Beware the crushing grip of Marjorie Fuller. While her husband, Mark Fuller, former head chef at Dahlia Lounge, works his magic in Spring Hill's spotless open kitchen, she works the room, chatting up each table. Patrons are by and large charmed, and one-word responses and vague gazing into the distance do not deter her. Best to go with it, and learn, for instance, that Spring Hill is what its neighborhood, the West Seattle Junction, used to be called—the landlords' family had a dairy of the same name back in the day. Eventually, she sweetly asks your name, then shakes your hand in a breathtaking, viselike manner. She's a petite woman. If you wear a ring on your right hand, indentations will be visible on the neighboring digits.

While West Seattle's finer-dining arrival has been serially heralded for several years now—see Ovio Bistro/O2 (now closed), Blackbird Bistro, Beàto, Ama Ama—nothing has achieved destination status. Spring Hill will. On one night recently, women with very well-executed plastic surgery clip-clopped around on very expensive high heels, clearly imported from another neighborhood, if not another planet; they were right at home in the proto-futuristic interior, which is in the sharp style of Taste SAM, Boom Noodle, and many others worldwide. Narrow, pale wood panels create the feeling of being inside an oversized CD case, while distressed concrete floors and hard surfaces obliterate the music coming from discreet speakers. Over the urban din, you may not always be able to hear your server, but the signal is clear: high-end, at a familiar, finely tuned pitch. The two strokes of genius: a geometric green grid of wine rack at the back that functions as a wall, and the particularly compelling open kitchen.

Mr. Fuller and his staff move silently and smoothly around each other in choreographed harmony in the kitchen. Nary a word is spoken; pots do not clang. One man's job is to stand still with his brow furrowed and his chin sunk to his chest, concentrating deeply on endless prep tasks. It's professionalism incarnate, of the opposite sort from red-faced, plate-throwing TV chefs. The precision and intensity are presided over by shining ladles and tongs hanging in order of size, and it's all reflected in a stripe of mirror along the opposite wall. Watching the lining-up of each stalk of asparagus on a plate makes a certain kind of person feel a little choked up.

What's being produced in this kitchen is marvelous in two ways. First: From an ample sampling, much of the food is not merely excellent but interesting in its excellence, giving your mind something to do along with your mouth. What Mr. Fuller is calling a cold cioppino ($12), for example, is a miracle of a summer soup: a crystal-clear tomato broth with a bit of basil oil and half-immersed morsels of Dungeness crab, shrimp, mussel, and halibut. How can something transparent be so flavorful, and also so subtle? Why is this the perfect medium for seafood? Think it over, eat it up. A small plate of steak "hot & cold" ($12) has hand-chopped tartare formed into a cube, a piece of rib eye with flavor-matching chopped caper sauce, and a few puffed potato chips like those nearly buoyant Asian rice snacks. How do you make potato into air? (The explanation involves tapioca, dehydration, and a few more steps; wondering is more fun.) Why doesn't your grilled steak ever come out as completely perfect as this little bit, crisp char and roseate center? From the ice-cold shellfish section of the menu, king clam ($7), aka our friend the geoduck, is citrus cured, barely spiced with the addictive addition of Chinese red pepper, served thin-shaved in a little dish marooned prettily in a giant bowl of ice. What is it about all other geoduck everywhere that's not snappy like this, but chewy and, frankly, kind of gross? A salmon entrée ($29) features fish as perfectly seared as you'd expect from a Dahlia alum—Mr. Fuller has doubtless cooked an oceanful—but wait, there's more: asparagus, stems carefully shaved by that intent prep cook; gnocchi that's both neutral and remarkably good; tart-sweet yet restrained red pepper sauce; and salmon-skin "crackling" that's a shatteringly crisp, massive improvement on the idea of a pork rind. Roasted duck ($24), sliced into medallions with a liquidy orange-mustard sauce, is among the best, in town or anywhere. The veg served with it right now is a witty, seasonal visual joke on frozen vegetable medley—local fresh peas, baby onions, glazed thumb carrots. There's also a quinoa biscuit, an adventure in texture in a generally run-of-the-mill class of bread.

The second way Spring Hill's food makes you marvel: Even when an element of a dish doesn't work, you're still happy to be eating it, applauding the effort and unembittered. A salmon pâté ($9) is so smooth and buttery, it slides into boring, but then it's got smoked dill ground to dust, tiny cubes of jiggly pine-nut jelly, slices of sweet-pickley mustard-brined apple. Supposedly "creamy" grits ($14) were grainy, but the prawns with them—like everything off the apple-wood-burning grill—were smoky wonders, as was a rich, brown, Southern-style shrimp gravy. Morels made a lovely seasonal accent here, but the poached egg seemed like overkill. Despite the intellect's objection, not an iota went uneaten. Underdone grits are a foible of a new kitchen; likewise, a few noodles in the handmade tagliatelle ($19) were stuck together, but the simple spring dish (fava beans, more morels, cherry tomatoes, shreds of spring onion, Parm) was outstanding. Mild rainbow trout ($22) was superlative in every way, especially with its big, vinegary marinated artichoke hearts, but the accompanying spaeztle was a little dry. No one cared.

What is a concern at Spring Hill: the steep prices on the Oregon and Washington wine list. In this economy (and in this still far-flung neighborhood), a few low-end options are a must; the by-the-glass average is $11, and bottles of red begin at $40 and ascend precipitously. The oddity of a can of Rainier on the beer list for $3 starts to look pretty attractive.

For dessert, the melty, sea-salted chocolate cake ($6)—more like a dense, cool mousse—with salted peanut ice cream deserves the raves it's already getting. And service, reportedly predictably bumpy at the beginning, already appears to be evening out, with one server in particular a marvel of both knowledge and politesse ("Is there anything I'm overlooking that you would care for?"). Once Ms. Fuller ceases her hand-smashing campaign, everyone will be sitting pretty at Spring Hill.