Chef Scott Carsberg has run a restaurant at the corner of First and Battery since 1993, winning a James Beard award in 2006 for his minimalist Northern Italian fare at Lampreia. In 2010, he reopened his fine-dining temple as Bisato, giving a Venetian spin to the recession-driven wave of more casual, small-plate restaurants (both spots were named for eels). On October 14, Carsberg and his wife and business partner Hyun Joo Paek, will close after Sunday dinner service.
According to the release sent out, Carsberg is taking a short break, then "exploring fresh restaurant and food concepts." He is also planning to revisit some favorite dishes from the Lampreia days, though the plates that end up on the menu each evening are usually a last-minute amalgam of what's available, and what kind of mood the chef is in. And yes, the couple is also considering a book.
When former Seattle Times critic John Hinterberger reviewed Lampreia in 1993, his praise was tempered with an oh-so-Seattle skepticism of anything unapologetically fancy: "The talent at work there is formidable. But it is also bordering on the precious. Plates perfectly presented. Polite service a little too precise."
Seattle Met critic Kathryn Robinson described Carsberg's food and aesthetic as "startling" when she assessed the new, dressed down Bisato in 2010: "In spite of this restaurant’s more casual tone Carsberg still cooks in his arrogant classicist’s style—I say this with all admiration—even pulling the same arch tricks as at Lampreia, only now even trickier." Tales of Carsberg's temper and, ahem, strong feelings about the state of Seattle dining are many in this town.
Though he trained in New York, D.C., and the Michelin-starred Villa Mozart in the Northern Italian town of Merano, Carsberg is quick to remind you that he grew up in West Seattle. When I last ran into Carsberg and Paek at Zig Zag a few months ago, he was just as quick to lament the economic beating he has taken from downtown's nighttime parking meters and the 520 bridge toll that discourages Eastside diners from venturing his way. From their perch at First and Battery, the couple has watched Belltown revive, thrive, and struggle once again.
Sources close to Bisato say a variety of factors contributed to the close, but everyone involved in the restaurant felt it important to go out on a high note. Just last month, the restaurant won the Birra Moretti award for Best Emerging Italian Restaurant, dispensed by the same group that anoints the 50 best restaurants in the world.