August 27, 2007

Venik, vidik,!

Venik%20sign.JPG Prosciutto%20and%20melon%20vodka.JPG Pickle%20atop%20garlic%20pepper%20vodka.JPG

So, yeah, there's been this Russian-Turkish style "urban spa" called Banya5 on Ninth for, like, three years now. It's kind of a giant community sauna, with a central oven providing both wet and dry heat, surrounded by a bunch of fresh- and salt-water pools. The guy who built it, Seattle-born real estate developer John Goodfellow, isn't even Russian; he got hooked on the concept in New Yawk City. You have to know where it is, because it's hard to see along the northbound artierial through the no-man's land connecting Lake Union with downtown.

Now we grant you, there's a fair amount of new-age righteousness to the banya experience, extolling everything from its health benefits to its chess tournament. But even skeptics can enjoy the latest banya-related venture, a brand new lounge, just two doors down, called Venik. (The botanical venik, a bough of birch and oak leaves used to massage bathers, is a central element in the banya.)

Venik's menu is a tad over-the-top preachy, too, especially about infusions (vodka, not tea). Still, how can you not love a garlic & pepper "health" vodka that promises to replenish lost vigor, whether from the intense heat of the sauna or just everyday hotness in our oh-so-stressful lives? (Especially since it's served with the cutest little pickle from Bubbies.) The melon infusion is served Italian-style, with a slice of prosciutto on the side. And so on. The mixed drinks (Seattle SLU is a margarita, Borscht Manhattan is Wild Turkey with, yup, borscht) try a bit harder than necessary to justify their $10 tab and their health-giving properties.

The eats are no less healthy: eggplant pizza, a Niçoise sandwich with seared rare tuna, even a spinach bratwurst from Uli's. We're fans of the European tradition, though, so the black bread, cheese and fish eggs are just what the doctor ordered.


Until the architectural firm that currently leases the space between Banya5 and Venik moves out, you won't be able to wander from hot tub to bar in your bathrobe. But that's the least of Venik's problems. As we see it, the real drawback here is its teensy footprint: only 700 square feet. That means no more than 10 at the bar, another dozen in the lounge, and a line out the door. Holy shit, the grand opening's this week! Message to Goodfellow: quick, time to google "velvet ropes seattle."

Venik, 227 9th Ave N. Seattle 98109, 206-223-3734 Venik on Urbanspoon

Posted by Ronald Holden at August 27, 2007 8:39 PM

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