The menu just got a lot more interesting at the Bookstore Bar — and so did Thanksgiving. Plus: where chef Caprial Pence has landed, the return of the man behind the legendary Le Gourmand, and much, much more.
NEW AT THE BOOKSTORE BAR
After a summertime stint at Tallulah’s, Eric Rivera has taken the post of executive chef at the Alexis Hotel’s Bookstore Bar & Café. Rivera, originally from Olympia, spent three and a half years as culinary director at Chicago’s massively acclaimed Alinea; last year, he came back this way for the same role at the Huxley Wallace Collective, working on opening the now-acclaimed Scout and Nest at the Thompson Hotel.
Rivera’s got a restless, risk-taking, creative culinary mind, and he says that at the Bookstore, he’s finally getting the carte blanche he’s been looking for since he left Chicago. His menu, he says, will be “hyper, hyper seasonal — if we need to reprint every day, that’s what we’ll do.” He’s looking to make “food that’s trying to tell a story,” an ambition he instantly admits sounds vague, but that involves specifics like working with a sous chef from Hawaii on a version of a “phenomenal” childhood poke. (He’s also serious about creating chefs instead of just having cooks, deemphasizing stations in favor of a more holistic approach.)
The Bookstore’s new dinner menu offers smaller plates like (for the moment) that tombo poke, salt-and-vinegar chicharrones, and chicken thigh with peanut and green chili; his “perfect” hamburger; and entrees such as black cod with cauliflower mushroom, walnut, leek, beluga lentils and pickled shallot. (It’s a safe bet that mere lists of accompaniments belie plenty of intense technique when it comes to Rivera’s work.) Also highly enticing: the izakaya-inspired, under-$10 happy hour menu, launching November 1 with the likes of a Dungeness version of takoyaki; an okonomiyaki-style pancake with shaved salmon jerky and smoked salmon roe; and varying skewers cooked on a binchotan grill.
Moreover, the long-disused space in the Alexis that housed the storied Painted Table is becoming a place for tasting menus, with the first one happening Thanksgiving day. Rivera says he and his staff will be there in the room, plating and interacting so diners can “see the sleight of hand and the magic right in front of you.” And yes, there will be turkey — with black and white truffles. Five courses plus “extra little fun surprises” are planned for about $75. If you’re not stuck with your family (or can bring them), this sounds like as good a value as such prix fixes get.
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But what about Caprial? After a warm welcome back to Seattle in 2014 and attendant expectations, beloved Pacific Northwest food figure Caprial Pence appeared overstretched at the Bookstore Bar and the Alexis. She’s now culinary director for Seattle’s edition of Munchery, the chef-made-dinner delivery service founded way back in 2010.
Meanwhile at Tallulah’s: Linda Derschang says Will Richey has taken Rivera’s place at her other-side-of-Capitol-Hill neighborhood favorite. Richey comes from four years with Ethan Stowell, most recently in the exec chef role at Red Cow; prior to that, he worked at Crush, and (going way back!) Rover’s. Sounds like a good match.
THE RETURN OF A SEATTLE GREAT
In extremely exciting news for Capitol Hill, local food heroes Bruce and Sara Naftaly are opening Marmite for lunches, light dinners, and drinking where Chop Shop used to be. Not coincidentally, the space is right next to Sara’s splendid Amandine Bakeshop; the couple both ran the late, great Le Gourmand and its fantastic sidekick Sambar, and Bruce is coming out of retirement for this one. The prospect of experiencing his incredible expertise once again — and in a more affordable setting, as our city grows more expensive by the minute — is just marvelous.
MORE CHEF CHANGE-UPS
Zoi Antonitsas had departed Omega Ouzeri to work full-time with Bryan Jarr on readying their forthcoming Pike Place Market restaurant, Jarr & Co., including arduous-sounding tours of oyster bars on both the East and West coasts. Antonitsas was named a Food and Wine 2015 Best New Chef while at Westward, and there’s every reason to hope that her new place will be a much-needed, legitimately excellent local seafood place. In her stead at Omega Ouzeri is Brian Miyamoto, who’s been a sous chef under Masaharu Morimoto in Hawaii and chef de cuisine at Restaurant Zoe here.
Congrats to Carrie Mashaney, now executive chef at Mamnoon, coming from Cafe Juanita, Spinasse, and Aragona (and, of course, “Top Chef” season 11). She goes from pastry chef to in charge of the whole shebang at Racha and Wassef Haroun’s flagship favorite.
And news on two Chrises: Chris Howell is now at (the great) Bar Harbor, new in South Lake Union, while Chris Barton is at (the great) Stateside (and, he says, “loving it. Good food, great crew”). The two were opening co-chefs at Nashville hot-chicken sensation Sisters and Brothers (which has a new chef, too).
ICYMI: Isaac Hutchins is new at Marjorie as of this spring. He comes from RN74, after working for Daniel Boulud in Washington, D.C., and he says that six years in, the restaurant is “better now then we have ever been… we put out some of the best food in the city for the price.”