Big Seattle dining news: The Four Seasons is getting an Ethan Stowell restaurant, with mkt.'s great Joe Ritchie as chef.
Major Seattle dining news: Ethan Stowell is taking over the restaurant at Seattle’s Four Seasons, and Joe Ritchie, currently at Stowell’s tiny mkt. near Green Lake, will be the chef. This represents a triumphant return to downtown for Stowell, as the big, posh space at the Four Seasons is kitty-corner from what used to be Union, his big, posh, critically acclaimed first restaurant.
The name isn’t set yet — team Stowell and the Four Seasons are collaborating on that — but the space formerly known as ART Restaurant & Lounge is undergoing a redesign, with the end results to include lots of natural wood, more light and airiness. Union will be part of the inspiration, Stowell says, but only part. It’ll have “a little bit more of an upscale-tavern-type feel,” he says, “less of this kind of stuffy hotel-bar feeling it has now.”
“It’s the Four Seasons, so it’ll definitely be swanky,” he says, “but more fun.”
“The idea is that you kind of smash Union, mkt. and Staple & Fancy all together,” Stowell elaborated. For newcomers, Stowell’s deluxe Union closed in 2010 after seven years, with Stowell calling the decision to concentrate on his neighborhood places (three, at that time) over fine dining “bittersweet.” (Um, call the new place “Reunion”? No, don’t.)
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With the new Four Seasons restaurant, Stowell says he’ll unite the “fun vibe” of Staple & Fancy, the regional/seasonal food of mkt. and “a little bit of that sophisticated feel” from Union.
This might seem to represent a sudden and vertiginous elevation for chef Joe Ritchie, who’ll be going from 30 seats at mkt. to 150 at the Four Seasons. But his work at mkt. (pronounced “market”) in Tangletown has been praised pretty much right, left and sideways (Providence Cicero heaped love on it when it opened, and so did I), and Ritchie has previously worked with the great Jerry Traunfeld at both the Herbfarm and Poppy.
Stowell will be in the kitchen with Ritchie at the outset, a prospect he sounds pleased about. “Our team will be spending a fair amount of time at First and Union again!” Stowell said.
ART Restaurant & Lounge got noticed when it opened in 2008 with chef Kerry Sear of Belltown’s haute, excellent Cascadia, but it failed to live up to expectations and had receded in the public mind/stomach since. Sear departed in 2014 to become food and beverage director for TCS World Travel, the Four Seasons’ private jet program — which, from the looks of his Twitter, seems like a pretty sweet gig. Current ART chef Jelle Vandenbroucke is being transferred to an East Coast Four Seasons property.
Ethan Stowell, as you may know, owns some restaurants in Seattle (and has at least one more in the hopper besides the Four Seasons project). He was named a 2008 Best New Chef by Food & Wine, then a F&W Best New Chef All-Star in 2013. He’s been a finalist for the James Beard Best Chef Northwest award five times, between 2008 and 2014 — last year, he joked that he wasn’t surprised to be nominated because “it seems like it’s kind of my thing.” This year, having apparently paid his dues in that category, he graduated to the semifinals for Outstanding Restaurateur (but, sadly, Seattle got cut out of all nationwide categories in yesterday’s announcement of the finalists).
The grand opening for the as-yet-unnamed Four Seasons Restaurant is planned for “May-ish,” Stowell says.