonderful textural foils, each bite a new commentary on the last. For a food lover, eating at Sitka is wicked good fun.

Abetted, of course, by the fact that it occupies one of the great restaurant spaces in the city. Dillon’s career has been filled with novelty ventures, including a closet-sized beta version of Sitka. Then came this Melrose Market corner, which from its timbered rafters to its casement windows bears a whitewashed farmhouse chic, with breezy centerpieces that feel, like the rest of this operation, considerably more foraged than formal.

Dillon is enamored of Eastern Mediterranean and North African accents, so anything in these dialects will have his passion. He throws lots of love to farmer Billy Allstot, so never pass up a freakishly flavorful Billy’s tomato, which Dillon is apt to dress lightly, say with herbs and feta and smoked salt. For dessert: his gateau Basque, an almond short-crust tart with vanilla pastry cream and whatever was plucked from some nearby orchard the day before.


Bar del Corso


Vongole pizza

Image: Olivia Brent

Call me impetuous, but this newcomer on Beacon Hill so embodies the soul of the neighborhood restaurant that, in just half a year, it shot to the top of that very crowded category. Proprietor and pizzaiolo Jerry Corso honed his skills at Cafe Lago, Crow, the Harvest Vine—and across Italy—then spent last summer hosting fundraisers around the brick pizza oven he built himself in his backyard. His mission: to raise enough of the kind of dough that finances pizzerias, of the casual and festive sort his neighborhood was crying for.

Mission accomplished. Aromatic with wood smoke, lively with neighbors, thoughtfully stocked with bitter cocktails and rich beers and Italian reds, the warm and clean-lined Bar del Corso is not only an intoxicating place to be, it’s a dazzling place to eat, off a seasonal menu of buoyant salads, Euro antipasti, Italian desserts (oooh, the butter-milk panna cotta), and simply exquisite pizza. 


Brick pizza oven

Image: Olivia Brent

The pizza, silly: Corso’s own riff on Neapolitan wood-fired and thin-crusted pies, crisped and bubbled and lightly charred as expected, but slightly breadier, with more chewy elasticity, than the Neapolitan rule book might dictate. Best off the list of a half dozen are the puttanesca, lit with anchovies and hot peppers, and whatever garden special he’s listed in the fifth spot down: on our visit a fiore di zucca, bright with grilled zucchini and squash blossoms.




Scott Carsberg is Seattle’s most pretentious culinary artiste, brandishing terms like “process of creation” and “undisguised purity” without a whisper of irony. But go ahead, sample a few of the modern European small plates on the menu at his unadorned Venetian-style cicchetti bar in Belltown—and just try not to marvel at the process of creation that brought such undisguised purity to your palate.

Carsberg searches out the most pristine ingredients, then doesn’t dress them so much as reveal them: the earthbound sweetness of a ripe tomato, simply enhanced with halibut rillettes and intense panzanella sauce; the concentrated perfection of a chunk of steelhead, coaxed to moist fullness in a tagine and topped with shiitakes. Artfully composed plates hold small bites, but since nothing tops $12 you still feel like you’re getting away with murder. Cocktails are sophisticated to match.

Chilled pea-mint soup—their essences almost sublimely distilled, along with embellishments that might include olive mousse or a speck popsicle—and the city’s single best dessert: orange confit with chocolate caramel mousse.


Lobster mushrooms with egg, potato and fig.

Image: Olivia Brent

Boat Street Cafe

From its whitewashed rafters to its candlelit slate tables to its nicked oak floors, no restaurant in Seattle spins such an offhand sense of romance as the sure-handed Boat Street. Owner and chef Renee Erickson splits her time now between Boat Street and her Ballard oyster bar (see the Walrus and the Carpenter), but the details here remain lovingly attended: lemon in the water, vintage jazz in the air, housemade pickle plate on the app menu, a fleet of idiosyncratically endearing servers, and the richest bread pudding in town, its browned crags rising from a lake of heavy cream and rum butter.

Erickson marries French technique with Northwest seasonal ingredients in a menu that pays about equal homage to meat and seafood, with plenty of vegetables. The crab cakes with banana–hot pepper confit are the signature dish; we prefer the thick Carlton Farms pork chop, cooked to a blushing turn, and embellished on our visit with gently sauteed Padrón peppers, a wash of romesco sauce, and perfect little walnut halves.

The Herbfarm

For those who worship at the altar of Northwest microseasonal dining, the Herbfarm in Woodinville remains the Holy of Holies. And though it’s no longer in the hands of the chef who made it famous (Jerry Traunfeld—the kitchen has seen a few chefs since he left to open Poppy), the ongoing and truly remarkable consistency of this outsized operation reminds us that owners (and founders and chefs and wine collectors and farm operators and tour givers…) Ron Zimmerman and Carrie Van Dyck have always been the rudder anyway

A recent “100-mile” theme dinner showcased dishes made with ingredients (down to the salt) sourced from within that distance; true to the Herbfarm’s substance, what might have come across as self-aggrandizing or pedantic was instead an enlightening, inspiring tribute to Northwest meat and fish and produce. The salad alone, a lush assemblage of fennel and golden beets and Tropea onions and green coriander seed and mint, where a squash blossom concealed a lush pudding of egg yolk and corn polenta and a warm sorrel sauce united the whole, was the sort of creation one remembers forever.

It’s more like when to order, as prix-fixe dinners are set along a theme (each lasts about two weeks), but themes change—game in early December, truffles in January, foraged foods in May; check the website for the schedule. And don’t be on the wagon for your dinner here: The Herbfarm has one of the great wine cellars in the region.




Image: Olivia Brent



Albacore, fennel kimchi, and escarole rice bowl with egg yolk

Image: Olivia Brent

Exuberance, thy name is Revel.

The single best thing to happen to Seattle dining in the last year was the launch of this stark, lively shot of Korean-Asian street food in Fremont. Yes, the place is packed night and day, from the smart cocktail bar Quoin past the heated deck, the open industrial kitchen, and the crowds clattering around the tables. But it’s the liveliness of the fusion cuisine that really gets a foodie’s juices flowing: the way thin slices of corned lamb and nuoc cham play upon a meadow of baby arugula; the particular fire of Manila clams mingling brine their with basil pappardelle noodles and jalapenos and shallots; the unctuous satisfaction of a bowl of rice crowned with short ribs, sambal daikon, mustard greens, and an egg; the toothsome perfection of a gilded dumpling filled with sweet delicata squash, Earl Grey ricotta, and pecans.

This food is almost impossibly inventive: the genius of chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi. They madly fuse cuisines at Joule, too, their higher-end restaurant in Wallingford, but at Revel the vibrant quarters match the food, and the affordability represents a minor urban miracle.

Pork belly–kimchi pancakes or short-rib dumplings for dinner. For the city’s most exotic brunch: a kalbi-marinated burger with bacon, egg, and pickled shallots.

Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant

Nobody comes to Shiro’s for wacky rolls or fusion, or even atmosphere. Shiro Kashiba’s namesake restaurant, one of the last serious restaurants left in Belltown, is no longer entirely in his hands (you’ll find him behind the bar Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays), but remains true to the vision he has realized in this city for over four decades: a traditional Japanese sushi house. That means simple sushi and sashimi, prepared by chefs who revere our local waters as the source of the finest fish in the world, and know how to obtain it. Then it means cutting that fish with precision and elegance—and serving it to those lucky enough to have seats at the bar, with no uncertain instructions about precisely how much soy sauce and wasabi such perfect fish warrant.

Whatever the sushi chef says is freshest that day. Lucky you if it’s spot prawns.


It’s simply the finest French cuisine in Seattle, served in several rooms of a pretty Madison Valley house with creamy walls and polite pastel paintings and reverent service—all designed to make diners feel just pampered enough to face the destination price tags. But stuffy it ain’t—from “Chef in the Hat” Thierry Rautureau’s vivacious hostmanship (with all his tablehopping one gets the sense that he’s the “rover” in question) to food that cares as much about substance as style. Oh, this menu has its foofy fruit potages and seafood nages and foie gras with brioche—but all executed with care, never phoned in, and brought off by a kitchen that deeply values Northwest seasonality and often intrigues with North African punctuation.

Splurging is the way to go here, with the 11-course Grande Menu Degustation: It’s worth it. Less known are the more affordable ways to dine, including the six-course Discovery Menu and Friday a la carte lunches.

The Book Bindery 


Handmade smoke cavatelli

Image: Olivia Brent

Seattle’s loveliest restaurant lies between a working winery and the grassy banks of the ship canal, its oil portraits and vintage books and creamy moldings conveying a burnished Old World sensibility that matches the food. That’s the province of chef Shaun McCrain, a local boy late of New York’s Per Se, who subtly updates meat-and-potatoes for a sweetbreads-and-fingerlings generation.

And oh those sweetbreads: crisped golden and served in a pool of mascarpone grits, surrounded by a ring of chorizo red-eye gravy and a ring of green ramp oil. It’s actually comfort food—unrecognizable as such thanks to sophisticating grace notes: an amuse bouche, McCrain’s frequent forays into molecular gastronomy, and an uncommonly artful eye for plating. These are some of the prettiest presentations in town.

The rich, rich handmade cavatelli pasta with foraged local mushrooms, a seasonal green, pickled pearl onions, and a swoony foie gras emulsion.


Pimientos de Padrón

Image: Olivia Brent

The Harvest Vine

Your old Iberian favorite is enjoying a performance renaissance, in tiny quarters as thick with old-country mood as any place in Seattle. In winter the cozy haunt glows and warms like a flame; in summer the walls roll up for balmy cross-breezes. Little plates of Basque tapas—a selection of Basque sheep’s milk cheeses with quince paste, moist braised pork belly in a creamy sauce with salmon caviar, thin slices of tender beef shoulder over bright tomato confit with grilled escarole—crowd your copper table or (better yet) your perch at the copper bar. And these days, there’s simply no going wrong with any of it. For goodness sake, order wine. Even if you’re there for weekend brunch.

The best of the long small-plates menu typically involves fresh Galician peppers (the classic is a plate of simply oiled and sea-salted fried Padróns, impeccably sourced) or seafood. If cuttlefish (Mediterranean squid) with blackened onions and stunning piquillo pepper vinaigrette is on the card, order it and thank us later.





Somewhere in the course of its 60-plus years, Canlis went from restaurant to icon, and why on earth wouldn’t it? The classy midcentury design, the sweeping Lake Union view, the swanky piano bar, the fawning service, the exacting food—it all adds up to something nearly mythic, not to say mythically priced. The brilliance of Canlis is that, under the young third-generation owners, it isn’t content to let mythic be enough. Jason Franey is an extraordinary chef, having achieved an improbable balance: nudging the old girl into the new century (foie gras terrine with rhubarb, celery, and warm cocoa brioche, a minty pea soup with hon-shimeji mushrooms) without back-burnering classics like the mint-speckled Canlis salad or the vermouth-garlic Peter Canlis prawns. It all adds up to a Seattle destination whose special—occasion status is more than met by the quality of its product.

The steaks remain perfect, but serious diners owe it to themselves to see what Franey is doing on the contemporary side of the menu.


Adventurous dining meets good eatin’ at this stunner in North Capitol Hill, brought to you by the culinary genius and Herbfarm alum Jerry Traunfeld. In this perky unupholstered room, Traunfeld serves up seven or 10-dish thalis, a Hindi word for several small plates assembled on a platter (available in a vegetarian version as well); thus delivering all the whimsical variety of the small-plate concept with none of the misfired pairings. And so one takes a bite of crisp-crusted Wagyu beef with tomatoes and capers, then a bite of broccoli lit with fresh oregano, then a sip of corn soup with basil—and each intelligently plays off the other, crafted as it was by a maestro in the art of showcasing and combining Northwest flavors. All this, plus near flawless execution and terrifically informed service, makes Poppy the place to show off Northwest bounty to visiting foodies.

Eggplant fries with sea salt and honey—one of Seattle’s classic appetizers—with an herbal cocktail to start. Any one of the housemade fruit ice creams to finish. (Desserts are a must in this house.) After the show? One of Traunfeld’s post-9pm “naan-wiches,” sinful $6 assemblages of things like tandoori chicken, spicy slaw, and yogurt sauce.

Staple and Fancy



Image: Olivia Brent

The standout among a prolific chef’s burgeoning empire (Tavolàta, How to Cook a Wolf, Anchovies and Olives, and big plans for the future), Staple and Fancy has the benefit of that chef, Ethan Stowell, at the stoves. That’s a big part of what makes dinner at this rakishly industrial space in Ballard Ave’s historic brick Kolstrand Building so appealing. The other part being the space itself: comfortable in its workingman’s skin—love the original painted brick—and veritably bursting with diners all night long. Staple and Fancy has charisma.


Geoduck crudo with chickpeas, celery, and orange

Image: Olivia Brent

Stowell does a minimalist take on rustic Italian fare—Treviso salad with anchovy dressing, potato gnocchi with Bolognese and mint, lemon-kissed linguine with basil-pistachio pesto—conceived simply and executed with care. The best way to enjoy it is to spring for the four-course prix-fixe chef’s sampling: a combo of noshy starters, pasta, entree, and dessert.

The four-courser, which the whole table must order (they serve family style) and, at $45 per head, represents the deal of the century. If the fried oysters aren’t included, see if they’re available a la carte; they’re the best of that wicked species in town. Finish with the ricotta cheesecake on a gentle almond crust.


Cascina Spinasse 


Roasted carrots

Image: Olivia Brent

The hearty cuisine of Italy’s Piedmont region—the marinated rabbit, the truffles, the big butter sauces—is impeccably, consistently thrilling at this rustic wood-hewn ristorante in Pike/Pine. Having recently undergone the sort of change success brings—expansion of both dining room and kitchen; addition of an aperitif bar next door, Artusi—Spinasse should be showing signs of stress. Instead it’s never been better, having attuned itself to diners’ tastes (no more communal tables, no more family-style meals) with lots of the sorts of dishes that showcase the lively palate of chef Jason Stratton: marinated zucchini fragrant with mint and parsley, steamed green beans enlivened with oiled anchovies and egg crumbles, crepes loaded with kale and ricotta in a cheesy hazelnut sauce. Careful who you come with. In this dim light behind these lace curtains, beneath these wrought-iron fixtures, romance will ensue.

Oh, the tajarin—the egg-rich pasta of Piedmont, served equally impressively with either butter and sage or delicate ragù. (The kitchen now offers a glassed-in pasta station where you can watch the chefs hand-cut the narrow strands.) For dessert, the hazelnut semifreddo, always on the menu, is very good; the nougat-gelato confection, torrone, served over a smear of honey caramel, is great.


A line snakes out from this Pioneer Square salumeria every day at lunchtime—so long on summer days, Salumi chefs have been known to walk out to the tail of the line to talk folks out of waiting. I have to wonder if it works. Devotion to the Batali family curing business—celeb chef Mario Batali’s dad started the business, and his sister and brother-in-law operate it now—runs fierce in this town: devotion to the Salumi muffo, soppressata, hot grilled lamb, and other ethereal sandwiches that are really just an adjunct to the family’s thriving wholesale biz. Tuesdays there’s housemade gnocchi, which one of the chefs stands cutting in the window; Wednesdays and Thursdays (by advance reservation only) five-course lunches for parties of eight to 10 start at noon and unspool all afternoon. Service is friendly but atmosphere is zilch: a long narrow deli line with a single communal table at the end. “Like a birth canal,” sighed one delirious eater, “with life at the end.”

The porchetta sandwich, built on sturdy bread with meaty chunks of moist pork with warm onions and peppers.

Spring Hill

What began as a sophisticated destination restaurant has over the years settled into a crowd-pleasing neighborhood spot. A deft way for a fancy joint to respond to a belt-tightening market, yes—but the fact is no one finds the “yum” inside a hunk of veal sweetbreads (with honey-mustard, ranch, or BBQ!) or sous-vide chicken like owner and chef Mark Fuller. The chef reveres modern techniques and busy concepts, but builds them into dinners where good old-fashioned flavor is paramount. His is one of the great something-for-everyone menus, with chicken liver pate waffles and steak tartare with a soft poached egg appearing alongside one of the city’s best burgers, a meaty half pounder lavished with housemade bacon and special sauce. A snazzy unupholstered decor with an open kitchen and well-stocked bar lends the West Seattle place plenty of figurative—and literal—urban buzz.

Wood-grilled shrimp and grits, one of the classic small plates in Seattle. Vegetarians will admire the seasonal vegetable sampler—which in a few thoughtful dishes (plus smoky flatbread) provides a survey of that moment’s local, seasonal produce. Dessert here is required eating: The popcorn ice cream tastes like kettle corn cooked over woodsmoke. In a good way.

The Walrus and the Carpenter 


Oysters of the day

Image: Olivia Brent

You can see why this Ballard bar in the bleached hues of beach rocks and barnacles gets so much love from the national press—The New York Times and Bon Appétit, to name two recent wet kisses: The Walrus and the Carpenter distills the quintessence of Northwest epicureanism. Seven oyster varieties daily, fresh off Cascadian beaches, served with a whisper of freshly grated horseradish and champagne mignonette. Little plates of haricot vert salad or beet greens tartine, all from local farms. Smoked trout over creme fraiche and lentils with a purple circlet of pickled onion; fried oysters, bursting with brine and speckled with herbs; antipasti and cheeses, embellished with boutique honey or pickled blueberries or tomato jam. Make no mistake: W&C is a nosher’s paradise, not a dinner house, so plan accordingly. Then plan to wait, as dozens of foodie pilgrims crowd the line ahead of you, and reservations aren’t accepted.


Raw oysters, according to your server’s recommendation of what’s best that day, and an impressively crafted cocktail from the intelligentsia behind the other bar.


Best vegan food in town is in Wallingford.

Image: Olivia Brent


How Seattle is this: a pretty house restaurant serving four-course, prix-fixe, communal-table, vegetarian dinners, run by a yogi who prepares dishes like “masa-breaded striped eggplant, Brandywine heirloom tomato, sunflower seed–lemon–basil pesto Napoleon, served with chanterelles roasted with garlic and fennel seed, and finished with truffle oil and a Balsamic reduction,” for instance—then rings a gong before serving it for a reverent moment of silence in gratitude to the earth?

Chuckle if you must. But sustainability maven Colin Patterson (did we mention the restaurant’s light carbon footprint?) is also a chef’s chef, carefully wresting brilliance out of organic produce in novel—if wordy—combinations, pickled fiddleheads to hemp truffle sauce, in a restaurant where the cliche about carnivores being meatlessly satisfied comes true. Reservations for the nightly seatings (two on weekends) are essential; serious foodies should grab seats at the kitchen counter for an inspiring glimpse into Patterson’s vegetal world.

The menu being pre-set, all diners must communicate is dietary restrictions (not surprisingly Sutra is accommodating, especially of vegans) and whether they’d like wine or—just as fun—juice pairings.

La Bête

With its dripping chandeliers and pretty iron filigree and tea-party china, this darkened Capitol Hill lair is Old World elegant. Make that boldly modern, with its fanciful acid-trip art and surfeit of “vision” on every elaborate plate. No, no…it’s actually more of a neighborhood drop-in, with raging early and late happy hours and a menu that offers a burger, a half chicken, and a banana split.

In fact La Bête is all of the above, in the hands of a kitchen that cares about details and never takes its eye off the ball. Plates are busy—one perfectly gilded half chicken arrived with sweet creamy corn, a chive popover, lobster mushrooms, a zucchini dice, and fresh tomatoes—but intentionally so, and carefully done, and sparked with all kinds of classic allusions. All within a space so otherworldly beautiful it feels spun from a dream.

The changing menu is dependably shot through with a strong Mediterranean streak. If you’re a pork rind person, these ones are housemade, fun with cocktails, and locally famous.

Serious Pie

Of all 15 of his businesses, this is the one that really puts the Tom Douglas in Tom Douglas Inc. Douglas’s pie crust, a crisp-blistered chewy marvel, remains a masterpiece. His toppings—prosciutto cotto and green garlic pesto, soft egg and guanciale and arugula, yellow foot chanterelles with truffled cheese—are artisan-derived and masterfully combined. His sides, lush renditions of Italian nibbles like sunchokes with olives and oil-cured tomatoes or Tuscan kale with pine nuts and Calabrian peppers, are vivid and transporting. His desserts—cannoli with cherry and chocolate, Earl Grey panna cotta with Meyer lemon curd and apricot biscotti—are Euro yum.

All within two cozy hearth-warmed spots (check the new loft in SLU) with communal tables and plenty of communal verve. Douglas is at his best in downmarket places like these; casual joints with down-to-earth service and a culinary vision particular enough to let his trademark creativity flourish.

Sweet fennel sausage with roasted peppers and provolone, or Yukon gold potato with rosemary and pecorino.



Tomato and basil dessert

Image: Olivia Brent

Amid the icy white-on-white decor, the chill electronic soundtrack, and the cool aloofness of the service—Crush will never be mistaken for warm. That understood, this idiosyncratically located house restaurant enshrines the perfectionist creativity of a chef at the very top of his game. Seven years in, Jason Wilson has proved himself incapable of resting on his formidable laurels (James Beard, Food and Wine)—and diners will taste it in the form of a thousand perfect surprises. A salad of baby lettuces and garden herbs, pocked with fresh peas and smoked hazelnuts, enlivened with burrata, and ringed with vibrant pea-mint puree. Spot prawns rich as lobster over housemade gnocchi, sparked with guanciale and asparagus. Neah Bay black cod served perfectly cooked, in its crisped skin, with glazed pork belly in a seaweedy dashi broth, bright with aromatics. There’s not a throwaway dish on this menu, where prices are high but value is higher: You are paying for a great chef’s restless intelligence.

The headliner, worth every decibel of the hype: sous-vide Painted Hills short ribs, braised for two full days, butter tender within and crisp crusted without, and served with silken Yukon potato puree and truffle-horseradish pistou.

The Coterie Room


Alaskan sablefish

Image: Olivia Brent

It’s about time chefs Dana Tough and Brian McCracken put their prodigious talent to something beyond a gastropub (Spur) and craft cocktail bar (Tavern Law)—impressive though they be. Through the vertical windows of this lofty Belltown corner (the former Restaurant Zoë) one spies an elegant urban space with white fin de siecle accents and a dripping crystal chandelier. But what issues from the open kitchen across the room is a thing of even rarer beauty: an unprecedented marriage of molecular gastronomy and folksy food.

Think “pork cracklins” made from dehydrated ham stock and tapioca, then served warm with a cheese-truffle fondue. Or a hunk of Alaskan sablefish, served with basil and chanterelles and sweet corn puree, and olive-oil poached in a special temperature-controlled oven to such moistness, it melts on eye contact. Precious methods, yes (that both menu and waiters play down), but applied to such down-to-earth dishes—a rib eye with onion rings, buttermilk fried chicken, mac and cheese with duck ham—it just registers as really, really good cooking. (Cooking so good, I’m banking my reputation on it: The Coterie Room had been open all of three weeks as we went to press.)

A burger Homer Simpson could love, never mind the Painted Hills all-natural beef, arugula, and truffle aioli. A killer poutine, made with braised pork shoulder gravy, fried Beecher’s curds, and copious herbs. Hearty family-style meals serving two to four diners, of dishes like Wagyu brisket with ricotta whipped potatoes, or roasted pork shoulder with butter braised cabbage, local apples, and grainy mustard.

Show Comments