July 27, 2005

Build it. They will come.

Black Bottle, at First & Vine in Belltown, opened at 4 PM yesterday without so much as the click of a press-agent's keyboard. Loveliest afternoon of the year, plenty of folks out strolling in shorts and sandals, leashed to dainty doggies. By 7 PM the place was packed.

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Black Bottle replaces the unlamented and unfortunately named Two Dagos, Belltown's skankiest and most reviled watering hole. Its reincarnation was shepherded by well-traveled Denver native Chris Linker, who envisioned a convivial, neighborhood place based on Britain's gastro-pubs and Japan's izakayas: informal, full-flavored food to accompany great drinks.

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The mandarin cosmopolitan ($7) is served with its own shaker, a welcome touch. The wine list offers two dozen selections under $25, six or seven of them by-the-glass.

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In the kitchen, chef Brian Durbin, a veteran of Carribean resort kitchens and Denver's Carmine's on Penn, was training an international crew (Morocco, Sicily, Seattle). His menu is deceptively simple: a dozen or so dishes at $8 a pop, from cumin pork tenderloin on a bed of frisee to a braised artichoke with beet chips to seven-spice shrimp. At first, he was going to serve the shrimp with the heads attached; in the end, they're piled in the center of the plate, take-em-or-leave-em. (I took em; talk about full-flavored!)

Best for last: a chocolate cake filled with vanilla gelato ($7). Yummy beyond words.

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Despite first-night jitters, Black Bottle managed to serve some 200 guests. "We were taken by surprise," says the restaurant's designer, Judy Boardman. Not to worry, not to worry. You've got a winner.

Posted by Ronald Holden at July 27, 2005 11:45 AM

Brilliant! Robert's "cocktail vase" is a great idea. Kind of like a "hottle" for martinis.

What I like about the individual shaker, though, is that you get "the whole drink." You don't have to imbibe the "dregs" if you prefer not to, but I'm not always averse to an extra slug of diluted booze as a chaser (or palate-cleanser, if you will).

Above all, it's the notion that I'm being looked after, that I'm in charge of my own drink, and that the barkeep hasn't thrown out half the ingredients in a rush to recover the shaker.

Posted by: Ronald at August 6, 2005 12:28 PM

I'm slightly curious why you say:

"...is served with its own shaker, a welcome touch..."

I'll of course need to check out Black Bottle to see how they execute this, but usually when a cocktail is brought to the table "with its own shaker" they use those dreadful little "mini" shakers, with which you can't properly chill the drink down.

If the glasses they are using are too small to hold the entire cocktail as mixed, then the better way to solve this problem is to serve the extra in a "cocktail carafe", which is a small glass vase, which you place on ice, so that the drink stays cold, but doesn't get any further diluted.


Posted by: Robert Hess at August 5, 2005 9:32 AM

Luffing -- and I'm no sailor, I just enjoy the sound of the word -- is what happens to a sail when you turn into the wind and the sail loses its oomph. It luffs.

But the word was actually used in a different post, On The Waterfront. Not Black Bottle, which is running well ...

Posted by: Ronald at August 3, 2005 4:44 PM

What does luff mean. I could look it up, but I thought I'd parade my ignorance (and say hello)?

Posted by: Patty at August 3, 2005 4:09 PM