Seattle Times restaurant critic Providence Cicero reveals her 10 favorite new restaurants she reviewed this year.
Seattle Times restaurant critic Providence Cicero reveals her Top 10 new restaurants reviewed this year (along with excerpts from her original reviews).
1040 E. Union St.
Pacific Northwest magazine: Dining Out
“Buoyed by her passion for Northwest France and deep attachment to the land and waters of the Pacific Northwest … “
At this Capitol Hill steakhouse, chef Renee Erickson does for meat what she has previously done for French country cooking (Boat Street Café), oysters (Walrus and the Carpenter) and vegetables (The Whale Wins). Much of the beef listed on the chalkboard menu was raised on her company’s own Whidbey Island farm. Starters and accompaniments are as carefully prepared as the butter-basted steaks. Bateau gets all the other details right, too, from the petite cocktails to the bread service to a nimble staff that converses with passion and humor about topics as diverse as bovine anatomy, French grape varieties and basketball.
6460 24th Ave. N.W.
“A restaurant for grown-ups, long overdue.”
For nearly two years after leaving Book Bindery, chef Shaun McCrain and general manager Jill Kinney refined the concept that would become Copine. They retained their loyal following through a series of pop-ups while hunting for just the right location, which turned out to be in the Ballard Public Lofts Market. The minimalist décor is inspired by nature and enhanced with art and antiques, a fitting framework for McCrain’s beautiful food. Kinney oversees a dining room and bar that hum with the quiet conversation of locals celebrating milestones or just treating themselves to a night out.
2209 Queen Anne Ave. N.
The laudable use of seasonal, local ingredients results in a certain sameness to restaurant menus: Beet salads, Brussels sprouts and pork belly abound. Ennui fled at the first glimpse of Maximillian Petty’s brief menu at tiny Eden Hill on Queen Anne. After grazing on Brussels sprouts with kettle corn, veal sweetbreads made in the style of Buffalo wings and the deep-fried head cheese he calls “Crispy Pig Head Candy Bar,” I was eager to try this inventive young chef’s blind tasting menu. Everyone should do the same.
5313 Ballard Ave. N.W., Unit B
When chef Chester Gerl was a student at the Culinary Institute of America, he signed on for an immersion course in Oaxaca with celebrated chef Rick Bayless. Since then, the Southern California native has often tinkered with moles and tamales. He put pozole on the menu when he headed the kitchen at Matt’s in the Market. Then he went off to New York and learned to make tortillas from scratch with landrace corn, heritage varieties specific to a geographic region. Now his passion for Mexican cuisine has come home to roost at Gracia in Ballard, where the agave cocktails created by general manager Salvador Huerta complement Gerl’s exceptionally well-made tacos, tamales, mulitas and more.
106 Occidental Ave. S.
“Enchantment is the first word that comes to mind … “
Trees wrapped in tiny white lights front the grandly arched portals of Pioneer Square’s historic Interurban Building, home to Nirmal’s. When proprietors Oliver and Gita Bangera wanted a marquee name for the Indian restaurant they envisioned, they turned to Nirmal Monteiro, a chef whose career has taken him from Mumbai to Japan and Europe and now to Seattle. Inside the elegantly austere, brick-walled space filament bulbs glow like novas, and spices perfume the air. Pungent flavors entwine in ways that can’t be easily decoded in Nirmal’s thalis, tandoor platters, curries and cream sauces. So you tear off another piece of buttery naan or charred roti and succumb to more.
110 Stewart St.
“Few [hotel restaurants] risk going off trail. Scout not only dares to do that; it does it well.”
Locals are likely to elbow out tourists at this upholstered-in-plaid restaurant from the Huxley Wallace Collective, housed in the Thompson Hotel at First and Stewart. Executive chef Derek Simcik makes familiar Pacific Northwest ingredients taste new again. The dining room is a great place to sweet-talk clients or settle after a downtown shopping spree. The Chef’s Counter offers a unique dining experience with chef Quinton Stewart, who guides eight guests through a multicourse tasting menu. The extravagant evening begins downstairs and ends in the hotel’s top-floor bar, The Nest, where even lifelong Seattleites will gasp at the panoramic view across the downtown waterfront.
Tarsan I Jane
4012 Leary Way N.W.
“Electrifying in its intensity …”
At this provocative Frelard restaurant, Perfecte Rocher and Alia Zaine create an idiosyncratic, autocratic dining experience. The only dinner options are a seven- or nine-course tasting menu; diners get no hint of what’s to come. I found every dish intriguing, many thrilling. The Sunday paella lunch is less of an investment and a good introduction to Rocher’s style, which is influenced equally by his rustic Valencian roots and the refinement of the world-class restaurants where he previously worked in Europe and the United States.
“Heeding the call of the wild to create plates that express their own version of terroir …”
1424 11th Ave.
From Marc Papineau and James Beard Award-winning chef Matt Dillon comes a wine bar and restaurant that is personal, intimate and without pretense. Tucked off a courtyard at the far end of Capitol Hill’s Chop House Row, this bigger sibling to Melrose Market’s Lower Bar Ferdinand feels like a secret clubhouse. Much of the food is raised on Dillon’s Vashon farm, and he’s often cooking. From just about any table you can watch him char claypot rice on a binchotan, slice raw fish for sushi-style presentations, or pull a roasted chicken or whole fish from the hearth. Grab a seat at the bar, and let Papineau guide you through the wines he pairs with each dish. If you find one you like, buy a bottle off the retail shelf to take home.
513 Westlake Ave N.
A blazing hearth is the dramatic focal point of this intimate South Lake Union restaurant, the latest enterprise from chef Josh Henderson and his prolific Huxley Wallace group. The fire’s glow reaches every table, but to really bask in its warmth, sit at the six-seat kitchen counter and interact with the cooks (often including Henderson himself) as they pull vegetables from the embers, sear meat and smoke fish. Cedar-planked salmon, served with puffs of fried salmon skin liberally dusted with yuzu kosho salt, surpasses any version I’ve had before. Dishes like shaved braising greens bedded on cultured ricotta or compressed melon with matsutake mushrooms in a gentle citrus broth provide cool counterpoint to the fire and smoke.
Wataru 2400 N.E. 65th St. “His cuts are as fluid and precise as an haute couturier …”
The camaraderie at this six-seat sushi bar in Ravenna is surpassed only by the pleasure of the food chef Kotaro Kumita presents with modest ceremony and a twinkle in his eye. Yes, there is table service and a menu that goes beyond sushi. But only at the bar are you able to closely watch this Japanese-trained chef, a longtime protégé of Seattle legend Shiro Kashiba. With swift knife work, he painstakingly crafts dainty Edomai-style nigiri sushi using ocean gems from near and far, kept fresh in handmade cedar coolers. To my mind, Kumita-san is the best sushi chef in Seattle right now.