Critic's Notebook

Why Matt Dillon Didn’t Bring a Vitamix to Upper Bar Ferdinand

“I’m overwhelmed by the direction the world is going.”

By Kathryn Robinson August 4, 2016

Matt dillon bar ferdinand wwgxdx

Image: Sarah Flotard

“I like wine,” Matt Dillon recently told me by phone. “Cider too. I’m not a cocktail person, I’m not even a beer person. One single agricultural product preserved. I think of wine as food; it just happens to have alcohol in it.”

This explains Upper Bar Ferdinand, Dillon’s elegantly angular Capitol Hill wine bar and the subject of my August restaurant review. UBF is focused on small-production family bodegas around the world—and the food that arises around them. “The wines we love, the ones we want to drink…they’re just really inspiring culinarily.”

“Every time I do something I get even more minimalist—whether it’s farming the food or raising the chickens,” Dillon said, by way of explanation about that food. “So I wanted to make this really limited menu of very limited products, not to have a big run on the system. I wanted to challenge myself: Only a certain amount of electronics, only buy from a few people. I have five pieces of electrical equipment in the restaurant. I don’t want to achieve a texture with a Vitamix. If we can’t produce something with a mortar and pestle, we won’t do it. I work with my hands on the farm; I want to work with my hands in the restaurant.”

Dillon’s Vashon farm produces all the chicken, pork, and lamb for Upper Bar Ferdinand. Before the season warmed enough to yield fresh herbs, he limited himself to dried. “The whole world is changing, and I’m overwhelmed by the direction the world is going. I think about it all the time. I’m not trying to make a statement by what I’m doing, I just don’t want to participate by using lots of Seran wrap. I’m trying to be really thoughtful in how I want to choose my battles. I’ve always sort of had that approach, but there’s a lot of pressure now on restaurateurs—especially now that there are 8 billion restaurants in Seattle and the market is in many ways so saturated.”

Diners, indeed, have more choices than ever on where to dine in this city—and this is one restaurateur whose bottom line transcends, well, the bottom line. “[As a restaurateur] you have an ability to have a relationship and participate with the earth and animals and vegetables and guests and space…” Dillon trails off, thinking. “It’s not about business to me. It’s about exploration and deeper understanding.”


Show Comments