Is Capitol Hill too cool for ice? At the brand-new IceBox bar at Kurrent, everyone's ignoring the signature feature: the 50-foot "ice bar." The ice bar is not a bar entirely made of ice, nor an all-frozen bar top; what Kurrent's got is a shallow metal trough about the width of a coaster running the length of the bar filled with a solid stripe of ice. This technology was introduced to the Pacific Northwest in December of 2005 at the Parlor, an upscale billiards hall on the second floor of Bellevue's Lincoln Square. You'd think Kurrent would be crowded with Seattle's drinkers who want optimally chilled beverages but do not wish to travel to a mall on the Eastside in pursuit of them.
At Kurrent, however, not one person is utilizing the stripe of ice. The bar has already been adopted by stylish men who love stylish men, who choose to rest their drinks on room-temperature surfaces. A man seated at the bar, his drink obstinately positioned and repositioned on the ice bar but not on the ice, flirts with a man at a nearby table. They discuss a recent purchase of one of the condominiums located upstairs, and the flooring of said condominium, which is polished concrete. The purchaser is congratulated; the subtext is unmistakable.
While Kurrent is a "restaurant + bar" (and, per the website, "full of passion, innovation & dedication to providing the most premier dining experience in Seattle"), the bar is poised to become its raison d'être. Ice aside, it will offer 65-plus choices of vodka; it's underlit in a thrilling if somewhat blinding manner (rendering the bartender a mere shadow from many points of view); and it's got the ubiquitous-of-late garage doors, which open onto East Pine Street, affording the most premier indoor/outdoor people-watching experience on Capitol Hill (except, maybe, the Broadway Grill). The décor is post-Manray, slick and futuristic but darker.
The menu (by chef/owner Matt Baer, most recently of Marco's Supperclub and Salty's) is upscale Asian accented. A sampling of "Appeteasers" (no, no, NO!) in the bar did not hint at greatness. (White-meat chicken satay without much lemongrass or other flavor; crab cakes on the mayo-creamy side, made with shreds of meat rather than pieces; calamari salad, the calamari with pasty breading, the salad bearing an extremely salty sauce akin to reduced hot-and-sour soup.) Specialty cocktails, on the other hand, are promising: a faintly, perfectly medicinal Vesper with quinine powder and a lemon twist, a basil martini made with fresh grapefruit juice and Grey Goose with a sweet-tart sorbet quality. The martini-style glasses here are made of silvery stainless steel—the better to conduct the cold of the ice stripe, should anyone ever choose to use it.