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It would make a terrific movie: In the '70s, a self-taught foodie from the Bay Area was hired to wash dishes at a French restaurant, where he apprenticed to—and soon replaced—the headline chef. With his scrupulous devotion to fresh, regional ingredients (back when "imported" held the big cachet) the young toque Bruce Naftaly went on to invent Northwest Cuisine, which decades later he continues to refine daily in his glorious French dining room, Le Gourmand. Naftaly is a saucier's saucier, bringing unfathomable depth and complexity to dishes like rabbit loin in peach-and-basil sauce, sole-and-shrimp mousseline, and rack of lamb in cognac—all, of course, carefully foraged from the best local sources. Trusty servers guide diners through both menu and excellent wine list with perception. One comes to this elegant little room in the most unfashionable part of Ballard not for the scene, of which there is none, but for the sheer joy of seeing a maestro at work. Naftaly's wife Sara runs the spanky little Parisien bar next door, Sambar, which makes a fine place to savor a postprandial digestif.

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