Seattle's Best New Restaurants of 2017
It’s time to crawl out from underneath the avalanche of poke bars that opened in Seattle this year, blink your eyes into the sunshine, and gaze upon all the glorious gems that 2017 produced. Some spots found a super tiny niche and filled it with brilliant craftsmanship in the form of hummus or soba noodles, others took a tried-and-true formula, like the tiki bar or ramen shop, and found new ways to improve, while still more took risks and opened the kind of restaurants that exist nowhere else in the city -- or world. So forgo the poke for now and head out to one of 2017’s best additions to the Seattle restaurant scene.
A blend of Southern cuisine and French technique with mounds of hospitality
The national food media seem to have picked up on Edouardo Jordan of Salare’s second spot far more quickly than locals, which could explain why the line is occasionally not out the door for his personal blend of homestyle Southern cuisine, French fine-dining technique, and Northwest-grown ingredients. Jordan’s food, from flips (playful Dixie cup dessert of his childhood) to composed salads with black walnuts and smoked shallots, shows off his skills and tells the story of his Florida upbringing -- and Seattle adulthood -- without sacrificing flavor. The menu includes all sorts of cuisines, from well-executed classics, like buttermilk biscuits to innovations like Georgia candy squash with clabber cheese. And all of it is served with the kind of Southern hospitality that would make Jordan’s grandmother proud. Read more about why Thrillist chose Junebaby as one of the Prime 13 best new restaurants of 2017.
French cooking techniques marry Japanese dishes, all with local ingredients
Note: We know Iconiq is temporarily closed, but felt it was good enough to include... if only to reflect on
Within seconds of stepping into this Japanese-style room perched high above the city, any qualms over the weird portmanteau of a name (it’s a combination of iconic and unique) melt away into the panoramic view of Downtown. It’s the kind of vista that gives lesser restaurants the latitude to slack off on the food, but here the kitchen takes the refinement of French cooking and marries it to Japanese dishes and local ingredients. The small menu includes a white miso clam chowder with daikon, a salmon crepe with wasabi cream, and foie gras risotto. The dishes look like works of art, but come at a price that doesn’t require anyone to sell a Renoir, which gives it a surprisingly neighborhood feel for a place offering amuse bouches and iberico ham shabu-shabu.
Meat-focused menu that demands a reservation in advance
Barely bigger than a shoebox, this former sandwich shop took a turn for the meaty. Former Trove chef de cuisine Mark Schroder transformed the small space into a live-fire temple to all things animal (plus a few fermented or pickled). He brings over some of the East Asian influences of his former employer with a crispy rice salad, chickpea miso aioli, and kasu “risotto,” but the centerpiece to most tables -- and to the signature $50 a person tasting menu (the Opus Feast) -- is more fleshed out (pun intended). Bonito-rubbed lamb leg, a half-chicken with vinegar caramel, and even local Neah Bay salmon keep the tables turning in the tiny restaurant. While reservations are hard to come by (book way ahead if you want one), the handful of stools at the chef’s counter are the best seats in the house anyway.
Israeli restaurant serving amazing hummus and pita
America is slowly emerging from its dark ages of hummus, realizing that it can be so much more than mealy hippie food or an obligatory vegan appetizer. This Israeli-style spot, full of young tech workers chattering away in Hebrew and Jewish grandmothers doting on babies, serves up the kind of silky smooth, freshly made hummus you find in Tel Aviv: whipped up, topped, and fragrant with great olive oil. The fluffy, warm pita bread is a far cry from the dry pockets sold at grocery stores and the crisp outsides of the falafel yield to tender insides like the finest Southern hush puppies. The cute, 100% Instagram-friendly interior (the wall mural declares “hummus where the heart is”) dotted with brightly colored seating is as friendly as the servers, and the cooks happily kibbitz with customers at the bar from the open kitchen. And while the hummus may be the star, the unsung show-stopper here just might be the pickles that come with every bowl.
Japanese noodle spot (and more) with a heavy sake menu
When Mutsuko Soma left her chef position at Miyabi 45th, a small, in-the-know community of noodle lovers mourned the end of easy access to her handmade soba noodles. Now they can dry their tears, as her delicate buckwheat strands have reemerged, revitalized, at her own shop. Squished into the corner space previously occupied by Art of the Table, revamped with Japanese-themed décor, Soma’s new spot serves the same soba people knew and loved, along with the noodles’ usual partner, tempura. Natto-stuffed eggplant, beef tongue, and shiso leaf topped with uni all take a dip in the fryer. But the menu’s greatest gem at the cozy spot is neither noodle nor tempura, but the foie gras tofu with sake-poached shrimp on the appetizer menu. Really, though, it’s hard to go wrong -- especially when washing down dinner with something from the carefully curated sake menu.
Reimagined tiki bar with all the fun, none of the kitsch
Tiki might be inherently retro, but barmasters Chris and Anu Elford (Rob Roy, No Anchor) somehow manage to give it an elegant, updated take that includes plenty of sky blue paint and rum-soaked liquid sunshine. The sprawling space leans toward mid-century modern, but also features old trunks as tables and the same metal bar stools (in very nautical colors) found all over. The drinks menu, split between “Tiki” and “Travel” sections, offers a little more insight into what they’re doing: incorporating the fun of the genre with far less of the kitsch. That means the pupu platter on chef Jeffrey Vance’s menu has been replaced with beef heart tartare featuring yolk jam, a fish sauce Caesar studded with pretzel croutons, and passionfruit and black pepper granita garnished Kumamoto oysters. While the bar serves up “snacks and daiqs” at happy hour and mai tais into the evening, the attached coffee and juice bar serves all ages, all day, with drinks like a nitro cold brew dark & stormy and a frozen matcha, mint, pineapple, and lime juice called Roadtrip to Somewhere.
Delicious Japanese ramen spot that never uses MSG or milk in their bowls
Paper signs taped along the counter at this straight-outta-Hakata ramen-ya announce to customers that not only does the broth not use MSG (a common concern) but that it is made without milk. Once you dig into the bowl of thin noodles, sliced pork, and raw scallions, the milk comment makes sense, as the impossibly creamy broth seems as if it really must contain dairy. This aforementioned magical broth, made exclusively from pork bones, is the only base available as a traditional or a prawn miso ramen in this tiny hallway of a restaurant. Condiments like garlic, soy sauce, and chili paste sit on the table, but the only accompaniment this soup needs is cold beer from the selection of imported bottles. Open late and consistently packed, it expects diners to eat just as in Japan: sit down, slurp up, and scram.
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