About a month ago, Cody Morris and Travis Kukull, owners of Gastropod restaurant and Epic Ales, announced that they were closing both businesses. The bad news is, that's happening today. The good news is, you still have a chance to eat there. Don't blow it.
From the very first time I had Kukull's food back in 2013, his creations have always left me with a sense of wonder. I go home suspecting that no one else could have come up with his combinations. Even when things are not entirely successful, they're never boring. It's simply some of the most creative, weird, and wonderful food in town. And the physical space—two cozy rooms in an old wooden building—feels so unique because it's tucked away in an industrial corner of the city.
The best dish I ever had at Gastropod was a "tuna melt" made of broiled hamachi collars—crispy-skinned, fatty, and filled with so much wonderful cartilage—smothered with a black garlic Comte cheese sauce and topped with brioche bread crumbs and pickled peppers. It was part of the first dinner my husband and I had out after the birth of our daughter a few weeks before. At the time, we were thoroughly overwhelmed by our new responsibility of keeping a tiny person alive, and I was unable to escape the physical discomfort and strangeness of my body that had recently emptied itself of another human. But as I worked on those delicious fish collars—and I went deep, sucking out every last bit of meat and juice, crunching through bits of blackened fins—I was, for a few moments, totally out of my brain, lost in the the wild, joyful abandon and pleasure of food. It's one of my most favorite things I've ever eaten.
But it's Kukull's ever-changing okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese griddled pancake, that always seems to get me. I went to Gastropod for a final meal last night, and the okonomiyaki was particularly good: caramelized and blackened broccoli, chewy abalone, barbecue sauce, bonito flakes, and fish sauce-infused Kewpie mayonnaise serve in a cast-iron skillet. It was by turns creamy, stinky, sweet, salty, funky, and smoky—complex and deeply flavorful. I devoured it while sitting at a window that looked out onto a gravel parking lot and Dick's Restaurant Supply, and caught a glimpse of the sunset, blazing orange, then purple, behind the tops of the cranes at the port.
I am sure that Morris and Kukull's new restaurant, Mollusk, in South Lake Union will be be great. I look forward to eating and drinking there and seeing what they do next. But Gastropod is special, and its end is sad.
As I was walking out the door last night, I couldn't resist telling Kukull, who was standing in his tiny kitchen eating dinner with two servers after service, that I would really miss the place. "I will, too," he replied.