Ethan Stowell’s new restaurant at the Four Seasons opens today—the walls that once concealed the former Art Restaurant space have been opened up, the bar now claims center stage, there's a new fireplace, and everywhere you look there’s a plush semicircular booth or a caramel leather-cushioned chair just begging you to sit.
Actually, scratch that. I want to sit on the new barstools, which are also caramel-colored leather and have high backs and arms and swiveling capabilities.
Goldfinch Tavern doesn’t look like any of Ethan and Angela Stowell’s other restaurants, but its elegant midcentury modern vibe fits into the Stowell pantheon, and seems appropriate at the downtown hotel. The only thing that remains from the Art Restaurant days—besides the views of Elliott Bay—is the glass wall of wine bottles, now located, logically, behind the bar.
Lovely room aside, Stowell fought hard to have “Tavern” in the name, lest people get the idea this is a stuffy sort of place. (Plus without it, wouldn’t everyone just be thinking about the novel?)
When the Four Seasons approached the chef about turning the hotel restaurant into something that doesn’t feel like a hotel restaurant, the only stipulation was a great burger and a menu of high-end steaks. Stowell tapped former Mkt. chef Joe Ritchie to run the kitchen, and the two of them began developing the menu months before the deal was finalized. In the runup to opening, Ritchie seemed pretty calm for a guy who went from a restaurant with 28 seats and nearly as many menu items to a dining room that fits 180 and a restaurant that’s open from 6:30am breakfast straight through until 10pm, or as late as 1am on weekend nights at the bar.
The resulting lineup of entrees and smaller plates focuses on West Coast fish (raw and otherwise) and Northwest ingredients, especially ones from nearby Pike Place Market. Goldfinch Tavern is Northwest rather than Italian, but fans of Stowell’s restaurants will recognize a few favorites, like the fried castelvetrano olives and a fried quail dish that harkens back to the days when Stowell was dazzling the city at his first restaurant, Union, just across the street.
The request for a top-notch burger was relatively easy: a Wagyu beef grind, Grand Central potato roll, Beecher’s cheese, house pickles, and smoked onion marmalade. In the final days before opening, Ritchie, Stowell, and the entire Goldfinch Tavern kitchen remained embroiled in great debate surrounding the specifics (crispness, method, etc.) of the french fries. Whatever the final version they went through a tremendous amount of R&D.
The Grilled Beef menu section boasts Wagyu rib-eye and culotte, and a shucker will soon be installed at the far end of the bar to dispatch oysters; the restaurant's raw bar menu also includes crab legs, geoduck or hamachi crudo, and salmon tartare.
Stowell beverage director Sennen David came in to do the cocktail list and select the lineup of local beers and approachable wines (not to worry, big spenders, the hotel still has its big book of heavy-hitting bottles). There's a daily happy hour from 4 to 6pm, and while the menu is still in process, know that it will include food and drinks, but not the cheese bar of yore.
Goldfinch Tavern is ready to roll with breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour, late-night and brunch menus, and a snacky midafternoon menu. The restaurant's website has hours, details, and lots of come-hither photos.