Restaurant critic Providence Cicero found plenty to like when she picked the top 10 new restaurants reviewed during the past year.
SEATTLE TIMES restaurant critic Providence Cicero picks the top 10 new restaurants (and then some) reviewed in the past 12 months.
Chavez, 1734 12th Ave., Seattle
At this Mexican cantina from the owners of the Italian Cantinettas, chef Gabriel Chavez pays tribute to the dishes he loved growing up in Durango: pork cheeks with mole, a tamal filled with langoustine and Dungeness crab, and all sorts of well-endowed tacos. Every so often his mother stops by to make sure he’s doing right by her recipe for Chile en Nogada, a mince of meat, fruit and nuts neatly packed into a poblano chile.
Girin, 501 Stadium Place, Seattle
There are many compelling small plates on the menu, and great drinks to chase them with at Girin, restaurateur Steven Han’s handsome homage to his Korean homeland. Sharing a ssam set engages all the senses. Ssam refers to wrapping fragrant herbs and leafy greens around grilled beef, pork or fish. The communal feast includes kimchi and pork-belly stew, custard with salmon roe, spicy buckwheat noodles and an array of pungent little dishes called banchan. Chef Brandon Kirksey respects the bold flavors of this ancient cuisine, but removes the brashness.
Manolin, 3621 Stone Way N., Seattle
While vacationing in the Yucatan, taking a break from their jobs at Renee Erickson’s The Walrus and the Carpenter and The Whale Wins, Joe Sundberg and Rachel Johnson came up with the idea for this restaurant riff on a Caribbean beach shack. More Erickson alums, Patrick Thalasinos and Alex Barkley, signed on, which might be why Manolin feels very much like Walrus, minus the oysters. Quaff a pisco cocktail and plow plantain chips through Barkley’s rockfish and sweet potato ceviche at Manolin’s broadly curving counter, and you’ll feel like you’re on vacation, without going any farther than Wallingford.
Omega Ouzeri, 1529 14th Ave., Seattle
Thomas Soukakos’ new Capitol Hill restaurant is a clean-lined, blue-and-white haven that eloquently expresses modern Greece with an array of simple, yet beguiling mezze and mains: zucchini and feta fritters; braised lamb with lentils, mint and olives; a whole grilled branzino basking in lemon and oregano; warm doughnuts glistening with honey. Pair them with ouzo, tsiporo, a rakomelo negroni or one of many wines from the Aegean, Peloponnesus and Macedonia.
Salare, 2404 N.E. 65th St., Seattle
In his first solo venture, Edouardo Jordan, late of Bar Sajor, is proving to be among the most exciting and original chefs in town. In Italian, Salare means “to season,” and that he does, curing meat and fish, crafting nuanced charcuterie and pickling vegetables. The house bread is cornbread, a nod to his Southern roots, but the menu skews local — pasta with sea beans, clams and geoduck, for example — and inspiration comes from everywhere. Cocktails follow the kitchen’s inventive lead. Families with kids are a common sight in the cheery front dining room of this Ravenna restaurant. Sitting at the kitchen counter in the cozy, cookbook-lined backroom gets you closer to the action.
Single Shot, 611 Summit Ave. E., Seattle
The rifle that inspired the name is decorative, a piece of folk art mounted above the bar at this sexy, noirish saloon located on a Broadway back street. It’s the food and drinks that really get your attention. Chef James Sherrill’s cooking takes imaginative twists and turns, like creamy black-rice porridge with sea urchin butter, mussels and crisp pork belly. His presentations are rustic landscapes of proteins and vegetables, artfully mounted on wooden carving boards. Notable among them: garlic-buttered hanger steak with speck mostarda, roasted baby turnips and sweet Tete de Moine cheese.
Stateside, 300 E. Pike St., Seattle
Ceiling fans ruffle the potted palms at Stateside, a soothing gilt and sea-foam-green refuge amid the hubbub of Pike-Pine. French, Chinese and Vietnamese influences converge on the menu, which makes sense, given chef Eric Johnson’s years as an expat cooking in Paris, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Among his most seductive efforts: fiery Chinese-style pork ribs, sardines escabeche smothered in herbs, and Cha Ca La Vong, a classic Vietnamese dish of fish and noodles, luxuriously re-imagined with black cod.
Tray Kitchen, 4012 Leary Way N.W., Seattle
Chef Heong Soon Park applies the dim sum concept to dinner at Fremont’s lively Tray Kitchen. Waiters roam with trays of food; you select what strikes your fancy from a seasonally focused array of about a dozen little dishes. For those who don’t like winging it, a printed menu offers ssam plates with beef, pork or whole grilled mackerel; skewered meats and veggies grilled on a Japanese bincho-tan, and Park’s signature dishes: hot and sticky Korean fried chicken and duck-confit fried rice.
Trove, 500 E. Pike St., Seattle
Upscale Korean food is having a moment in Seattle, but husband-and-wife chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi first whet our appetite for the fiery cuisine years ago with Joule. Trove, their newest restaurant, is a sprawling quadruplex of eateries on the corner of Pike and Summit, fronted by a noodle bar, a cocktail bar and a parfait window, but most of the 5,000 square feet is devoted to Korean-style BBQ. Cook a tower of meat, seafood or vegetables yourself at tables with a built-in gas grill or let them do it for you.
Vendemmia, 1126 34th Ave., Seattle
Chef Brian Clevenger is particular about a lot of things: how oysters should be shucked, how pasta should be cooked, the best way to sear fish and the right olive oil to finish it with. Taste the happy results at Vendemmia, his unpretentious Italian restaurant in Madrona. Most memorable from among the simple, flavor-focused plates: crostini-crowned velvet-texture salmon poached in olive oil, hamachi crudo paired with cucumber and chilies, and paccheri, a tubular noodle sauced with braised pork shank and fresh peas.
99 Park, 99 102nd Ave. N.E., Bellevue
Chef Quinton Stewart wows with carrots in mole, mussels in Panang curry and saffron-scented lamb tagine.
Damn the Weather, 116 First Ave., Seattle
Rain or shine, savor a fine cocktail — or a Caesar salad sandwich with a built-in fried egg — while ensconced in the most comfortable bar seats in town.
Lark & Bitter/Raw, 952 E. Seneca St., Seattle
John Sundstrom is cooking better than ever at this longtime favorite, now in a grand new space. Head upstairs to Bitter/Raw for crudo, charcuterie and snacks like Dungeness crab with green curry aioli on a squid-ink roll.