Seattle Restaurant Openings

The Former Earth and Ocean Reopens Tomorrow as Trace

Want to check it out? Come have a few drinks at our reveal reception March 21.

By Allecia Vermillion March 8, 2012

The newly restyled Trace bar and lounge area.

Downtown on Fourth Avenue, the W Hotel is shedding the barriers and construction detritus, and getting ready to debut a major remodel and a brand new restaurant and lounge concept. As of tomorrow, March 9, the space once known as Earth and Ocean restaurant and adjacent bar will reopen as Trace, a similarly seasonal restaurant with a Pacific Rim slant thanks to new chef Steven Ariel.

Ariel, most recently at Luc, spent the last three months designing entirely new breakfast, lunch, bar, and dinner menus. When I asked about his signature dishes, Ariel didn’t go fancy: He’s especially pleased with the kale soup, and the tempura Alaskan cod sandwich on the lunch menu. Of course, with spring on the way, he’ll soon be switching things up once again.

Hotel restaurants are funny things. In glitzy Vegas and expense account–heavy DC, plenty of culinary heavy-hitters set up shop in these environs. In Chicago, swanky new hotel projects are becoming vehicles for up-and-coming chefs to fast track a kitchen of their own.

Here in Seattle, Earth and Ocean mostly enjoyed prestige as a launching pad for luminaries like John Sundstrom and Maria Hines, now James Beard-winners with their own restaurants, as well as Dana Tough and Brian McCracken. It was rightly praised for helping to launch the small-plates phenomenon and for being on the forefront of the charcuterie movement, yet never quite established itself as a phenomenon in its own right—perhaps owing to its hotel address and persistently non-local scene.

The solution: A brand refresh in keeping with remodels at other W locations, but with a locally focused design. W brought in Portland-based Skylab, whose Departure bar atop the Nines hotel and Urban Farmer restaurant are is lovely to behold. The resulting design has all sorts of subtle nods to Seattle heritage, from wood to aviation, music to craft.

At least one person has likened the dining room to being inside a bottle of Champagne. While that language would be gag-worthy in a press release, it’s actually an apt description, between the dark walls, spherical chrome pendant lights and slightly luminous gold leather seats. But the real draw is the soaring bar area, with comfortable chairs aplenty and a DJ booth over the fireplace (a DJ booth over the fireplace). A large corner segment of the wall is devoted to a giant blown-up image of LPs on shelves; there’s even a section on Northwest music. The record collection belongs to to the owner of the company that created the wall installation, an individual who has far better taste in music than I do.

The space reminds you, “I’m at an upscale hotel,” without being obnoxious or over the top. It also looks to be a prime after work destination for drinks, snacks, or a casual meal. The new Trace even has a sushi bar component that serves until 10pm.

The Trace reopens tomorrow without excessive fanfare: Breakfast begins 7am and service keeps on keeping on through dinnertime. However Seattle Met’s event dynamos have joined forces with the Trace to host a “reveal reception” for Nosh Pit readers March 21 at 6pm. I’m talking signature cocktails, passed appetizers, and mingling beneath the supersized LP wall. What does it cost for you to attend? Why, nothing. Yes, this shindig is totally free, and you can grab a spot for you and a guest right over here.

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