In Bellevue, no less than in Belltown, you are where you eat. Tasting notes from two opening nights.
Chef Kaufman, basil-mint sorbet at Basil's Kitchen
Basil's Kitchen describes itself as Mediterranean. It's in the atrium of the newly renovated Bellevue Hilton, formerly the Doubletree. "Casual yet sophisticated ... with a menu to suit all tastes."
The Belllevue Hilton's management company, Dow Hotels, are so thrilled with the concept that they're looking into franchising Basil's Kitchens beyond the six they've already opened in their various properties around the country. Says chairman Murray Dow, it's "a restaurant concept that not only would work in a hotel, but be transferable to other upscale hotels, regardless of brand." Basil's increases food service revenues by 40 percent, Dow claims.
Aside from the mechanics, Basil's has some neat things going for it. New York-born executive chef Alan Kaufman, an alumnus of the Sheraton, executes the signature dish, Basil's Salmon, with aplomb: smoked red pepper and Fontina atop a salmon fillet, surprisingly delicious. As a main course at dinner, it's $20, an iconic price point for expense-account travelers and timid tourists alike.
Chef Thiessen, smoked duck breast at 0/8 Seafood Grill
No such caution up the street at the Hyatt Regency. Dan Thiessen, who's positioning himself as Seattle's next Tom Douglas, is gambling $2.5 million that Bellevue needs both an upscale wine bar and a high-end grill. Where the original Eques and Chadfield's faltered, he is opening two adjoining concepts: 0/8 Seafood Grill and Twisted Cork Wine Bar. (Thiessen wedding anniversary is August 8th, hence the cutesy name.)
The question is whether he can pull off his concept of approachable fine-dining. One indication in his favor: the tea-smoked duck-breast with frisée salad and currant jelly on a chive pancake, $13 as an appetizer, $34 as a main course. Lots of seafood, natch (planked salmon, grilled salmon, crab cakes, sashimi scallops, fresh oysters). But with a 7,600-square-food, 300-seat emporium to fill, Thiessen is already planning to keep the grill open throughout the afternoons, an à-la-carte weekend brunch, live entertainment, and a selection of 20 bubblies by the glass in an elevated champagne lounge.
The decision to appeal to suburbanites rather than downtowners seems like a no-brainer, what with. Maggiano's, McCormick's and Trader Vic's all anxious to serve Eastsiders. Good thing Thiessen has a partner, dot-com business maven Matt Bomberger, to keep the finances on track. And though there's wi-fi at 0/8, the desired clientele isn't computer nerds but Beautiful People too bored with Belltown to leave Bellevue.
0/8 Seafood Grill, Bellevue, 900 Bellevue Way SE, 425-637-0808
Basil's Kitchen, 300 112th SE, Bellevue, 425-455-1300