Hotshot chef Caprial Pence is back in Seattle now, heading up the kitchen at the Bookstore Bar in the Alexis Hotel. Her plan was to create an all-day brunch menu, which I couldn’t wait to try once it was implemented.
So I was surprised to see just five classic brunch entrees on the brunch menu. One, a buttermilk waffle topped with labneh, pear compote, and candied walnuts, was just right: fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and topped with a palate-perfect combo of the thick yogurt, the sweet nuts, and the lush spiced pears. Intelligently conceived, very delicate, perfectly executed.
So am I peevish to note that it was also kind of…boring?
Don’t get me wrong, technical perfection is huge: Much rarer than “interesting,” and—all things considered—much more valuable. Many a mediocre restaurant has tanked from a surfeit of fascinating failures.
But when the rest of the brunch menu runs to a classic Bennie, an egg white scramble, an omelet, and the time-honored “two-eggs-any-style” plate—well, one does wonder what has become of the great Caprial Pence brand. (Not to mention why they’re promoting this as a brunch house.) Sure, it’s a hotel restaurant—traditionally lowest-common-denominator land—and the current hotel restaurant landscape in Seattle more or less bears that out, with no standout in the category.
But if Pence can’t bring back the golden age of Seattle hotel restaurants, who can? It was at Fuller’s in the Sheraton, after all, where she snagged her James Beard Best Chef in the Northwest award in 1990. I guess I was hoping for more of the same verve and sizzle from her here at the Alexis, where the Bookstore Bar’s cozy book-lined spaces and brick walls could make it a real destination, for tourists and locals.
Let me finish with a heartfelt shoutout to the burger, also on the brunch menu: Painted Hills chuck, brioche bun, oil-cured tomato, smoked onions, vivid housemade pickles, and optional bacon. A $17 thing o’beauty, served with very good fries.