The pairings come with varying degrees of success at this downtown joint from Consolidated Restaurants. The upshot: drink well widely; eat judiciously.
Stalked by the scent of cumin, I followed the hostess through Heartwood Provisions, past the generous curve of bar with its international trove of spirits displayed on sliding shelves, past the exposed kitchen with its wood-fueled Josper oven, to a table in the brass-railed, wood-trimmed rear dining room. The aromatics, I discovered, drifted from bowls of fried chickpeas vividly seasoned with za’atar. It’s a popular snack here, one you can’t stop nibbling, the sort that demands a drink. It’s one of the very few items on Heartwood’s menu that hasn’t been paired with one.
Food and beverage pairings drive the concept behind this inviting downtown kitchen and bar, the first new fine-dining venture in a long while from Consolidated Restaurants, parent company of Metropolitan Grill and Elliott’s Oyster House. Chef Varin Keokitvon creates the dish; Beverage Director Amanda Reed concocts the drink.
Plenty of restaurants suggest wine pairings, but here cocktails are specifically tailored to each dish — 17 in all at the moment, which is no small feat. They are smallish drinks, priced between $5 and $8, often blending spirits with wines, aperitifs, ciders, liqueurs or bitters that contribute flavor while keeping the alcohol content low. If you are sharing plates, it’s possible to share cocktails, too, provided you and your dining buddy don’t mind sipping from the same glass. Not that into spirits? Servers can provide wine suggestions from a list that draws broadly from around the globe.
Heartwood Provisions ★★
1103 First Ave., Seattle
Hours: dinner 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; bar 4 p.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday
Prices: $$$ (snacks $4-$11, plates $13-$32)
Drinks: full bar; unique cocktails tailored to every dish on the menu; international wine selections
Service: perky and alert
Parking: on street, nearby lots and garages
Who should go: cocktailians
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles
The success of this ambitious choreography depends on both partners executing their parts well. The performance here is lopsided. Cocktails routinely display dexterity and finesse; not all of the kitchen’s efforts are as agile. A few stumble badly.
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There are some Astaire-Rodgers moments. “The Original Provision,” warm, tender shards of wagyu “beef jerky” glazed with a sweet-hot chile preserve, partners with beer — Cerveza Er Boquerón Sea Salt Ale to be precise, cut with Carpano Bianco vermouth.
Oven-burnished sea scallops ride a briny, lemony wave of sprouted lentils, onions and sea beans. The paired drink combines gin, lemon, elderflower, Yzaguirre blanco (a Spanish vermouth) and Salers Gentiane (a French aperitif) — a botanical bouquet that works beautifully with the dish.
Pork belly, its crisp exterior giving way to layers of tender meat and melting fat, wallows in a delicious demi-glace sweetened with black garlic. The amber cocktail made for it riffs on the sweetness with rum, riesling, Madeira and Pineau de Charentes, a French fortified wine.
Olive oil pooled in the creamy crevices of burrata served alongside a wonderful salad of arugula and basil studded with tiny, sweet strawberries and candied hazelnuts. Smoky mezcal seemed an unlikely companion, but smoothed with Dolin blanc vermouth and tinted with Amaro Nonino, it teased out the salad’s sweet, peppery notes.
A Pisco cocktail mixed with Spanish vermouth and a dash of lime bitters was an obvious mate for a Peruvian-style ceviche. I loved the ceviche’s contrapuntal crunch of toasted quinoa but a heavy dose of aji amarillo, a Peruvian chile-pepper paste, upended the delicate balance of albacore tuna, pear, basil and lime.
Muddled flavors and overwrought presentations were common missteps in dishes that didn’t trip the light fantastic. A mushy, hyper-acidic lemon-caper marmalade was an off-kilter condiment for lamb “carpaccio,” lightly seared meat, cut from the eye of the rack and rubbed with an array of spices — allspice and clove prominent among them.
Kabocha squash needed a bit longer in the oven to soften and sweeten. Despite its starring role, it fought for attention amid a barrage of flavors: kernels of smoked einkorn (an ancient wheat grain), sweet black sesame seeds, whipped chevre and a tomato-based Spanish sofrito sauce.
An herbaceous heap of braised lamb and fava beans failed to divert attention from ricotta gnudi that had the gluey consistency of overworked mashed potatoes. Garlic confit and squid ink sauced pasta with roasted cauliflower was a gray jumble of overcooked noodles besieged with lemon.
Crispy chickpeas $4
Spring green salad $13
Albacore tuna ceviche $17
Pork belly, peas, black garlic $26
Roasted scallops with lentils $28
For dessert, the kitchen re-imagines the s’more. I was on board with the smoked marshmallow fluff and graham cracker streusel with cacao nibs, but chocolate sorbet didn’t work for me. As for the little jar of perfectly lovely smoked caramel panna cotta, I’d have been happier had the kitchen not piled on cookie crumbs, grainy vanilla ice cream and apple chunks not quite softened in brown butter. A sip of Buffalo Trace bourbon laced with the citrus liqueur Licor 43 helped assuage any regrets.
Bottom line here: drink widely; eat judiciously.