La Bête offers an elegant setting and an appealing seasonal menu
La Bête on Capitol Hill blends contemporary American sense and European sensibility and presents seasonal menus well worth trying.
Special to The Seattle Times
|Pork rinds and pickled shallots||$5|
|lentils and potatoes||$12|
|Mushroom bread pudding||$13|
|Chicken and dumplings||$16|
La BêteContemporary American
1802 Bellevue Ave., Seattle
Hours: Dinner 5-11 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.
Prices: $$$ (snacks $5-$12, plates $9-$20).
Drinks: Full bar; short, idiosyncratic wine list with moderately priced bottles all available by the glass.
Parking: On street.
Sound: Moderate to loud.
Who should go: A relaxed dining experience for urban romantics.
Credit cards: Visa and MasterCard.
Access: No obstacles.
Cocktail at hand, elbows propped on a gorgeous slab of live-edged walnut, I'm watching pork rinds rise like giddy cartoon ghosts from a bubbling fryer basket. They are served precariously stacked in a finely painted china bowl with pink rings of palate-reviving pickled shallots on the side. Salt, pepper, fat, crunch: This is a carnivore's idea of cotton candy, I think, and my idea of a bar snack par excellence.
Those china bowls might once have graced a well-appointed 19th-century dinner table. So might the ornate flatware and the porcelain eggs that serve as salt cellars. One can imagine a dowager's beringed fingers holding the fragile green stem of the etched cocktail coupe, though madame was certainly not sipping an aquavit-edged libation dubbed "Sexy Delicious."
Sexy. Delicious. That about sums up La Bête, a beguiling, art-filled Capitol Hill kitchen and bar that blends contemporary American sense and European sensibility.
The kitchen is what you see first when you walk in the door, a sign that food is foremost here. Head-banded cooks nod hello as you pass the line and head toward the small bar and dining room beyond.
There, amid shadows cast by candles and beaded filigreed pendants, you sit on church-pew banquettes at chiseled tabletops with bits and pieces of nature, sealed under the varnish. Night filters through the wrought-iron grates of casement windows; Rapunzel might have gazed through portals such as these, before undoing her long hair.
The Bête is the just the sort of the romantic beast you'd get if you mated Lark with any of Ethan Stowell's restaurants, which brings me to the back story.
Owners and co-chefs Aleks Dimitrijevic and Tyler Moritz met working at Stowell's Union, where Moritz was chef de cuisine. Both have also worked for John Sundstrom, owner of Lark and Licorous; Dimitrijevic was chef at the latter.
The kitchen's collaborative nature matches the fluid teamwork of the front-of-the-house staff, whose poise and professionalism are a credit to dining-room manager Dan Rodgers, another Lark veteran.
The chefs' antecedents are evident in their unstructured, seasonal menu of European-influenced comfort food, rustic dishes elevated by solid culinary technique and visual artistry.
In late summer, those included tender puffs of Parisian gnocchi, crafted of pâte à chou dough, partnering Dungeness crab and corn in a butter-rich, tarragon-spiked broth. Instead of pork rinds, the deep fryer yielded lemon-kissed squash blossoms of astonishing weightlessness.
Lemon, dill and tarragon reverberate in a towering salad of bitter greens and albacore tuna confit. More Green Strumpet than Green Goddess, the audacious dressing suited the rich fish as well as the acerbic bite of Belgian endive, radicchio and radish.
In autumn compositions involving fungi, alliums, nuts and grains, vegetables become eye-candy.
Orange and ocher squash, both diced and puréed, join pickled prunes and hazelnuts to raise butter-basted chicken and dumplings out of the ordinary. So does the sweet and savory sophistication of the sage-and-prune mousse that stuffs the boneless breast and thigh. The dumpling was a tad lackluster, but a useful mop for the wonderful pan juices.
A lacy cap of oven-crisped Parmigiano-Reggiano counters the near custard-like consistency of mushroom bread pudding, a "meaty," meatless ensemble surrounded by cannellini beans and spinach in a robust onion-and-mushroom ragout.
If cold-weather cravings tilt you toward excess, try the poached duck egg nesting among tiny lentils, chanterelles and crisp bacon lardons, flanked by a crusty ridge of fried-in-duck-fat rosti potatoes. Or classic wine-braised beef cheeks, richer than rib-eye, suppler than tenderloin, served with a burly mélange of farro, chard, black trumpet mushrooms and red grapes.
Just as he does in the dramatic mixed-media canvasses that adorn La Bête's walls, Dimitrijevic displays his flamboyant imagination in desserts. With its vibrant fruit and vivid hues, quince and apple tart tatin captures autumn precisely.
Parsnips sweeten a cup of spicy hot chocolate, even bolstering its swirl of smoked-paprika-sprinkled whipped cream. It's meant for dunking cinnamon-dusted churros. Sexy? You bet. Delicious? Uh-huh.
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
Furniture & home furnishings
POST A FREE LISTING