Best Restaurants 2016

Best New Restaurants of 2016: Copine

Shaun McCrain brings short menus and beautiful, precise dishes to his new French restaurant in North Ballard.

By Kathryn Robinson October 17, 2016 Published in the November 2016 issue of Seattle Met

Copine shaun mccrain rrxlmi

Copine chef Shaun McCrain.

Image: Sarah Flotard

Was it that the amuse-bouche was so intelligent, so expertly wrought, so yummy—cured salmon, cloaked in tempura, topped with roe—that we secretly wanted a plate of them for dinner? Or was it that the dish holding the gratis dinner roll—“gratis dinner roll” itself a revelation—was as carefully composed as a canvas, a dollop of salted butter alongside the housemade challah-thyme roll with a sprig of sweet cicely beside both, just to be beautiful? 

Actually, you may suspect Copine is special much earlier, if you call and the voice at the other end is that blend of gracious and crisply efficient that’s as rare in this town as, well…a gratis dinner roll. That’s Jill Kinney, who brings high-end, old-school polish to the front of the house even as her professional/personal partner, Shaun McCrain, brings high-end, old-school precision to the back. He’d worked in Paris (Elysées du Vernet, Taillevent), and both had worked in New York (including Per Se, where they met) when they came to Seattle to open the acclaimed Book Bindery. After it closed two years ago, the duo began cooking up Copine.

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A salad of compressed watermelon at Copine.

Image: Sarah Flotard

Which is even better.

It’s a throwback in all the best ways, situated on an unfashionable corner of North Ballard, but decorated with a genteelly industrial aesthetic uniting spare floral arrangements, cylindrical pendants, and crisp linenless tables. And acoustical panels! McCrain’s food likewise harks to an earlier era: short menus, accessible preparations, underpriced dishes, and OCD-level precision—in everything from the crust on the sear to the intensity of the passion fruit sorbet. McCrain deploys modernist technique in breath-catchingly glorious triumphs like ahi crudo over compressed watermelon ringed with pepper-sweet gastrique—but make no mistake, the satisfactions in this house are timeless, not new, from the classic French overtones to the soul-healing warmth of the welcome. 

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