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Wednesday, July 13, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Taste of the Town

What's new? Bastille Day celebrations, a third Malay Satay Hut and more

Seattle Times restaurant critic

French restaurants are celebrating Bastille Day tomorrow with a variety of special events.

Among those are live gypsy-jazz and Parisian street foods at Le Pichet (1933 First Ave., Seattle; 206-256-1499). XO Bistro (2359 10th Ave. E., Seattle; 206-328-6444) is touting a $29 three-course prix-fixe dinner. And mes amis at Café Campagne (1600 Post Alley, Seattle; 206-728-2233) are hosting a Post Alley "parté" celebrating "Liberté! Égalité! And Fraternité" — complete with bargain-price wines and classic French eats.

Sicilian chef Michele Zacco will mark Bastille Day by celebrating important occasions of his own. One is the growth of his tiny 10-year-old Fremont trattoria, Pontevecchio (710 N. 34th St., Seattle; 206-633-3989), where Friday-night opera and tango-dancing artistes are as much of a draw as pasta and vino rosso. The other is the return of his mother, Provvidenza Zacco, who has traveled, once again, from her home in Sicily to her revered place in Pontevecchio's kitchen. She'll celebrate the storming of the Bastille — along with her 84th birthday — tomorrow.

"It's a day to make revolution!" says her son, who recently annexed an adjoining storefront, creating room for the Bastille Day debut of a four-seat wine bar — whose additional tables nearly double Pontevecchio's seating capacity. "This is not an 'expansion,' " says the loquacious Zacco. "That is for KeyBank and Starbucks! To use a Fremont expression, we're 'growing organically.' " That organic growth will eventually include sidewalk seating and a full liquor license, Zacco says.

New late-afternoon happy hours will feature "antipastini" — little plates of "Sicilian-styled tapas" meant to bridge the time between lunch (served weekdays) and dinner (beginning at a fashionably late 6:30 p.m. and served Mondays through Saturdays).

In addition to welcoming visitors to his new "vino bar" in the afternoon and evening, Zacco encourages friends returning from Europe to stop by in the early-morning hours, leftover euros in hand, to start their day with an Italian caffè. "For a euro, I'll give you a cappuccino," he says. "For two euros, I'll give you a cappuccino and biscotti!"

Say what? Another Hut!

Sam Yoo confirmed the good news last week: He has plans to open another Malay Satay Hut in Seattle. Its home? Belltown. Its ETA: next year. (Sorry, folks, but he wouldn't be more specific.)

The first Malay Satay Hut, a small cafe in Little Saigon (212 12th Ave. S.; 206-324-4091), was joined in 2002 by a much larger Overlake sibling (15230 N.E. 24th St., Redmond; 425-564-0888). These are high on my list of favorite restaurants, and I'm far from alone in my obsession with Yoo's flaky roti canai and garlicky sambal squid — among other specialties on his long and intriguing Malaysian menu.

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The Belltown site, 2033 Second Ave., is part of a new mixed-use building at Second and Lenora, and will have to undergo a major remodel to meet his restaurant's requirements, Yoo says. In keeping with Belltown tradition, we can expect a more upscale setting with room for 150 cocktail-drinking curry fans. In the meantime, Yoo and his wife, Jessy, have more pressing expansion plans. With the help of their sons, they expect to open a Malay Satay Hut in Southeast Portland this fall.

Luau reopening soon

News that Trader Vic's is returning to the area (see Taste of the Town, June 15) brought a wave of e-mail and phone calls from mai tai hoisters anticipating that restaurant's Bellevue opening, scheduled for December. Many recalled fond moments spent at Seattle's original Trader Vic's back in the day. And what day was that? Long before habitués of the tiki lounge at Luau Polynesian Lounge (2253 N. 56th St., Seattle; 206-633-LUAU) lifted their first sippy cups.

Those pupu-platter-loving hipsters and sipsters should be pleased to note that Luau's original owners, Thomas and Jessica Price, have regained ownership of the restaurant and bar, sold last year. Closed since early June, Luau is currently undergoing a minor face-lift and a major management shift.

The Prices hope to reopen within the next few weeks in partnership with their friend and former bar manger Tony Boitano.

"We're going to tweak the menu a bit," says Thomas, who intends to retain his part-time job as sommelier/captain at The Metropolitan Grill ("I love it!") while his wife keeps her gig at Ray's Boathouse. "Tony will oversee the bar, Jess will get back into booking the caterings and overseeing the floor, and I'll run the administrative side of the kitchen. We're designing a concept that's more realistic, more suited to dining trends now in the neighborhood," he says. "Twenty-one dollars for a plate of ahi isn't going to work here anymore."

Say Cheesemonger

Three years ago, business-partners Strom Peterson and Michael Young debuted Olives Gourmet Foods, a specialty-foods shop in downtown Edmonds (107 Fifth Ave. N., 425-771-5757). Bringing a taste of fine foodstuffs to a neighborhood hungering for it, Peterson played the role of resident cheesemonger while his childhood pal, Young (late of San Francisco's Aqua), headed up a busy takeout kitchen that unexpectedly became the heart of their business.

Last summer, after a quick makeover, their shop morphed into Olives Café & Wine Bar, a little bistro whose specialties include panini, small plates and 40 wines by the glass. And last month brought yet another change when Peterson branched out on his own leaving to open Resident Cheesemonger (405 Main St., Edmonds, 425-640-8949). Today you'll find that cheese lover'sparadise — a tiny slice of a shop — right around the corner from Olives, offering more than 100 artisanal and imported cheeses as well as cheese-friendly specialty foods, cheese-related gifts and, beginning this week, cured meats from Armandino Batali's Salumi.

Those headed for the Edmonds ferry or the beach at Brackett's Landing might stop here first for a brown-bag "ploughman's lunch" to go ($6.50) — two types of cheeses, a La Panzanella roll and a piece of organic fruit. And if you don't know your gorgonzola from your Oregonzola, ask for a taste. That's what your resident cheesemonger is here for.

Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m-8 p.m. Thursdays, 11-a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or taste@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/nancyleson.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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