It's a huge menu, somewhere between "too many notes" and "there's got to be a pony in there somewhere." Chef Bruce Dillon, most recently in Florida, offers an almost overwhelming panoply of Indo-Asian-Latin flavors at the soon-to-open Marazul. Perched atop Whole Foods, adjacent to the Pan Pacific Hotel, the restaurant's 170 indoor seats focus inward on a wood-and-copper décor that suggests palm trees and a whiff of the exotic.
Just how exotic remains to be fine-tuned. Marazul opens Thursday for dinner and next month for breakfast and lunch. Until then, they're doing "mock service," using invited guests as guinea pigs (oops, sorry) for the servers and cooks.
Starters include ceviches, sushi rolls and an all-purpose "tapas" category. The salmon ceviche, nicely textured with salmon roe and hearts-of-palm and served with crisp plantain strips, is cured with tropical yuzu juice. A plate of skewered Thai ginger beef strips is accompanied by a lassi dipping sauce assertive flavored with chilies. A mild Szechuan salad of shredded chicken is enlivened by pepper cress. But what did the three perfectly seared scallops do to deserve their fate? They're sent to the table beside a lump of starch (well, actually, mashed cassava and boniato, a Cuban sweet potato) and a tasty but inappropriate oxtail gravy. Gulp!
And speaking of gulps, good rum isn't all that hard to find in Seattle any more, but Marazul is staking claim to the biggest stash in town, what with 40 varieties. (And, puhleeze, do spell it rhum, as the French do, since they're the ones who developed the Carribean distilleries.) Maruzal also has its own machine to juice sugar cane. This makes for a lot of frou-frou "umbrella" cocktails, sweet rather than distinctive. Why use Mount Gay as the base for something called a Buena Vista cocktail if you're going to muddle it with apricot brandy, guava, pineapple and coconut?
Still and all, Marazul will find a willing audience in Seattle: folks looking for something upscale, unusual, and relatively inexpensive. Two people could easily share two appetizers and two main courses for under $40, assuming you don't succumb to the lure of the sugar-cane juicer. At that price, you can't even walk up and down The Ave for international take-out, let alone valet parking.
Marazul, 2200 Westlake, Seattle - 206-654-8170