Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, the chef-owners behind Joule and Revel, like to turn tradition on its head. Their latest enterprise is Trove, a quadruplex of eat-and-drinkeries that fills nearly 4,000 square feet overlooking the corner of Summit and East Pike. It’s a little like Joule, a little like Revel, and a whole lot of fun.
A food truck embedded by the front door dispenses quirky frozen custard parfaits from a takeout window. The truck’s front protrudes into a noodle bar, where folks straddle counter stools for some quick carb-loading at lunch or dinner. Come evening, those wok-tossed noodle combos provide ballast for imbibers in the snug cocktail lounge just beyond. But most of Trove’s acreage is devoted to the dinner-only Korean barbecue restaurant that occupies the way back.
There you can sit communally or commune with the cooks across a butcher block counter, but the coveted spots are at broad tables equipped with gas grills where customers indulge in DIY barbecue. (Reservations for grill tables are available to parties of four or more, so couples will have to try their luck as walk-ins.)
The kitchen preps, preseasons or marinates the raw ingredients with a variety of herbs and spices. Several cuts of beef and pork, shrimp, eggplant and shiitake mushrooms are among the choices. Servers supply tongs (long ones for handling raw food, short ones for cooked food) and kitchen shears for cutting.
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You’ll want to order banchan ($6) to nibble with the barbecue, and ssam ($3), lettuce leaves, shiso and sheets of pickled daikon, to wrap it. Traditional Korean restaurants include these accouterments in the price; here everything is a la carte, but the quality of the ingredients is very high. One banchan assortment included Brussels sprout kimchi with tart green apple, sunchokes roasted with jalapeño, and crisp pickled vegetables with whole garlic cloves.
A trio of house-made condiments comes gratis with any grilled meat: pungent ssamjang (chili and bean paste sauce), seasoned sesame oil, and a wonderfully nuanced steak sauce blending hoisin, tamarind, ginger, anchovy, brown sugar and more.
Table-grilling is fun, but you can also let the pros do the cooking, a better idea, I concluded. The fresh coppa (pork neck slathered with sweet chili oil) I grilled was good, but lacked the diamond-patterned grill marks and alluring char of the kitchen’s far superior effort.
The kitchen, led by chef de cuisine Mark Schroder, shows off its grill skills in other main dishes. Incredibly tender smoked brisket bristled with Szechuan pepper and grated horseradish. Rockfish happily hobnobbed with Chinese-style salted black beans and lemon. Mushroom XO sauce put an umami spin on charred long beans with crushed peanuts.
For an auspicious beginning try the refreshingly briny miso-dressed kale salad with white beans and bits of octopus, or sautéed Swiss chard in a bracing vinaigrette balanced with hazelnut pesto.
This menu’s guiltiest pleasure may be trotter tots, deep-fried pork bonbons embellished with hot pickled peppers, celery leaves and a “fry sauce” reminiscent of Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise.
When it comes to indulgence, the parfaits run a close second. After so many salty, sweet, sour, smoky, searing flavors have laid siege to your tongue, these layered frozen custard desserts are a chill thrill. The “old school” Snickers was just my speed: chocolate custard with peanuts in caramel sauce, chewy chunks of peanut butter nougat and dark chocolate sauce. But the “new school” Banana Split — vanilla custard with passion fruit tapioca, crunchy rice cookie and chili-chocolate sauce — had its charms. (Plus they come in cute glass jars you get to keep.)
Just as inventive are the noodles, served in disposable bowls on quarter sheet pans lined with parchment. The roster changes every few weeks. I enjoyed pepper-speckled pappardelle laced with leek, endive and honshimeji mushrooms in a butter-rich sauce of sake, mirin and miso, as much as cilantro-sauced fennel noodles with spinach, clams, sausage and Szechuan pepper-spiked breadcrumbs.
The vibe at Trove (like the music) is youthful and energetic, but the customers aren’t all Gen X and Gen Y. I saw plenty of tong-wielding boomers at grill tables, knocking back beers and demolishing a “baller,” the $100 meat tower.
One night, standing by the communal sinks in the restroom, waiting for one of the unisex stalls to become vacant, I exchanged glances with a middle-aged woman. “Different,” she said brightly. It wasn’t clear if she meant the restroom or the restaurant, but either way, I had to agree.
Providence Cicero is The Seattle Times restaurant critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org