Monday, April 11, 2011

Tavolata - Seattle, WA

Back to my Seattle trip.

After my classic cocktails at Zig Zag Cafe prepared by the Best Bartender in America, I made the difficult decision to forego classic Seattle seafood and venture on over to Tavolata, an authentic Italian restaurant opened by 2011 James Beard nominee for Best Chef in the Northwest, Ethan Stowell.

What can I say?  I put Italian food above all else, and I couldn't pass up a pasta from a place that really takes pride in it.

This place is THE perfect place to hit on a solo venture to Seattle, but is also a fantastic place to go with a date or loved one, or any sized group of people.  Tavolata means "to gather around a table" (ok, I wish I just knew that, but no, I just learned it while I was there), so the place really caters well to groups.  As a soloist though, I was hitting the bar, which is huge, and manned by knowledgeable and friendly bartenders.  The whole place feels what I'll naively call "Seattle trendy" that mix of trendiness and the classic grunge that you associate with the city.  Hardwood floors.  Concrete walls.  Concrete ceiling.  Minimal decoration and lighting.  The ceiling height and the hard surfaces turn this place into a loud and lively restaurant that puts your mind back in Italy.

So I had to have some sort of seafood, being in Seattle, so I decided to start with the grilled octopus with crispy farro, fresno peppers and mint pesto.  Wow.  The flavors were excellent.  Fantastic char grilled flavored octopus which was a little on the chewy side (but come on, it's octopus, manage your expections) with a coolness supplied by the mint pesto and, oddly, the fresh fresno peppers.  But what made this dish was the farro, which gave this dish an incredible texture along the lines of rice crispies, a snap, crackle and pop in every bite.  Flavor, and texture, perfection.

Seafood quota fulfilled, I turned to a pasta for my meal, and ordered the potato gnocchi with rapini, duck egg, and mint.


Never have I had gnocchi so perfectly done.  Unbelievably delicate in composition and flavor, it was offset by the bitterness of the rapini and made even more creamy than it was on its own when I pierced the poached duck egg and magically turned it and the mint into the simplest of sauces with an incredible richness and flavor that stuck to every bite of the airy, pan-finished gnocchi.

Yeah, so I see why this chef is a James Beard nominee.  His creativity and execution are fantastic.


Atmosphere:  warehouse trendy, great for groups, great for flying solo, good for a date, huge bar, noisy

Food:  Italian

Dog Friendly:  no

When to Go:  dinner

Crowd:  Seattle's Best

What to Order for the First Timer:  whatever you feel like is most likely fantastic, but I'd go for the potato gnocchi if you're unsure

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