Chef Zoi Antonitsas got antsy waiting for a new space to be ready, so now you can have a lovely Little Fish lunch at JarrBar.
JarrBar is a tiny, marvelous spot that serves wine, cocktails and jarred/tinned snacks — sardines, olives, smoked king salmon rillettes — plus a handful of perfect cheeses and cured meats from Spain. The narrow storefront lodged on the underside of Pike Place Market can be a little hard to find — wait, did you pass it already? — but then you see “JARRBAR” in block letters down the side, the windows thrown open in pleasant weather or cozily closed against any chill. Inside, the high ceiling, woven chairs, wall of framed mirrors, and shelves laden with bottles, records, books and not-too-many curios give the sense that you’ve somehow teleported to Europe for a few hours, ones you’ll remember happily for a long time.
What could make JarrBar better? How about a lovely lunch, as summer slips into fall? JarrBar’s owner, Bryan Jarr, has been working on a new restaurant in collaboration with chef Zoi Antonitsas, formerly of Westward and Madison Park Conservatory, for a while now. It’s going to be called Little Fish, located right up the street, and it’s meant to showcase their own canned fish as well as Antonitsas’ Northwest-Mediterranean cooking. It’s taking a long time, even given the usual restaurant-opening delays — a long time. According to Antonitsas, “A leak in the space delayed us for eight months, then the rest has been playing catch-up.” (She also sent the exploding head emoji with the gun emoji pointing to it.) She got antsy, and now there is Little Fish lunch at JarrBar, Tuesday through Friday until at least the end of September … maybe longer.
The smart food: Antonitsas makes dishes that seem simple but are almost always smarter than average — she’s got a knack for adding exactly the right things to make something really good into something surprisingly great, while, crucially, avoiding any overkill.
The brief Little-Fish-at-JarrBar menu changes every week, so you won’t find what I did, but maybe the deviled eggs ($5) will stay on it. What could make deviled eggs better? Antonitsas’ version are still wiggly, rather than cooked to stiffness, and each one’s topped with a miniature, marinated boquerone to add a little vinegar snap. And, it turns out, the other thing deviled eggs need to be their ideal selves is to be served on a bed of garlicky crumbs, like mashed-up croutons, for extra flavor and texture.
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Very fresh summer squash — in thin ribbons, slices and little cubes — along with walnuts, olives, yogurt and honey made a super-smart salad ($9), the dressing creamy, tart and gently sweet all at once. (Only caveats: Toasted nuts would lend a little extra contrast to the freshness, and even when warned, it’s way too easy to bite down on an olive pit in a salad.)
Antonitsas’ tonnato ($13) was a just-right version of the Italian savory tuna-sauce classic, and the choice of paper-thin-sliced pork loin instead of meatier medallions made things nicely lighter while still absolutely luxurious. A drizzle of very good olive oil wasn’t too much, either.
Just one thing erred into too much: an over-mayo’d, oversalted shrimp sandwich ($15), which also had structural problems, all the mushy filling squishing right out. We wished we’d tried the smart-and-summery-sounding chilled melon and cucumber soup with jamon oil and pimenton ($5/$9) to spice things up.
The smart drinks: Lighter-side cocktail options felt like just the thing on a still-warm day with the sun starting to get that autumn slant. A spritz ($12) made with watermelon, ginger and cava tasted crisp, subtle and ultra-refreshing; a lemon-thyme shandy ($6) made with Estrella Galicia beer avoided over-herbiness, coming out citrus-zesty instead of standard-issue juicy. Both were admirably dry. Cheers to the future — and the present — of Little Fish!
Little Fish at JarrBar Northwest-Mediterranean; 1432 Western Ave. (Pike Place Market), Seattle; 206-209-2239; jarrbar.com; lunch only, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday-Friday through September (or maybe longer)