Critic's Notebook

Best Restaurant in Seattle Goes Prix Fixe

This week Altura went $137 per person, folks.

By Kathryn Robinson June 23, 2016

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Nathan Lockwood being astonishing at Altura.

Image: Olivia Brent

In its five years in business, Altura has gotten a lot done.

Nathan Lockwood has fixed his small North Capitol Hill Italian house in the Seattle firmament, moving more than one local critic to deploy the Big Kahuna superlative critics generally go to great lengths to avoid: Best restaurant in Seattle. (Uh, different words, but right here.)

He and his co-owner/wife Rebecca Lockwood manage to float above the publicity fray, packing their house almost entirely by word-of-mouth. He still manages to dazzle with a commitment to seasonality and a genius for rustic elegance. Here is a chef whose plates cohere brilliantly, originally, almost all of the time without a single extraneous molecule.

The guy is astonishing.

And astonishing chefs get to do what they want. So this week the Lockwoods made Altura all prix fixe.

That means they charge $137 per person for five to seven courses of the chef’s choosing along with “a flurry of small bites.” More for wine/bevs.

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Image: Olivia Brent

The set-price menu has always been an option at Altura—but having an a la carte option too made it tough for the Lockwoods to plan for.  The average number of tasting menu orders was about 38, but then they’d have Saturdays “with 80 covers where 55 of them were tasting menus”—and the result was waste.

So all prix fixe was the natural progression. And while that’s a trend that’s famously better for the house than the diner—for whom this removes almost all choice—the Lockwoods pledge to avoid rigidity. Nathan Lockwood explained that dietary restrictions, tiny appetites, and schedules can and will be reasonably accommodated.

“We’d rather say yes than no,” he said.   

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