1921 First Ave, 441-6139.
Lunch Mon-Sat, 11:30 am-2 pm; Dinner every night 5:30-10 pm; Bar until 2 am. $$$
You have found yourself a restaurant that's nice--no, elegant--but intimate. You are escorted past the whispering front bar, through the champagne peach warmth of the main dining room, to an intimate back parlor.
Three things on the menu promise to be as extraordinary as this time you're spending with yourself: Tuna Tartare Wrapped in Nova Smoked Salmon with Dill-Mint Vinaigrette ($9) comes as twin towers of seafood, on a dish dotted with discs of thinly sliced radish and lemon zest. Potato and Salt Cod Galette with Roasted Red Peppers ($8) arrives in a pool of warm cream and chives, a thick cake with two stems of chives reaching out like antennae from a crown in full blush with sweet roasted peppers. The French Onion Soup Gratinée ($6) is thick and slightly sweet, gilded with a rich, natural broth and anchored by a still-bubbling cheese. RIZ ROLLINS (6/24)
2107 Third Ave, 728-4220.
Open Mon-Sat, 5 pm-2 am. Closed Sundays. $$$
Brasa is the latest in a troupe of upscale eateries sprouting up around Belltown. Marked by a tasteful neon sign and massive brass doors, Brasa's pumpkin-colored room is expansive. A second-level balcony lined with booths and tables rings one wall of the restaurant, relieved by curtains that can be used to separate diners and bolster intimacy.
Their fare changes daily, and is accommodating enough for vegetarians but decidedly carnivorous in a splashy sense, with forays into venison and wild game. We started with an appetizer of pan-fried calamari which, while palatable, was neither outstanding nor unusual. For dinner, my host ordered the roast suckling pig (slow-roasted in a specially built oven right inside the restaurant) while I settled for the less-than-exotic lamb chops, which were grilled and beautifully sauced, accompanied by several asparagus spears. RR (4/28)
10 Mercer St, 284-4664.
Lunch Tues-Fri, 11 am-3 pm; Dinner Tues-Sun, 5-10 pm; Brunch Sat & Sun, 9 am-3 pm. $$
Lower Queen Anne's Credenzia Oven is remarkable on several fronts. The Georgian and Mediterranean creations of local chef Laura Dewell can leave the diner feeling like one very fortunate farm boy, while the restaurant's self-consciously simple design encourages dreamy fantasies. Although Credenzia's massive oven suggests architectural parody, the bread baked within its womb is undeniably excellent. The giant circular loaves are a Romanian bread, and the chewy, pale interior perfectly acquiesced to its inevitable crusty shell. The Mezze Plate ($12.95) is simply unstoppable. This three-way sampler bathes one's gustational components with fattoush (an attractive pile of cucumbers, greens, peppers, sumac, and mint), dolmas (vine leaves stuffed with figs, lentils, and bulgur), and havuc koftesi (carrot/herb fritters with apricots, pine nuts, and a yogurt-garlic sauce). Chef Dewell has made a rock-solid commitment to a simple plan, adept execution, and fresh ingredients. JIM ANDERSON (6/17)
L.A. Seafood Restaurant & Lounge
424 Seventh Ave S, 622-8181.
Open Mon-Thurs, 11 am-2:30 am; Fri-Sun, 11 am-3:30 am. $$
The four-months-new L.A. Seafood is in the building previously occupied by Lin Yeun, near the Theater Off Jackson. Restaurants in this corridor of the International District host many late-night dinners-of-thespians.
Chef Lee presents over 15 vegetarian entrees (all under $8.50), but the focus of his extensive menu are dishes native to his home region in Canton. We ordered half a duck (wonderfully prepared, served with white steamed buns, sweet sauce, and a heap of julienned scallions). We did not venture to try the Light Soy Pig Ears or Braised Goose Webs with Sea Cucumber, but our Chicken-Mushroom Soup with Bamboo Pith ($8.95) was delicious and savory. The lunch menu sports a "noodle bar," where you can pick the type of soup noodles you want and match them with meats, vegetables, wontons, or fish balls. (All soups are $4.50 and under.) STACEY LEVINE (6/10)
Century Ballroom Cafe
915 E. Pine, 320-8458.
Brunch Sat-Sun, 8:30 am-3 pm; Lunch Mon-Sat, 11 am-2 pm; Dinner Mon-Wed, 5:30 pm-12 am; Thurs 5:30 pm-10 pm; Fri 5:30 pm-12 am. $
With the renowned Chef Rip at the helm, the Century Ballroom Cafe is capable of achieving great heights. Red curtains and tidy white tables offer a hint of elegance, contrasting with the funky space. The menu offers tapas, salads, soups, desserts, and beer and wine.
Red and tangy, the Chick Pea and Harissa Spread ($3.50) served as a perfect complement to the delightfully nutty house bread. Both the Pacific Snapper ($8.95) and Portobello Mushrooms with Snap Peas, Mustard Greens, Fresh Mozzarella, Roast Onion and Tomato Sauce ($7.95) were done in parchment paper, which achieved its age-old goal of locking in freshness and moisture. The parchment paper evoked fond memories of foil meals on childhood scouting trips; perhaps Rip, too, was a scout, and this is his salute to his childhood avocations. JA (7/