After years in some of the country’s (and Seattle’s) best kitchens, chef Edouardo Jordan opens his own spot.
My attention was riveted by the deep-fried duck leg confit on my first visit to Salare, chef Edouardo Jordan’s new Ravenna restaurant. It wasn’t just the perfect melding of crackling skin and compliant flesh. I loved the sassy accompaniments: spicy collards, sweet grilled apricots, and a dab of duck-liver mousse hidden beneath nutty quinoa.
In an article on where to eat in Seattle, Oregonian restaurant critic Michael Russell singles out Salare’s duck leg confit as “the best bite of the weekend.” He goes on to say, “Salare will be loved locally, but I suspect the restaurant that puts Jordan on the national map will be his next one.” With all due respect to my esteemed colleague from Stumptown, I disagree. Salare is a breakout restaurant, and Jordan’s moment is now.
Salmon rillettes with squash blossoms $9
Summer melon with smoke honey ricotta $14
Oxtail with corzetti $19
Halibut with pepperoncini and pikliz $28
This chef’s star has been on the rise for some time. The 35-year-old Florida native apprenticed at The French Laundry and Per Se, cooked under Jonathan Benno at Lincoln Ristorante in New York, and with Jerry Traunfeld at The Herbfarm. He broke from the pack in Seattle when Matt Dillon let him loose at Sitka & Spruce, then made him chef de cuisine at Bar Sajor.
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You can find traces of all those influences in Jordan’s cooking at Salare: in the array of cured meats and subtle terrines arranged on a wooden stave with dainty pickled vegetables and savory house-made crackers; in corzetti pasta medallions stamped with the restaurant’s logo; and in his predilection for little-known ingredients like Grains of Paradise or pikliz. Also evident is the sway of the Southern food he grew up on in St. Petersburg. Food was central to family life. “My grandmother was always cooking,” Jordan says. “She still does.”
He’s channeling both grandma and Thomas Keller when he tucks smoked salmon rillettes into squash blossoms, dredges them in a rice-flour slurry and drops them into the deep fryer. Presented with caper-rife rémoulade, the dish is a contender for my best bite of the year.
When he sprinkles Grains of Paradise, a pungent West African spice, over ripe melon and smoky, honey-sweetened ricotta, the result is a sizzling taste of summer that could almost be dessert. (Cinnamon poached peaches and yogurt panna cotta dusted with pimenton actually is a dessert, a riff on an Eton Mess, with crunchy shards of white chocolate meringue and dehydrated milk crumbles.)
Halibut, so often stodgy, is given similar razzle-dazzle treatment. Speckled with dried shrimp powder, the ivory fish is served over sweet creamed corn surrounded by red and yellow pepperoncini, purple-streaked Dragon Tongue beans, and pikliz, a habañero-laced, Caribbean-style pickled cabbage.
Sea beans and shishito peppers spark buttery, briny shellfish fettuccine. Last month it was clams and mussels, this month, clams and geoduck. The corzetti cozy up with soft, sweet carrots and even softer morsels of braised oxtail, with slivered, sugar snap peas delivering a crisp surprise. This is soul food at once elegant and elemental.
The corzetti resemble pliant sand dollars. The die used to stamp them came from a family in Parma, where Jordan went on a salumi-making sojourn. The butcher’s repeated instructions to salt and season (“salare, salare”) ultimately inspired the restaurant’s name.
2404 N.E. 65th St., Seattle
Hours: dinner 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday (brunch coming in September)
Prices: $$$ (small and large plates $5-$28)
Drinks: full bar; original cocktails; worldly wine list
Service: thoughtful and perceptive
Parking: on street
Who should go: neighborhood gathering place for families, friends and the food-obsessed
Credit cards: Visa, MC
Access: no obstacles
Charcuterie boards come in three sizes, and the composition is up to the chef. There were no cured meats on the one I sampled because, I later learned, charcuterie has been so popular the barely 3-month-old restaurant has run out of salami, coppa and guanciale. Those take time to make. More are in the works.
But I hardly felt deprived. A medium-sized array, bountiful for two, included luxurious head cheese and three different pork terrines, each notably different in taste and texture; a chicken terrine with orange, coriander and Castelvetrano olives; and lardo two ways, whipped and sliced.
Salare is a hot spot in an otherwise sleepy neighborhood. Ravenna appealed to Jordan partly for its lack of trendiness. He envisioned his restaurant as a neighborhood gathering place, one where families would feel welcome (Jordan has a toddler), where cocktails are made with care, and the food “challenges the cooks and guests alike.”
The country-chic décor is suitably casual. Tables line up against broad windows in the main dining room, where there is also a bar and a 14-seat communal table. A more intimate rear dining room has a six-seat chef’s counter and a handful of tables amid shelves filled with cookbooks.
Sit back there and you may overhear Jordan bark orders like a benevolent drill sergeant. The kitchen choreography has become more adroit over the first few months. Service is smart and thoughtful.
“People here have been traveling to other neighborhoods to eat like this,” he says. Now they don’t have to. Now people come from other neighborhoods to eat in Ravenna, some of them from as far away as Portland.