Rack of lamb mixiote from 2120. Photo by Nicole Sprinkle

Rack of lamb mixiote from 2120. Photo by Nicole Sprinkle

2120 Is the Latest Spot Trying to Solve Amazonia’s Culinary Conundrum

Can an upscale restaurant survive in fast-casual terrain?

A sibling of 99 Park, 2120 (2120 Sixth Ave., 829-8700) joins the slew of new restaurants opening near Amazon’s Sixth Avenue headquarters; however, unlike its fast-casual neighbors (Mamnoon Street, Marination, Skillet), this is a dressed-to-kill, upscale dining spot, with a large bar and dining room and even outdoor seating with an up-close view of Amazon’s Spheres. Inside is au courant design; lofty, lots of wood, ambient lighting—a little black dress of a place.

The menu at first glance also looks typical of a high-end, on-trend spot, with proteins like Draper Valley chicken, wagyu burgers, Penn Cove mussels, and Painted Hills beef. Closer inspection, however, will reveal a subtle Latin-American twist, born of chef Derek Bugge’s Mexican heritage. Unfortunately, it’s a little too subtle, and often felt more like window dressing.

For starters, the Anderson Ranch lamb tartare is a crowd pleaser; I’ve never had tartare from lamb, and I enjoyed that the flavor of the protein is discernible. In this case, incorporating poblano peppers and avocado in lieu of traditional capers and onions really heightens the dish, and the crunchy chicharron makes for a great Latin-inspired vehicle on which to eat it. Bacalao cakes (salt cod) are a tad too heavy on the potato and light on the cod, and a considerably large portion for a starter. The blistered corn relish, lime crème fraîche, and mache it’s served with is pleasant enough if not stupendous. Hibiscus-braised beets attempt originality and Latin inspiration with the addition of pineapple, a lime vinaigrette, and cotija cheese, but ultimately are mostly just too sweet. The requisite charcuterie plate is solid, but the guava mostarda is underwhelming when it should really pop.

Moving on to large plates, a duo of rabbit (saddle and confit leg) is lackluster, and the massive potato mille-feuille towering next to it feels out of place. This is a dish I was eagerly anticipating, but cascabel salsa had no shot at saving it. While similar in texture and taste to chicken, rabbit has a slightly earthier, stronger flavor when cooked right; but it just doesn’t come through in this dish.

King salmon from Vancouver is wonderfully prepared, but for $26 the scant portion size is hard to swallow (not literally). Served on a small bed of fregola sarda (a tiny pasta that looks like couscous) and embedded with abalone mushrooms, it’s dressed in a salsa verde—all of which can’t make up for the meager piece of fish. Salmon is a Seattle staple, so when you do it, you’d better make it magnificent. A rack of lamb “mixiote” is cooked gorgeously medium-rare down to every single bite, but the black-bean purée with puffed Spanish rice and quinoa is a mushy, flavorless mess. I scraped it away and concentrated on the excellent lamb. What does work successfully is the chicken, served in an almond mole negro that really embodies the quiet yet assertive richness that characterizes the sauce. It comes with a rösti potato, essentially a potato pancake, that takes up more plate space than it needs to.

On a still-summerlike Friday evening, the place was bustling and the din of conversation and gussied-up patrons brought a sophisticated but lively atmosphere (exaggerated more so by happy hour). Our server was on point, and I liked that Bugge himself served some of our dishes. One can’t help wondering about its fate, though. Given the recent closing of Josh Henderson’s upscale Vestal, with equally high price points but better food, it appears that cracking the South Lake Union code when it comes to finer dining is a challenge. The neighborhood just doesn’t exude “destination,” and is far from the minds, I think, of most Seattle residents planning a night out. The right place could do it, though—something so original and appealing that it would be impossible to discount. Unfortunately, with a menu that aspires to, but falls short of, bringing well-executed, Mexican-accented dishes, I’m not confident that 2120 will be the one.

nsprinkle@seattleweekly.com

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