Spinasse Restaurant – Seattle

Months ago I read something about a Northern Italian restaurant named Spinasse that is located on 14th Ave in Seattle.  They supposedly had a creative menu designed by a young, up and coming superstar chef.  I filed it away in the back of my mind and went on with my eating adventures at many other places.

In July, Food + Wine released their issue that included the “Best New Chefs of 2010” and Jason Stratton of Spinasse was on that list.  He joins previous winners Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, Daniel Boulud of New York’s Daniel, David Chang of Momofuku and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, among others.  We’re talking some top notch culinary masters on a prestigious list.  There are enough Michelin Stars from the previous F+W winners to make new constellations, so to say that making the cut is “a great honor” would be an understatement.

Looking at the restaurant’s website I read that they have a “Chef’s Counter” dinner for two or four people, Friday or Saturday night.  It is a 10 course meal with a diverse tasting of the menu for $100 a head (Prices may change, if even still available).  If you’re not familiar with a chef’s table style of dinner, it’s a great way to get to know a chef by meeting and talking with them, but most importantly by eating the foods that they have chosen for you to taste as a representation of his or her palate.  The menu is based on the cuisine from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy but has many influences from all over the world.  Spinasse uses fresh, local ingredients of the highest quality so their menu varies slightly depending on what is available and in season.

How about a sneak peek?  Even though you can’t smell and taste the food, I’ll show you the amazing spread that I enjoyed:

Anchovy on a Buttered Crostini…

Pear Salad

Pear, Fennel and Celery tossed in a seasoned vinegar dressing topped with Pecorino.  This dish blew me away.  Early in the meal and I was extremely impressed with Jason’s palate.  The combination of flavors were superbly balanced.

Squash Salad

This Russian influenced Italian dish of vegetables in a Tuna Maionesse was great.  Some spice and tang, with the strong sweet taste from the Squash, it was excellent.

Roasted Leek Flan with Fonduta cheese sauce

You had me at cheese.  When Jason set the plate in front of me, the smell was entrancing.  One of my favorite dishes, hands down.  The subtle roasted Leek flavor in this quiche-like dish complemented the cheese sauce so well.  It was served with bread to add some contrast of texture to the smooth and creamy deliciousness on the plate;  I sopped up every bit of cheese I could find.

Pig Trotter

Braised the night before and deboned, then formed, cut, battered and fried.  The tender pork cube had a crispy exterior and I had trouble believing it was pig feet.

Tarjarin al Burro e Salvia

Fresh hand cut Egg Pasta in Butter and Sage topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Phenomenal.  This is why Spinasse is one of the Top 10 pasta places in the entire country.  I’m not sure I’ve eaten better, even while traveling in Italy.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Finished with Cumin and Sage Butter, topped with shaved Pecorino.  I smelled the strong Cumin before tasting the dish and thought it would be completely out of place, but I was shocked at how well it fit into the dish.

Fresh Tagliatelle Pasta Ragu with Tripe and Chickpeas

Yeah, I wrote Tripe and Chickpeas.  Would I have ordered this dish seeing it on a menu next to almost anything else?  Nope, but that’s why trusting the chef pays off sometimes.  He knows what he’s doing.  This is one of those jaw-dropping dishes that reaches up and slaps you in the face for doubting it will be delicious.  Jason says this is one of his favorite dishes to present to people and I understand why.  My expectation of rubbery “Menudo style” tripe was shattered by the tender little strips that I barely had to chew.

Roasted Chicken on a bed of Brussels sprouts

Fresh young Chicken from a local farm in Ephrata, Washington…  I am always hesitant to order chicken in Restaurants because it is relatively cheap and easy to cook at home.  When I go out, I like to get food that I can’t (or don’t want to) make at home.  I can not make this Chicken at home.  It was so succulent and moist I couldn’t stop eating it.  I literally couldn’t stop eating the chicken and I ran out of chicken.  At this point in the meal I’ve eaten a lot of food, I’m no longer hungry and yet it was still the best Chicken I can remember ever having.  There is no way that they can make that dish, that good, ever again.  I got lucky this time.  No one is perfect and everyone overcooks chicken once in a while right?  Next time I’m sure I’ll be disappointed in comparison.  I don’t know how they did it, but I look forward to finding out if they can replicate the quality.

Rabbit Meatball

Served on a delicious Vegetable puree.  Tender and absolutely fantastic!  I loved it, but I wanted more Chicken.

Left: Little Toasted Brioce pieces on a moist Date Cake, Good.

Center: Chocolate and Hazelnut mousse with Dark Chocolate pieces, Better.

Right: Huckleberry and Lemon Goat Cheese crisp with Ginger jelly pieces, Best.  Even though I’m not a fan of Goat Cheese, Lemon, or Ginger, the combination of flavors in this well rounded dessert was more than satisfying.

Dessert was a 3-in-1 for us.  We were definitely lucky and got extra this time.  It was bitter-sweet though.  Literally bitter-sweet from the bitter dark chocolate pieces and sweet whiped cream, but as good as the desserts were, we knew our meal was coming to an end.  I looked at the time and realized that 3 hours had passed.  Just right for such a great experience.

Spinasse and Jason Stratton have been all over the press including Bon Appetit Magazine, Wine Spectator, Food + Wine Magazine, The Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, City Search, Yahoo News, and even the Food Network.  One thing I don’t like about super hyped restaurants is the disappointment when they turn out to be underwhelming, but I found the opposite was true with Spinasse.  Most of the dishes had some ingredients in them that on their own disgust me;  However the flavors here were integrated seamlessly and every dish had a wonderful depth of flavor to them.  I love when a meal satisfies every sense of flavor on my pallet and this meal did, multiple times over.  Everyone has their own personal tastes but I found that I could at least appreciate, if not absolutely love, everything that was placed in front of me at Spinasse in Seattle; That is a rare thing for me.  The service was amazing too and Spinasse is now on my very short list of places that I am eager to visit again.

This is Jason Stratton:

Next time you see him on TV, in a magazine, or if you happen to have the good fortune of sitting at one of his tables, please appreciate the opportunity, because this young Superstar is definitely on the rise!

Check them out at www.spinasse.com

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