Small yet generous, modest yet gloriously self-assured, Altura (which in Italian means both “height” and “profound depth”) spins its delicate web of opposites in a candlelit space on Broadway. Chef and owner Nathan Lockwood makes diners feel like treasured guests; service is notably stunning. As for the food: Northwest seasonal ingredients gone Italian rustic—then sifted through an elegant sieve. Off a weekly changing menu, slices of muscovy duck might come fanned over red cabbage with crumbled amaretti and caramel-roasted turnip; scallops may be dusted with fennel pollen alongside grilled radicchio and fennel. But whatever you do, don’t skip dessert.
Seafood, Steak House
This sprawling, window-walled sensation at the tip of Pier 70 features cruise-ship vistas of Elliott Bay brought to you by the same folks behind El Gaucho steak house. So: piano bar, check; $92 plate of fillet and lobster tail, check. What else is there to behold? Asian-tweaked fish treatments and a good rotating list of oysters, surprisingly substantive cocktails, a warm-weather patio for sunset loveliness, and Seattle’s most dazzling glass-enclosed private rooms at the end of the pier.
From chef-owner Dustin Ronspies’s mind springs a parade of dishes—prix-fixe dinners that combine his culinary whims with the season’s freshest yield. Ronspies and his co-owner and wife, Shannon Van Horn, have upgraded to a high-ceilinged room full of windows and tasteful blond woodwork on Stone Way. While there’s an a la carte offering in the bar and lounge only, Ronspies’s tasting menu is still the beating heart of Art of the Table: Neah Bay black cod swims among chili oil and fennel pollen and it’s not unheard of for diners to order a second foie gras torchon, even amid a nine-course meal.
Sushi, American/New American
Thirty-one floors above downtown Bellevue, this steak-meets-sushi restaurant could coast on views alone, but Ascend’s sky-high prices feel far more justified once you experience the luxe crudos, appetizers, steaks, and sides flawlessly executed to be greater than the sum of their (many) parts. The six-tier steak menu is the big draw, but the sushi bar is equally impressive with traditional nigiri or modern rolls concoctions of spicy tuna and prosciutto. Servers are intensely, impeccably trained to support and advise, from the iPad wine list to the theatrics of the dessert menu.
Much in this white-on-white French farmhouse of a room will be instantly recognizable to fans of superchef Renee Erickson. But most familiar is Erickson’s winsome turn with, say, a plate of sliced celeriac, rounded with walnuts, cream, pomegranate, and plenty of Meyer lemon; or veal sweetbreads piqued with capers and pickled elderflowers. Such elegant refinement turns out to make the perfect foil for the house-butchered, dry-aged steaks tempered beautifully and cooked medium rare in hot steel pans with plenty of butter. Choose your cut off the wall-size blackboard, choose your sides (frites and mashed potatoes are equally wicked)—and settle into your meal in the capable hands of your server.
The only restaurant in the city to legitimately rate as mythic has been perched out over the vertiginous eastern edge of Queen Anne Hill since 1950. That makes it about as classic as it gets around here—right down to the midcentury split-level architecture, the dress code in the dining room, the noblest mixed drinks in town, fathoms-deep wine list, perfectionist standard of service, and the whole breathtaking sweep of Lake Union twinkling just beyond the windows. Because the third generation of Canlis family restaurateurs insists on culinary relevance, the food is every bit as grand—the more experimental, rigorously Northwest multicourse dinners are genuinely impeccable.
An intimate 24-seat room on the top of Queen Anne Hill is both romantic and robust—in energetic vibe and in muscular food, thanks to Maximillian Petty, a classically trained overachiever. He’ll spend months blackening garlic or fermenting carrots for preparations like fathomless lamb neck pastas with swoony egg spaghetti, or dry aged duck breast with sour quince reduction and pickled raisins; dishes are small but sharable, and gorgeously plated.
The family of Carmine Smeraldo has been serving sumptuous Italian classics for over three decades at this timeless landmark. Regulars will praise the peerless osso buco, the garlicky rack of lamb, the noble cioppino—but nobody wants to cultivate competition for their favorite tables. Which, incidentally, are formally sheathed in white and arrayed handsomely in a windowed room. Down the hall, enter the loveliest bar in Pioneer Square, all light hues and ladylike linens.
John Sundstrom relocated his fanatically beloved Lark to the warehousey flank of Pike/Pine off Madison, spinning out a starlit space—deep blue banquettes, white linens, a welkin of pendants overhead—as elegant as any in town. Out of the rafters he carved a casual lofted upstairs dining room, downstairs a proper bar area with plenty of bitter cocktails. But Lark, once the upstart that pioneered small-plate dining, has become the noble elder; grown-ups come here for that disappearing species—relaxing high-end dinners—assembled from a combination of mains and Sundstrom’s famous grains.
One of the most urbane lunch and dinner stops in Seattle, Loulay’s packed bar and plummy fixtures and soaring sight lines make it feel like a great party. The huge room has plenty of seating options, romantic (the corner booth in the bar should have a room number) to solo to life of the party, from which to sample the classic food of seasoned chef Thierry Rautureau. Look for careful execution on short, well-chosen menus of both French classics (terrific fish dishes, seared foie gras) and accessible everyman food, like the killer 19-buck rib-eye burger, at prices below what you might expect amid this much style.
It may be hard to believe there’s a serious Middle Eastern kitchen behind the sleek surfaces and throbby technopop of this modern cosmopolitan spot across from Melrose Market. But Mamnoon, which means “thankful” in Arabic, has an old soul. Dishes from Syria and Lebanon are built around bread: man’oushe flatbread that’s topped like pizza with spices and cheeses and meats. The menu arises in easy coherence: spreads like hummus and an astonishing muhammara, enough vegetables to excite the herbivores, plus more. High end, consistent, nuanced, and genuinely pleasant—there is nothing else quite like this in Seattle.
A hybrid of Northwest meets Southeast Asian brings genuine global elegance to North Capitol Hill and West Bellevue, whose denizens can’t get enough of the consistent Vietnamese favorites in polished, sophisticated quarters. Grilled beef la lot, drunken chicken, and clay pot catfish sustain breathless followings.
Anchored by a convivial bar and dripping with chandeliers, the Palace is the Tom Douglas restaurant locals like best. Food runs to Americana comfort—from the apple-wood-grilled crispy chicken to the Piedmontese ravioli to the justly famous half-pound burger Royale—but the place’s inimitable energy may be the even bigger draw, from the fleet of hospitable servers to patrons who can’t believe they’ve found a scene still roaring—and serving—at 1am.
The provinces no more, Ravenna has arrived with this destination from Edouardo Jordan, a chef with Bar Sajor and French Laundry on his resume. Prices and preparations in the airy farmhouse space may thus be a little rich for the neighborhood’s blood, but they can also hold innovative and painterly appeal, like a dish of, say, grilled octopus with watermelon gazpacho, salted plums, and preserved lemon, or a salad of yogurt with heirloom tomato, spring onion, pine nuts, and chrysanthemum. Oysters, charcuterie, crudo, cocktails—who needs downtown anyhow?
Just 10 diners per seating settle in at the long, semicircular table that casts chef Perfecte Rocher’s open kitchen as the stage, his progression of 12 (or 18) dishes that fuse Valencian tradition with Northwest flavors the players. Each diminutive course—a savory xuxo pastry made with aerated local stout, pristine Hamachi crudo with apple and jalapeno, coconut panna cotta blanketed in caviar and dotted with fermented lime—is wrought using nothing more than a wood fire, a ton of fermentation projects, and various modernist techniques. A five-course paella menu, available only on Sundays, is far less expensive and every bit as memorable.