Washington Post Food Critic Tom Sietsema's Postcard From Seattle

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

ART RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE (99 Union St.; 206-749-7070): The Four Seasons loosened its tie with this fanciful new hotel dining room, which made its debut in November. Notice the counter of the bar, which glows from blue to green to yellow from minute to minute? The wood finishes and the photographs underscore the restaurant's Pacific Northwest roots, while the contemporary American menu reminds me why I've long enjoyed chef Kerry Sear's cooking. From his "raw" menu comes kampachi decked out with rings of lotus root, plus a small brush and a choice of enhancers to "paint" onto the cool pink fish. (Go for the wasabi cream and ponzu sauce.) Aromatic Oregon truffles are scattered over a pleasing risotto, and the baked free-range chicken, served with a "nest" of fresh herbs, is as juicy as that bird gets. Competing for your attention is the view: Art's floor-to-ceiling windows capture Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Entrees $19-$40.

POPPY (622 Broadway E.; 206-324-1108): For his work at the esteemed Herbfarm in nearby Woodinville, Jerry Traunfeld garnered a James Beard restaurant award and accolades for his cookbooks showing readers how to weave herbs into their meals. Now, inspired by a trip to India, the boyish-looking chef (and Silver Spring native) catches diners' attention by serving much of his food thali-style: 10 or so different dishes on individual round platters. "Everyone loves small plates and sharing," the chef explains, but all too often that means everyone gets just one bite of something. A thali solves that problem. The themes change from week to week; early January celebrated the new year with the likes of green gumbo, celery-hazelnut salad and black-eyed peas in a warm vinaigrette. One doesn't have to commit to a tray to enjoy the place. The bar snacks include fabulous eggplant fries drizzled with local honey and Portuguese sea salt, while entrees run to roasted pork ribs massaged with mace, fenugreek and more. The name? Poppy, staged in a Danish-modern dining room and stocked by its own garden, is a tribute to Traunfeld's mother. Entrees $12-$16.

QUINN'S (1001 E. Pike St.; 206-325-7711): Chef and co-owner Scott Staples admits he was nervous about emphasizing so much untraditional meat on the menu of his edgy gastropub in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood. But "I've always loved offal," he says. So his hash gets beefed up with tongue (and topped with a duck egg), and his twist on Buffalo wings swaps frog legs for the usual chicken. As for Quinn's sandwiches, finely ground wild boar goes into the zesty sloppy Joe, and onions and peppers lend a sweet note to the juicy, house-made pork sausage. It's an haute hot dog. Staples's wife and co-owner Heather designed the airy two-story retreat, which is as handsome and rustic as much of the food here. Zinc decorates the bar, vintage lights glow from above and the tables are wrought from reclaimed wood. Entrees $13-$19.


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