Rautureau in the kitchen at Rover's.

 Just…wow. Thierry Rautureau is closing Rover’s, the Madison Valley restaurant that he took over in 1987, one of the very first places in the city to marry classic French techniques with local ingredients. And along the way, a chef from France’s Loire valley donned a signature chapeau and became one of the most recognized chefs in Seattle.

Rautureau said Friday that he wanted to hold off on sharing details until he had a chance to talk with his staff and attend to a few of the sensitive matters that surround news like this, though word leaked out over the weekend after a real estate listing made the rounds. (Interested? The space is available come June 1).

Maybe more than any chef in the city, the behatted Rautureau epitomizes diners’ shift to more casual restaurants over the past five years. He opened Luc in 2010, just a few doors down from Rover’s and the more unbuttoned bistro, named for his father, is consistently crowded.

Back in 1988, Seattle Times critic John Hinterberger christened Rautureau (then just 29 years old) as one to watch (oh, and back then, the lunch tab seldom topped $10). Over the years Rover’s has earned a reputation as one of the more formal dining destinations in Seattle, but our critic, Kathryn Robinson, has generally found the reality to be far from staid or stuffy. The guy running the kitchen, chef de cuisine Rob Sevcik, is babyfaced, many-tattooed guy who would look quite at home running a killer food truck or a Capitol Hill restaurant filled with Edison bulbs and whole-animal butchery.

First Le Gourmand, now this. Rautureau, however, seems his cheerful self in the face of this big transition, and promises we still see a lot of the man and the hat...though no specifics for now. Eater Seattle says the final dinner service will happen in April.

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