Some restaurants go to great lengths to create a mood; others are more like a mood ring: The vibe changes with the seasons, the hours, even the customers. Supreme, in the heart...

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Some restaurants go to great lengths to create a mood; others are more like a mood ring: The vibe changes with the seasons, the hours, even the customers.


Supreme, in the heart of Madrona’s restaurant row, is the latter. Its charm lies largely in the eye of the beholder and your experience may depend on whether you arrive in sync with the ambiance of the moment.


Will you find a hip urban boîte with couples leisurely sipping brandy sidecars out of sugar-rimmed cocktail glasses or communing over a cheese plate and a bottle of chewy French syrah? Or will you walk in on a rollicking scene where adroit servers might seem a little brusque because they are so busy hustling food and drink to several large parties?


Either way, you are certain to find something pleasing on the brief roster of contemporary American comfort food, be it steaks or burgers made with naturally raised beef, organic vegetable salads, free-range chicken or artisan cheese.


A vast landscape by Whiting Tennis — acres of prairie land dotted with barns; birds winging into an endless azure sky — dominates two walls of the restaurant, creating a dispassionate backdrop for any number of small dramas to unfold.














Supreme


1404 34th Ave., Seattle; 206-322-1974, www.supremerestaurant.com


American


$$


**½


Reservations: accepted.


Hours: dinner 5:30- 10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5:30- 11 p.m. Fridays- Saturdays; brunch 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays.


Prices: appetizers/small plates $4-$10; entrees $10-$21; brunch $4-$12.


Wine: Short, smart, eclectic and international, the list includes several dessert wines; discount program offered Wednesday nights.


Parking: on street.


Sound: ramps up to a gentle roar when crowded.


Full bar / major credit cards / no obstacles to access / no smoking.


Who should go: Those willing to adapt to the vibe du jour, be it loud or laid-back; children are welcome.



Furnishings are stylish but neutral. Metal chairs flank a bar built of concrete and resin. Blond wood tabletops, set with cobalt candleholders and silver salt-and-pepper mills, gleam in a pool of halogen light. Celadon velvet cushions line the front window booths, and the bench seats underneath those amber waves of grain, providing a welcome touch of plush, as well as something — besides your ears — to absorb the din that bounces from concrete floor to exposed ductwork when the occupancy rate climbs.


Against such a bucolic backdrop, the industrial-chic design seems intentionally incongruous — a juxtaposition aimed less to soothe the senses than to keep them on edge. Chef Joel Lewis does just the opposite with his food, shooting for comfort first, but infusing his menus with enough style and creativity to keep things interesting.


Lewis joined Supreme in July, brought aboard by new owner Gordon Kushnick, who acquired the nearly 4-year-old restaurant from founder Tova Cubert in March.


The chef has pledged allegiance to local farmers, fresh herbs (many of which he grows himself) and to vegetarian entrees that go beyond the norm.


This commitment is largely met by opulent, vegetable-packed salads and by such entrees as organic squash risotto ($15), blue-corn-and-smoked-mozzarella cakes topped with wild mushrooms ($13) and free-range chicken confit ($16/special).


The risotto is cooked close to perfect: creamy with some bite to the grains, buttery, peppery and pale orange with bits of squash. Brilliant green beet leaves garnish the top and for a $6 surcharge you can add a handful of sweet, golden scallops, gently seared in butter and spritzed with lemon.


Greens prettify a plate of delicious if drab corn cakes buried under enough mushrooms to satisfy the most ardent fungi-phile. Smoky, creamy and full of corn flavor, these soft pillows want only a crisper exterior to withstand the avalanche of chanterelles, oysters, lobsters and shiitakes sautéed in wine and butter.


The chicken-leg confit doesn’t lack for crispness but, beneath the crackling skin, the flesh is a mite dry. Never mind: Herby lentils and a gaggle of tiny vegetables — Brussels sprouts, turnips, yellow and orange carrots — provide excellent diversion.


Those multihued carrots, along with fennel and zucchini, turn up in garden frites ($8), an irresistible bouquet of battered-and-fried tempura-style vegetables wrapped in a paper cone and destined for dunking in herbed aioli.


Hand-cut pomme frites are another must-have munchie. These slender, skin-on fries can be had solo ($3) or with a burger made of beef ($10) or lamb ($12).


The latter, a zesty patty mated with balsamic-glazed onions and feta, requires a knife and fork, precariously sandwiched as it is between toasted slices of bread that can’t quite contain the juicy contents.


Desserts achieve a high comfort quotient as well, especially rum raisin ice cream melting into a warm persimmon-studded pear cobbler and vanilla-laced lemon “semifreddo,” a silky-textured frozen custard that is the dessert equivalent of mink.


Supreme impressed me most at Sunday brunch when you could actually hear the jazz and blues that drifted from the sound system. Seated in one of the window booths, my husband monitored the Seahawks on the TV in the bar while I observed the traffic patterns outside — planes approaching SeaTac and pedestrians heading toward the packed Hi-Spot Café down the block, then back again to consider Supreme’s menu and its largely vacant dining room.


I wanted to rap on the window and say: “Hey, I know it looks like a swept-out barn in here, but you wouldn’t believe these pancakes ($6), a stack of three, big as a dinner plate, lofty and light with quince butter melting on top. And look at these blintzes ($5), thin crepes stuffed with warm fruit compote and sweetened, whipped ricotta cheese you could almost mistake for cream.


“Check out these scrambled eggs: loaded with chorizo, onion and chili peppers ($9) and still fluffy! Terrific hash browns come with almost everything, but if they don’t, a side order is two bucks. The bacon is thick; the toast thicker, cut from dense artisan loaves; and the coffee is by Caffé Vita. What are you waiting for?”


Providence Cicero: providencecicero@aol.com