January 16, 2007

French-Korean blends at Coupage

How funny: not one but two restaurants in Seattle with French-Asian fusion cuisine opened the same week. One's Qube, downtown, reviewed here the other day. The other's Coupage, in Madrona, where Drey's tanked but Supreme and Plenty flourished, right across the street from yet another French spot, Crémant. As coincidences go, this one's fortunate.

Chef Thomas Hurley.JPG Coupage chefs.JPG

First, that enterprising Portland chef Thomas Hurley would even want to venture north of the Columbia. His hometown place, Hurley's, does well. But he's restless, wants to move out from behind the stove, likes it up here, and has found in Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi two well-trained and reliable talents. (They met while working for Alain Ducasse in New York, became engaged, and wisely decided to move west.)

Second, that Madrona has turned into such a hotbed of culinary innovation. For much of the 25 years I lived in the hood, its most exciting flavor was JuicyFruit at the minimart. Now there's half a dozen "destination" restaurants at 34th & Union alone. But only one with the smokey, slow-cooked flavors of a traditional Korean kitchen.

Arctic char.JPG Mache w maitake mushroom.JPG Short rib w kim chi on polenta.JPG Pork belly w lentils.JPG

You might start with a salad of mâche and smoked maitake mushrooms, or arctic char that's been smoked over pine needles. Follow that with braised short rib, garnished with home-made kimchi and served atop a chestnut polenta. Or a crunchy slab of pork belly on a pilaf of fragrant Asian lentils.

Salmon wings.JPG Vichyssoise w crab cake.JPG

Then again, you might prefer to skip the unappetizing "salmon wings" served with buffalo-style bleu cheese and celery. The vichyssoise sported a scrumptious crabcake at its center but lacked the promised punch of lemongrass. More than once, I had the feeling that Yang was holding something back. Seattle's got plenty of places doing perfectly grilled tuna and rack of lamb; what our jaded foodie community wants is spicy, new, unusual, challenging, even weird, wacky and slightly bizarre. So, s'il vous plaît, juseyo, feel free to go crazy back there! And, hey, order the damn salmon wings if you feel like it.

Coupage, "blending" in French, is not always meant as a compliment. Hurley, on the other hand, means well. There's every reason to believe Coupage will rise to the expectations of its most demanding customers.

Coupage on Urbanspoon Coupage, 1404 34th Avenue, Seattle. 206-322-1974

Posted by Ronald Holden at January 16, 2007 3:29 PM

How about some good ol' chateaubriand, mashed potatoes (no garlic,please), and a gin martini?
Fusion equals confusion!
Don't get me started....

Posted by: Trisha Nerney at January 16, 2007 6:08 PM