Oysters panko ne2sqo

JJ Proville's Hama Hama oysters with bread and anchovies, aka Huîtres de Hama Hama aux Anchois.

Two old friends who met in New York before working at some of Seattle’s most impressive establishments are opening their own place in the Central District. 

JJ Proville—a culinary veteran of Il Corvo and Art of the Table among other places—and Sitka and Spruce and Rob Roy barman Zac Overman will open L’Oursin near 14th and Jefferson, in the new building next door to Seven Beef. Proville, some might remember, was one of our Next Hot Chefs in 2014.

L’Oursin is French, no surprise given both its name and Proville’s dual French-American citizenship. But the chef says their spot won’t be an Americanized bistro doling out French onion soup and steak frites. From Proville’s talk of terrines and poached fish and salads and cold-poached mussels, it sounds more like a meeting of the minds between France’s nouvelle cuisine and the Pacific Northwest’s own produce and seafood. 

“It’s definitely whimsical in certain ways,” says Proville of the place he and Overman are building together. “We’re not trying to take ourselves too seriously," though this alum of NYC's Gramercy Tavern is plenty serious about the culinary execution.

The two partners met in New York while working at the website StarChefs (Proville wrote; Overman designed). Their careers eventually shifted, respectively, to food and drink, but intersected again at Fort Defiance in Brooklyn. Proville moved here in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy ravaged his apartment; soon he was entreating Overman to follow him out here. 

Aperitifs will figure heavily in L’Oursin’s cocktails and natural wines will dominate the wine list. The guys got into these wines—grown organically and made without traditional additives like yeast and sulfur, which help a winemaker control the finished product—in their Fort Defiance days. Proville likes the idea of “a handmade product that’s been really babied and left to evolve naturally,” not to mention the aromatic funk that often accompanies such wines. He credits Vif and Bar Ferd’nand for planting the flag for natural wines here in Seattle and wants L’Oursin to continue the movement. 

Buildout on the space at 1315 E Jefferson has barely begun, but L’Oursin already has its own farm (“it’s more of a garden,” Proville acknowledges)—a half-acre plot at the Matthews Winery tasting room in Woodinville that will let the chef raise up some uncommon finds like purple tomatillos, heirloom French carrots, or Alpine strawberries. 

L’Oursin will open early this fall, but it already has a Facebook page for your tracking pleasure. 

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