These three shaved pates make up Madrona's new front line, beast mode. In the center, Thom Koschwanez, chef de cuisine, and his crew, David Glass on the right, Paul Sommer on the left. The restaurant, named Red Cow, is the latest venture from Ethan Stowell Restaurants, and it's more like a neighborhood French bistro than the others, where the menus skew Italian.
And what, you ask, could be more French than Steak Frites, the quintessential French meal in Nantes, in Nice, in Nancy. Stowell sources the meat--the traditional onglet, or hanger steak--from Double-R Ranch (50,000 acres in eastern Washington's Okanogan County), keeps it marinated and cryovac'd until it's ordered. Served with a puddle of béarnaise and a pile of fries.
Madrona, between the eastern fringe of Capitol Hill and Lake Washington, hasn't had a lot of luck with destination restaurants, let alone "neighborhood" hangouts. Red Cow is the fourth restaurant in the space at 34th & Union, preceded by Cré'mant, June, and Bea. Says Stowell, "They'll come two or three times, but will they come 20 times?" He wants Red Cow to be that twice-a-month default spot, a hanger steak ($21), roast chicken ($19) or a pork chop ($24), a burger ($15) or mussels in white wine ($18).
Of course efficient service and reasonable pricing means nothing if the food doesn't taste good. Fortunately, it's on-the-mark tasty. Hanger steak is dense and flavorful, the béarnaise tangy, the fries hot and crispy, the aioli bright. The wine I ordered, at $7 a glass, is a find: Marselan, a cab-sauv + grenache from the Ardèche. More on that coming up.