Lionhead's New Owners Are Putting Their Own Spin on the Capitol Hill Restaurant

Jerry Traunfeld has passed the culinary torch—which is likely a whisk or an actual flame torch—to chef Garrett Doherty and Benjamin Chew.

By Rosin Saez October 25, 2019

Yesss, savory-spicy braised beef congee.

For all the restaurant ripples happening on Capitol Hill in the wake of Jerry Traunfeld's departure from Seattle's dining scene—Altura taking over Traunfeld's former Poppy space and installing Carrello—here's another good one.

Lionhead, the Sichuan restaurant that Traunfeld opened in 2015, will live on with new co-owners chef Garrett Doherty and Benjamin Chew writing its next chapter.

Traunfeld installed Doherty as head chef two years ago, so he certainly knows the lay of the congee land. And, before Lionhead, Doherty ran the prolific Kraken Congee, a popup turned subterranean Pioneer Square restaurant. As for Chew, who previously worked at Girin in Pioneer Square, he grew up in the dining world where his Chinese American family owned and operated Chinese restaurants.

So what will change? Not too much, says Doherty. "Well, for me, it feels exactly the same because I've been running the place for two years." But as new co-owners he and Chew "recognize the untapped potential in Lionhead and are excited to share our interpretation."

Lionhead co-owners Benjamin Chew (left) and Garrett Doherty.

The same lip-tingling spice isn't going anywhere, but the chef's given the menu a bit of a refresh. Expect Doherty's complex-flavored congee to hold down the savory Chinese porridge front (like braised beef cheek with pickled mustard, pork threads, and sous vide egg, for example). Maitake mushrooms in Sichuanese yu xiang sauce (garlicky, gingerly, soy-vinegar, with some heat) and steamed silken tofu—made fresh and locally—are two vegan and vegetarian additions. A hearty collection of noodle, rice, and stir-fried dishes remain, too.

Lionhead will soon add a happy hour at the start of next month. And what to drink? Upgraded contemporary cocktails, natural wine, Chinese and local beer, and allegedly the largest selection of baijiu (known as the fiery Chinese spirit shaojiu) in Seattle. There's also talk of more events, like DJ nights, in the months ahead.

Expect a slight renovation in the new year, updating the front of house and potentially expanding the bar area.

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