This Queen Anne newcomer is “provocative, but approachable, and consistently delicious.”
Eden Hill is full of surprises. Just to name a few from the menu: kettle corn Brussels sprouts, Buffalo-style sweetbreads and crispy pig head candy bar.
Opened last September in the tiny Queen Anne storefront that ever so briefly housed Entre Amis, Eden Hill has 27-year-old Maximillian Petty at the helm. He has a talent for pairing unlikely flavors in ways that work. He also has no trouble accessing his inner child. For proof, try the foie gras cake batter dessert he calls “Lick the Bowl” and do as instructed with the spatula provided.
Or just ask his wife. Jennifer Petty is a psychotherapist by day, and thus uniquely suited to her night job as hostess and sometime bartender at Eden Hill. One Saturday night, she mixed me a mean cocktail, using house-infused black pepper gin, sweet vermouth and a nasturtium leaf, and we indulged in a little girl talk.
Eden Hill ★★★
2209 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle
Reservations: recommended (bar seating reserved for walk-ins)
Hours: dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Prices: $$$ (plates $5-$23; five-course chef’s tasting menu $65-$75; wine pairing $30)
Drinks: cocktails, wine, beer, cider
Service: warm and obliging
Parking: on street
Who should go: Cuisinomanes
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles
She hails from Tri-Cities. Her husband spent his formative years in Bothell and Port Angeles. They met in Eugene, where she went to the university and he attended culinary school. Their first child is due in June.
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Later, in a phone interview, Max filled in the blanks. At 15, he started working in his sister’s restaurant on the peninsula. On a whim he moved to Eugene, where it was pretty much love at first sight with Jennifer, who urged him to attend culinary school. He cooked at King Estate Winery restaurant, eventually running their charcuterie program. When she got a job offer in Texas, he followed. By age 23, he was chef de cuisine at Olivia in Austin.
Petty cops to a fondness for sweets — honey is an obsession — but he’s careful to balance it with sour, salty, bitter or spicy. Consider those kettle corn Brussels sprouts, for example. Caramel sauce mitigates the vegetable’s bitterness; a slice of house-cured ham provides smoky-sweet counterpoint.
He does something similar with seared monkfish tail, partnering the firm-fleshed fish with finely diced celeriac and apple, speckled with mustard seed. Strips of shoulder bacon, along with dots and dashes of black garlic and anchovy caramel completed the dish.
Lavender honey rounded the rough edges of a jalapeño hot sauce for cauliflower “chilaquiles.” The florets, almost creamy inside their light, brittle casing, nestled among fermented cabbage and dollops of manchego crema.
Char siu quail, sticky-sweet and savory in a Saskatoon berry glaze, were presented on a piece of black slate, the centerpiece of a lively landscape that included tangy yogurt and lime confit, balsamic-marinated berries and grilled cucumber.
Petty’s food is provocative, but approachable, and consistently delicious. I challenge anyone who shies away from veal sweetbreads to try his version, a witty remake of Buffalo wings that would be a hit at any halftime buffet. Blue cheese espuma and black pepper aioli modulate the heat of these crunchy nuggets, arranged on an oak platter amid cucumber curls, pea vines, watermelon radish rounds and flower petals.
My dinner date was dubious about the crispy pig head candy bar, essentially a log of compressed head cheese and fermented black beans that is breaded and deep-fried. We ended up vying for the final bites, and the last frothy drop of the cinnamon-spiced pear and Champagne sauce that so well complemented the meat.
Petty’s intention was “to shake things up, to do something new and fun,” he says. “I knew on Queen Anne I wasn’t going to get just tourists. I wanted to challenge the notion of a neighborhood restaurant.”
Kettle corn Brussels sprouts $12
Cauliflower “chilaquiles” $13
Crispy pig head candy bar $14
Buffalo-style veal sweetbreads $17
Char siu quail $18
He lists about a dozen items on his regular menu. In addition, he offers a five-course blind tasting menu. Roughly 80 percent of diners go for it, which both shocks and pleases him. One foursome has a standing reservation every Thursday; they get a different menu each week. Petty roughs out ideas on Monday, after calling key suppliers, and edits them as the week goes along. With just 26 seats, the restaurant is small enough that Petty can personalize the guest experience. Often he’ll bring dishes to the table himself.
My tasting menu began with a glass of prosecco and an amuse-bouche — a bite-size Pavlova of beet and satsuma shaped like a Hershey’s kiss, a little too sweet for an opener, I thought, despite the dab of caviar on top.
Lightly broiled Kumamoto oysters, with pickled carrot, celeriac and dill enhancing their briny liqueur, quickly got things back on track. Dainty goat cheese spaetzle with pine nuts and three kinds of wild mushrooms followed, smothered in a gossamer sauce of goat cheese, artichoke and leek.
A plump Alaskan weather vane scallop perched on perfect risotto drizzled with shallot gastrique, a sweet-and-sour sauce bolstered with black garlic and saffron. The Domaine de l’Hermas vermentino-roussanne blend selected to go with it was both unusual and an especially good match, but all the wine pairings were well chosen.
I had asked to incorporate the sweetbreads and the quail from the regular menu into the tasting, and the kitchen obliged. Dessert was an affogato of sorts: lavender ice cream with salted caramel sauce and whipped crème fraîche. The final surprise: instead of a shot of espresso, the server brought an ampul of 20-year-old port to pour over the top.