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Saturday, July 14, 2012 - Page updated at 05:00 a.m.
At 35th Street Kitchen + Bar, new bar menu complements fine bistro fare
By PROVIDENCE CICERO
Special to The Seattle Times
A ficus tree grows in Fremont inside a restaurant familiar to many, even though the name, the proprietors and the chefs have often changed over the decades. I wonder how many of the middle-aged patrons currently quaffing Manhattans were, in a different century, hanging out here with a good book and a cup of java when the place was known as Still Life in Fremont Coffeehouse.
Still Life eventually became 35th Street Bistro. After a recent remodel expanded the bar and lounge area, the name was tweaked once again to 35th Street Kitchen + Bar. The transformation from coffee klatch to cocktail klatch is complete; signage is expected to catch up soon.
The spreading ficus still commands center stage in a room painted slate gray with accent colors drawn from nature. Comfortable Parsons chairs flank each table, some white-clothed, others not. Fringed pillows line the banquette at the base of the front window, a wall of large-paned glass that reaches the ceiling and welcomes the northern light.
The bar feels more spacious and the new lounge is a secluded nook framed with curtains and furnished with a mix of curvy chairs, settees and sofas. It looks a little like a Bedouin tent, if the Bedouins had shopped at Pottery Barn.
To go with the new lounge, chef de cuisine Tyler Chamberlin created a lounge menu that offers just the sort of nibbles drinkers crave: salt, fat, carbs and fried stuff. A bowl of Beecher's cheese curds with cornichons, both cheese and pickles beer-battered and deep-fried, touches all those bases then scores in a sweet-hot blur of pepper jelly that glitters red, yellow and green like a slurry of gemstones.
The brioche sliders all sound tempting. Croque Monsieur squirted excess béchamel sauce at first bite, while the BLT cried out for more aioli, but the Brie and veggie version achieved just the right alignment of grilled zucchini and onions, roasted Roma tomato and kalamata aioli.
Apple-cherry chutney was an ideal sweet-tart foil for duck Wellington, a variation on the pastry-wrapped beef classic with soft, savory confit encased in a buttery chrysalis of puff pastry.
Mac and cheese varies from day to day. The one I encountered (and hope to meet again) had cremini mushrooms and chicken confit in a very Gruyere sauce that clung to ridged quills of penne pasta.
You must be sitting in the bar or lounge to order from the lounge menu after 5 p.m., but fortunately the mac and cheese is also on the dinner menu, a roster of French-inclined bistro fare that is cooked with care, seasoned with confidence and plated beautifully.
Garlicky red-pepper broth and spicy microgreens invigorate pearls of fregola pasta and steamed Manila clams lined up in an elegant trough-like bowl. Orange-kissed arugula salad pops with fresh cherries, pickled onion and crisp duck confit. A gorgeous hunk of house-smoked wild salmon puts a Northwest stamp on salad Nicoise.
Pan-fried trout wore a light herb-and-breadcrumb crust. Slivered almonds above and haricots verts below echoed its delicate crunch; lemon-kissed quinoa balanced the nutty richness of its brown butter sauce.
Whole mustard seeds and green peppercorns mingled in a kicky brown sauce for "Steak Robert," pan-seared Painted Hills sirloin joined by sliced fingerlings crisped in duck fat.
Both the trout and the steak are available in a three-course, $33 prix-fixe menu that's worth considering, along with the optional wine pairings. The price includes a starter and a cheese course or dessert.
Pastry chef and owner Michelle Citarello crafts warm beignets and wicked chocolate pot de crème. She also bakes brioche for French toast, a weekend brunch delight topped with whipped mascarpone cream and strawberry jam. You could bring a good book, order coffee and almost have déjà vu all over again.
Smiles are the rule among the staff, who all seem to be natural nurturers. I was halfway up the block when the hostess came running after me, waving the glasses I had left on the table. That's service, not only with a smile but a sprint.
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
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