Restaurant Catch Up
Over the last few months it seems I’ve been spending time at home or running back and forth to Oregon for family obligations. I have managed to get out and about a few times, though, and here are a few notes about Citizen, The Whale Wins, Bar Sajor and Bar Cotto.
This little coffee shop/restaurant/soon-to-be-bar (depending on time of day) is tucked into a side street on Lower Queen Anne. I was in the area for a class in early March and wandered over for lunch during our break. Luckily it was one of those unseasonably warm days because the place was packed! I grabbed a table outside but soon those tables filled, too. I chose a Black Forest Ham crepe for my lunch. The server and I had a little miscommunication so it arrived topped with the optional fried egg. I didn’t really mind the egg so I kept the order and the server graciously removed the charge from my tab.
I was expecting the crepe would be warm however it was served in a traditional crepe style but was more like a wrap, with a cold filling. Once I got past the surprise all I noticed was how fresh and light it was. And the egg was a nice addition.
I’ve been back since for coffee but, again, the place was packed. There’s a seating bar that runs along the window on the first floor that’s great for grabbing a morning wake-up but it was full. Instead I sat upstairs at a communal, low table surrounded by eclectic chairs. I was the only one at the table but I felt a little like odd-man out. I’ll drop by again but only when I want a proper meal or have a friend in tow.
706 Taylor Ave. N
Lower Queen Anne
The Whale Wins opened a few months ago in the new Fremont Collective building near the intersection of Stone Way and 35th St, just east of the retail area of Fremont. Much like its sibling, The Walrus and The Carpenter, the menu is small but well-curated. We tried several plates from the Happy Hour menu and all were delicious. They offer a plate of “pickles”, which is a nice change from The Walrus and the Carpenter where pickles are only available as a part of a dish. However, that’s all it was, a plate of pickles and they all seemed to have been pickled the same way – I was expecting more of a selection like you might find if you purchased jars of Renee Erickson’s Boat Street Pickles.
We had one odd experience, though. My friend chooses not to eat meat from four-legged creatures – so only fish and fowl. Somehow we had mentioned this to a chef behind the counter where we were sitting – we’d probably asked him something about the menu or something being prepared. So he knew she didn’t eat meat and then proceeded to bring out a container of odd pig parts he was making into a terrine. He was so excited about having a whole pig and all the things he could do with it that he went on and on about it. I don’t know how much it bothered my friend, her manners are too nice to make an issue of something like that, but I thought it was impolite.
I’m sure I’ll be back again although the location is one of those areas that is just awkward enough that I won’t be drawn to randomly pop in. As with The Walrus and the Carpenter, no reservations.
On a recent Art Walk evening, friends and I decided Matt Dillon’s newest place, Bar Sajor would be our pre-walk meeting place. We were scheduled to meet on the early side when, as luck would have it, I was delayed by pouring rain and gridlock through Seattle. I arrived 45 minutes late. I’m not sure if arriving at our scheduled time would have helped but at 5:45 the place was jam-packed. They offered us seating in a newly constructed loft above the main area. We took them up on the offer and were seated at a recently assembled communal table (it still smelled like freshly cut wood) and grabbed a couple glasses of bubbles and a few oysters.
The loft was cozy, if a little claustrophobic. The small tables that look down into the main room would feel less so, I think. Of course the sparkling wine and oysters were delicious – how can you really go wrong with those two?
Although our visit was not long enough to talk about merits or lack thereof, there was enough going on (chickens spit-roasting over an open fire) to make me want to make a table reservation or drop in when there’s a chance of getting a seat. I also am happy to see some new blood infused into the Pioneer Square dining scene – it’s been stagnant (and declining) for far too long. We also noticed a new Rain Shadow Meats, complete with dining area, a couple blocks away. It’d be great to see a Pioneer Square resurgence.
Bar Cotto is Ethan Stowell’s newest venture. On Capitol Hill and adjacent to Anchovies and Olives, I’m sure it will soon have a strong following like all of Ethan’s other locations. And for good reason. A friend and I visited for a recent Happy Hour and enjoyed a trio of tasty dishes.
Bar Cotto is technically a salumeria, but I was pleasantly surprised to see several things on the menu that would keep my non-meat-eating friends happy. In fact during this visit we tried two of the non-meat Happy Hour menu items: Corona bean and cauliflower salad with currants and rosemary; and Roasted fennel, bottarga (cured fish roe) and preserved lemon. The beans and cauliflower were outstanding! I’m motivated to try making this at home because it was so delicious. The fennel was also good, but I didn’t think it was quite as inspired.
To top off our eating experience we finished with a Salsiccia pizza (house made fennel sausage, rapini, fior di latte, tomato). It has a perfect thin, crispy crust and combination of ingredients. Makes me want to try some (all?) of the other pizza combinations. Happy hour wines were also very nice.
The dinner menu has a large selection of salumi, of course, but there are also seven “Verdura” options, a couple of bruschetta choices, and maybe one third of the pizzas are vegetarian or pescatarian friendly.