There are a number of reasons Bateau is so fine, including in-house butchery and steaks cooked in butter.
But a number of its charms are so strikingly similar to those of its predecessor—Renee Erickson’s original restaurant, Boat Street Cafe—you wonder if Erickson was simply trying to relocate that seminal spot from its nowhere location in north Belltown to this emergent patch of Capitol Hill.
“It was important to us to echo Boat Street,” Erickson told me by phone, which was evident from my first visit. The white-on-white decor. (They were going to mimic the parasols, which hung from the ceiling at Boat Street, but then fell in love with the light pendants Erickson's business partner Jeremy Price designed. There they are now, in the photo above.) The French provincial, with a little extra, food. The full-plate meat-and-potatoes dining experience, as opposed to the noshing-on-seafood model she’s evolved toward in places like the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Whale Wins, and Bar Melusine next door. Even some of the decorative accoutrements---the same slate tables, the same host stand---made the trip, adding up to a similar French farmhouse vibe. “We wanted conscious reminders,” Erickson says.
Still, in at least two important ways, Bateau makes its own bold statement. Number one: Those sides of beef, which prominently announce themselves through the window to the in-house meat locker, and which definitively assert that you are in a steakhouse. And number two: The kind of very attentive service, much better than Boat Street’s idiosyncratic model, that assures you that you are in an intelligent guide’s very capable hands—critical in a place where the menu, with its varying cuts of meat, needs this much explication.
Upshot? Boat Street Cafe is dead. Long live Bateau.