This newcomer finds a home among the culinary variety in Columbia City.

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From May to mid-October Wednesday is farmers market day in Columbia City. Folks wander the sidewalks along Rainier Avenue clutching giant bouquets of flowers and lugging canvas carryalls brimming with produce.

The market winds down at 7 p.m., but the eateries stay busy — and there are a lot of them. Sitting shoulder to shoulder within a couple of blocks are Senegalese, Thai, Italian, Caribbean and Japanese restaurants, a bakery, a pub, a pizzeria, a diner and numerous watering holes. Salted Sea is a recent arrival, offering an appealing, seafood-focused, seasonal menu, somewhat influenced by the Vietnamese heritage of owner Huy Tat.

Tat grew up in the neighborhood. After graduating from Rainier Beach High School, he helped his family realize his father’s dream of establishing a noodle shop like one Tat’s Chinese grandfather founded in Vietnam and the family left behind when they emigrated here in 1993. Since Hue Ky Mi Gia opened in 2009 in the Chinatown International District, it has spawned a second location in Kent, a third coming soon to Tacoma and two noodle stands at CenturyLink Field.

Salted Sea ★★½  


4915 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle

206-858-6328 or

Reservations: accepted

Hours: dinner 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; happy hour 3-5 p.m. daily

Prices: $$$ (starters, salads, shared plates $6-$16; lunch entrees $10-$16; dinner entrees $15-$27)

Drinks: full bar; original cocktails; local brews; Northwest and French wines complement the menu

Service: friendly and warm, but tentative

Parking: on street

Sound: loud

Who should go: oyster lovers, seafood fanciers in the South End

Credit cards: all major

Access: no obstacles

“Salted Sea is the vision of me and my wife,” says Tat. They both love seafood, especially oysters, and they noticed a lack of options in South Seattle. Tat convinced his good friend, Allyss Taylor, who used to cook at Harvest Vine, to come aboard as chef.

The restaurant looks shipshape. Ruggedly nautical in design, with handsome tabletop accessories, it bears little resemblance to Angie’s, the dive bar it replaced, even though about half the space is no-minors territory.

The bar and lounge sees a lot of action; the raw bar less so. Set against the back wall, it teems with five varieties of oysters on ice. Each is paired with a companion sauce; specify if you’d like it on the side. The half dozen Minter Sweet Selects I enjoyed came pre-moistened with watermelon mignonette, a vinegar-sharp condiment with the sweet crunch of diced melon that was a terrific contrast to those briny bivalves.

Like a lot of what’s on the menu here, those oysters didn’t travel far. Minterbrook Oyster Company is based in Gig Harbor. Buns and dinner bread comes from Columbia City Bakery, bahn mi rolls from Paris Bakery — one block north and one block south of the restaurant, respectively. Vanilla ice cream from nearby Full Tilt anchors a sundae topped with salted-caramel peanuts, strawberry whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

The restaurant has also joined the new Smart Catch program, signaling its commitment to serving sustainable seafood. The high quality is apparent, even when all of the elements of a dish aren’t totally in sync.

King salmon fillet, cooked just to medium, wore a crisp mantle of finely ground rice in place of its skin. Bitter mustard greens, a rough mash of potato and taro root, and a moat of scallion oil nicely rounded out the entree. Charred lemon halves and anchovy butter with green garlic were wonderful companions for a whole trout, roasted with thyme and rosemary sprigs tucked into its belly. You are left to fillet the fish yourself.

Two halves of a slender, fried, crab-and-shiitake spring roll, crossed like dueling swords, stood sentinel above sea scallops nestled amid rice vermicelli with a swoosh of peanut sauce on the side. The scallops, pan-seared to a dark-brown crust on one edge, were sweet and rare in the middle. The noodles were lively with fish sauce, lime and mint. The spring roll, however, tasted dull and dry.

Raw scallops star in a summery, lime-kissed crudo that was a joy to eat. The pretty mosaic included shellfish, diced cantaloupe, corn kernels, mint and basil; a scribble of dark caramel sauce marking the perimeter of the plate gave it an extra sweet kick.

Green bean and cherry tomato salad is among the few non-seafood options. Tomatoes were scarce among the crisp beans coated with lemony crème fraîche, but pickled shallots, slivered almonds and chervil’s subtle licorice notes were plentiful.

Sample menu

Crispy calamari  $8

Sea scallop crudo  $10

Steamed clams with pastis  $14

Rice-crusted king salmon  $24

Whole roasted trout  $25

Coconut milk and green curry put a Southeast Asian spin on mussels. Steamed clams go Parisian in a creamy broth with the strong anise undercurrent of pastis and fennel. Both shellfish are among items discounted at happy hour, when you might also sip a $7 Kir Royale and nibble fine frites dipped in smoked oyster aioli, or outstanding fried calamari.

Tempura-seasoned flour gives the squid a delicate crunch; garlic and sweet chili oil punch up the melted butter puddled in the trough of the long, narrow bowl it’s served in. Those Minter Select oysters go for just a dollar each at happy hour, as well.

Bahn mi sandwiches are on the weekday lunch menu that debuted this month. (Brunch begins this weekend.) The fried oyster version contains house-made cha lua, a garlicky, porky, soft-textured sausage. But with just three small oysters and very few pickled vegetables, it seemed skimpy for the $12 price. So did fish and chips for the same price, though the golden breading on the fish, the robust tartar sauce and the touch of vinegar in the bite-sized roasted potatoes were a winning combination. Overall, so is Salted Sea.

Information in this article, originally published August 14, 2015, was corrected August 14, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the high school Huy Tat attended.