Garrett Melkonian will be the chef at return-to-glamour Circadia, longtime steak favorite El Gaucho Seattle ends tipping, exciting news from Shaker + Spear, and more.

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1. LUXURY RESTAURANT CIRCADIA BOUND FOR DOWNTOWN: Bucking the everything’s-casual trend to bring a little glamour back to Seattle fine dining, sommelier Jake Kosseff and partner Jeanie Inglis plan to open a posh new place called Circadia this summer. The chef will be Garrett Melkonian, a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef Northwest at Mamnoon before his departure from there last year.

Melkonian describes Circadia’s menu approach as “one of refinement, whimsy and elegance,” and muses: “Luxury can be the amount of space you’re given between the table next to you or the way a carrot is treated. Is a carrot not capable of being luxurious?” But there’ll be more than luxe carrots, with some initial ideas including “raw giant scallops shaved tableside into boiling wild mushroom consommé, with argan oil, burdock root and rau ram”; spot prawn thermidor with cognac sabayon; and a côte de boeuf with eggplant/shiitake mushroom sofrito and oyster-and-parsley purée.

The restaurant will seek to “make guests feel like celebrities,” according to Kosseff, with a polished feel, spacious booths, a capacious bar, multiple levels, and careful attention to flow and sightlines. His previous experience includes Cascadia, Campagne, Wild Ginger and, as a partner, Miller’s Guild.

The future home of Circadia is at Seventh and Olive downtown, formerly home to Vessel and, long before, the original location of now-posh-in-Belltown El Gaucho (see below). Will there be tipping or a service charge? Kosseff says he’ll “let the team decide.”

2. EL GAUCHO SEATTLE ENDS TIPPING: The longtime Seattle steakhouse is the latest local restaurant to end tipping, with plans to institute a 20 percent service charge starting March 21 at the Belltown location and its waterfront sister, Aqua by El Gaucho. People are going nuts in comments, but we can expect more of the same — particularly in light of this federal appeals court ruling on tip-pooling.

Carolynn Spence, the new chef at Shaker + Spear, does not believe in the Seattle Freeze. (Courtesy Shaker + Spear)
Carolynn Spence, the new chef at Shaker + Spear, does not believe in the Seattle Freeze. (Courtesy Shaker + Spear)

3. SHAKER + SPEAR EXCITEMENT: After just over a year, Belltown’s Shaker + Spear has netted a great-sounding new chef: Carolynn Spence from L.A.’s Chateau Marmont, and, prior to that, New York’s The Spotted Pig and assorted other impressive places. She’s already launched new menus, and she says she loves it here: “the rain and fresh, clean air” (after L.A.’s smog and oppressive sunshine); the “super-creative and inspired” culinary scene (yes!); and the “super warm and friendly” people (take that, Seattle-Freeze-believers).

4. ANOTHER CHOP SHOP CHEF SHIFT: After less than six months, chef Zach Chambers has left Capitol Hill’s Chop Shop, closed his inside-Bar-Sue sandwich place Atta Boy and moved to L.A. The new chef at Chop Shop: owner Ericka Burke (who also runs Volunteer Park Cafe and, prior to that, was the chef at Carmelita). Chop Shop’s opening chef last summer, Joseph Bollag, was on staff for just two months.

5. TASTE SAM NEWS: You know it’s time to close your restaurant when… you close your restaurant and no one notices. TASTE at the Seattle Art Museum closed in January. A spokesperson says they’re currently renovating and “moving to a more casual concept,” with grab-and-go already available.

BRAND-NEW RESTAURANTS:

  • Marine Hardware in Ballard: Ethan Stowell’s replacement for Chippy’s, with the man himself sometimes cooking
  • Citizen Six in Interbay: a sibling of lower Queen Anne’s Citizen, with drinks from neighboring Six Spirits and Number 6 Cider
  • Meander’s Kitchen in West Seattle: the prodigal diner returns
  • Great State Burger in Laurelhurst: the second edition of Josh Henderson’s burger joint, next to his also-brand-new Saint Helens
  • MeeKong Bar in Belltown: pho and banh mi burgers in the former Twisted Pasty spot
  • Nuna Ramen in Fremont: ramen, rice bowls, and a banh mi burger (trend?!)

FOOD EVENTS: Dine Around Seattle starts (again) on Sunday (my quick picks: Girin and Seven Beef for new places; Anchovies & Olives, Cafe Lago, Cantinetta, Lecosho, Monsoon, Poppy, and Volterra for old favorites). It’s also Girl Scout Cookie season (through March 20). And here are more ways to amuse your bouche.