First Look: (The New) Restaurant Zoe
One of the first restaurants to anchor the Belltown resurgence at the turn of century, Scott Staples’ Zoe Restaurant was also one of the last to leave as the neighborhood reverted back to it’s seedier nature over the last several years. Last week they opened their new location on Capitol Hill.
One of the things that kept me from visiting Zoe as often as I wanted to in the past was the need for reservations and lack of a drop-in bar area. The bar was tiny and was really meant for folks who arrived a little early for their reservation, not as alternative seating to the dining area. Being a spur-of-the-moment person and preferring a few small bites to a full sit-down dinner, Zoe wasn’t really the place for me, although I always adored the food.
Hearing the new location would be more casual was exciting. Maybe not as casual as Quinn’s, Staples’ Capitol Hill gastropub, but definitely a change from the original Zoe.
Tuesday, a friend and I arrived at the new Zoe shortly after the 5:00pm opening time. There’s a warm, bistro feel as you enter, although the high ceilings and spacious areas make the place feel open. Pre-opening press suggested the new site is smaller than the old, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
Taking seats at the bar we started with cocktails – a perfectly balanced, Manhattan for me and a non-alcoholic, Clear Conscience for my friend. Both were delicious. We ordered two items from the Small Plates section of the menu: Manila Clams Smoked Hocks; and Ricotta Gnudi with Lamb Sausage. The Manila Clams were the perfect dish for the rainy weather – although I suspect they’d also seem delicious on a warm, sunny day. The smokiness of the ham hocks was rich but not overpowering; warming; flavorful. I’d order them again in a minute.
The gnudi were also delicious. This was a dish where the attention to detail was very apparent. The perfectly symmetrical and evenly-sized gnudi exactly matched the lamb sausage balls. Exactly matched. The sage-citrus sauce on the plate was good enough to eat on its own, although I loved it with the rich gnudi and sausage. My only complaint was the cost. At $10 for the plate I would have expected to see more. With only four gnudi pieces and two sausage balls – all less than 1″ in diameter – that seems a pretty stiff price. Especially considering other comparable restaurants in town serve a generous side plate of gnocchi (related to gnudi) for $7 and you can often find full entrees of gnudi or gnocchi for $15 – $20. So, although I loved it I probably wouldn’t order it again. We finished with the Lemon Tartlet. It was good but nothing special.
Several other things on the menu looked deliciously interesting and will be saved for another visit. I’m especially looking forward to good weather and the opportunity to sit in the outdoor area.
1318 East Union Street