With an inventive prix fixe menu that switches out every three weeks, this restaurant by the former Sutra owners is likely to become a monthly destination for vegans and those who love them.
The building that once housed the vegan restaurant Sutra still sits on 45th Street in Wallingford, boarded up and graffiti covered, but its spirit lives on just blocks away at Aaron and Jan Geibel’s Harvest Beat.
As at Sutra, diners here settle in with a glass of wine, a kombucha “cocktail” or a house-made elixir of fresh juices. A bell signals when dinner is about to begin. Chef Joe Ianelli offers words of gratitude to the “farmers, families and foragers who bring us these wonderful ingredients” and details the five-course meal he’s prepared entirely of plant products.
It’s not the same bell, nor the same chef, but the food at Harvest Beat inspires the same thrill of discovery and sense of satisfaction, whether you are eating vegan for life or just for tonight.
Harvest Beat ★★½
1711 N. 45th St., Seattle
Hours: one seating at 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Prices: prix fixe five-course menu $50; optional wine or nonalcoholic beverage pairings $27/$16
Drinks: organic, biodynamic wines; house-made elixirs
Service: warm and fuzzy
Parking: on street
Sound: moderate to loud
Who should go: vegans, vegetarians and those who love them
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles to entry; restroom on lower level; mezzanine not accessible
The Geibels co-owned Sutra for seven years with chef Colin Patterson and his wife, Amber Tande. Ianelli joined the team in 2011. Last year, with the lease expiring and the block destined for redevelopment, the partners went separate ways. Paterson and Tande moved to Leavenworth, where they are about to open Mana Restaurant.
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The Geibels stayed in Wallingford because they have a home there and because they felt the Seattle area needed a vegan fine-dining venue. They opened Harvest Beat in December where Satay used to be, after a quick remodel that included a fresh coat of soft green paint, subdued lighting, a kitchen island and a new walnut-topped bar across which diners can engage with the chef.
Ianelli helped with the build-out of both Mana and Harvest Beat. “We’re a big family, taking what we had at Sutra and spreading it,” says the peripatetic Vermont-born chef, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park whose résumé includes a stint at Salish Lodge and time as a private chef on a yacht in the San Juan Islands. Ianelli initially delved into vegan cuisine when his mom was fighting cancer. Though he cooks strictly vegan at Harvest Beat, his own diet now is “70 percent vegan and 30 percent everything else, because I’m a chef.”
Keeping in close touch with his network of farmers and foragers, Ianelli constructs a new menu for Harvest Beat every three weeks, thereby making the most of the Pacific Northwest’s “micro-seasons.” That rotation, along with a $50 five-course prix fixe menu, makes the restaurant more of monthly treat than a weekly haunt, but the concept is in line with the owners’ desire to minimize waste: They stock and cook only enough to feed the number they expect. Advance reservations are recommended, but they prep for a few more to accommodate last-minute callers or walk-ins. Leftovers become a family meal for the staff.
One night the Geibels’ 8-year-old daughter hung around long enough to snag a thick crepe made of organic mung beans and rice, filled with a mousse of smoked morels, leeks and cashew cheese — nuanced flavors that the silky but bitter-edged black lemon and hemp seed sauce somewhat muffled. No sauce interfered with fist-size Okanagan morels, roasted whole and stuffed with savory and mashed lentils. A companion fava bean puree sparked with pickled chile peppers neatly countered that earthy delight.
Ianelli’s style is rustic, but there’s refinement, too. A pool of gossamer tomato sauce blooming with espelette pepper pooled around polenta and ratatouille. The soft cornmeal’s cheesy tang came from cashews fermented in lemon juice. The vegetables for the ratatouille — eggplant, turnip, fennel, broccoli raab and more — were cooked to a yielding firmness and topped with pungent purple micro-basil and brittle wisps of fried leek.
Bold accents are often used to great effect here. Hooker’s onion blossoms, ponzu-marinated hijiki (a seaweed) and goose tongue (a briny, wild marsh green) added pizazz to sesame-speckled roasted beets, a clever riff on tuna poke.
The beets had a final drizzle of crème fraîche, made with cashew cream and flavored with saffron, prompting the suggested wine pairing: a spicy Oregon pinot noir from Christopher Michael Winery. Aaron Geibel is the chief matchmaker, and he does an excellent job, as does Jan Geibel, who mixes the nonalcoholic fruit-and-vegetable elixirs and kombucha drinks. The beverage pairings are optional, but I highly recommend trying one or the other.
A spritzy mix of lemon, ginger, apricot and echinacea was perfect with the soup and salad course that typically launches the meal. A Kaffir lime and pea bisque, creamy with coconut milk, delivered gentle ripples of each key element. Gremolata added depth to a chilled potato and spring-onion bisque.
Salads are pure joy, usually a gathering of several greens, pickled things, foraged ingredients — currently sea beans and Saskatoon berries — and something crunchy. Candied sunflower seeds in one salad bristled with urfa biber, a Turkish chile pepper.
June desserts showcased Rainier cherries. Vanilla panna cotta is made with the gelling agent agar-agar. The thin, gelatinous layer that rises to the top of the dense, smooth cream isn’t traditional, but provided interesting textural contrast. Heavily smoked cherries overwhelmed the delicate vanilla flavor, however. Shiso and cherries crowned a delectable tart with a cacao-walnut-date crust so friable it almost qualified as an upside-down crumble. A touch of cardamom in the whipped cream — coconut milk bolstered with agar-agar — was especially lovely. A generous ladle of lavender-laced chocolate sauce didn’t hurt either dessert.
While plating the tarts, Ianelli popped out back to pluck calendula blossoms for each plate from the vertical garden on the patio. Outdoor dining is slated to open this month, news that makes me, for one, want to plot a swift return.