This week, while big in so many ways (James Beard Awards, chowder cookoffs, Sanjaya...), also saw two super-sized announcements from local chefs instantly recognizable to those tracking the Seattle restaurant scene.
Lisa Nakamura, now of Allium on Orcas Island
First, there was the announcement (finally) that chef and owner of Rover's restaurant, Thierry Rautureau, had gotten the doors open at his newest venture: Luc, just a door away from Rover's at 2800 Madison. Two months ago, I talked with Scot Smith (floorman at Rover's and the new wine director at Luc) about plans for the place and, at that time, he had this to say:
"Everyone [at Luc] is hoping for an opening 'on Tax Day--April 15.' Of course, that's dependent on many things. 'Ideally, we were looking at March,' Smith told me. 'But permits and such...' and he let his voice trail off in such a way that anyone who has ever had dealings with the restaurant industry would understand to meant ...became somewhat more complicated than we'd planned."
So Luc missed March. It missed the April 15 date by a good three weeks. But that's all in the past now, because Luc is open for dinner today, pouring the wine and serving what is alleged to be a somewhat more casual board than the one at Rover's. Again, some words from Smith:
"[Luc will be] a combination French brasserie and Mediterranean cafe line with pizzas from the oven and steak frites on the floor, running the gamut from cheeseburgers to beef Bourguignon. Smith said that the menu, while not yet completely finished, will be 'French-driven with a hint of Mediterranean,' and the space itself will be 'bar-driven, with a bistro feel, and very family-friendly.'"
Here's hoping that the crew makes it through the opening weekend without too much trouble. God knows they've had enough time to get ready for it.
In the meantime, while the Luc staff are facing down that first serious hit in their new digs (doors open at 4pm), chef Lisa Nakamura, ex of The Herbfarm and, in years past, the French Laundry, is in a very different place. She announced recently on her blog (Recipes for Life at lisanakamura.com, just tagged as one of our top five chef blogs in the city) that she was going to be taking over the space on Orcas Island formerly home to Christina Orchid's eponymous restaurant Christina's. She said it like this:
The email seemed innocuous enough. "Christina Orchid is looking for someone to run her restaurant." Okay, I'll bite.
"Christina Orchid is looking for someone to run her restaurant."
Okay, I'll bite.
And then she goes on to detail the entire process of finding, falling in love with and buying a restaurant of her own. It's actually a rather remarkable blog post. Read it if you have a minute, and maybe you'll understand, in some small way, what the feeling of having a restaurant of your own is really like. I love this bit in particular...
So now I have a restaurant, and am busy with all the myriad of details that it takes to get it to actually function. My days are filled, I sleep without dreaming at night, I try not to doubt myself.
The new restaurant will be called Allium, and it already has a website. The sample menu she has posted is brilliant in its simplicity: a salad of "Market Greens and Other Finds," English pea soup with curried prawns, mini-tacos of smoked and paprika-braised pork shoulder and "Half a chicken: Roasted leg, milk-poached breast."
Nakamura's story is a good one--one that bounces from Napa to Korea to New Orleans and hurricane Katrina. But that will keep for another day. Right now, it's enough to know that she's out on the island, painting and re-upholstering and doing everything she can to bring her new restaurant into focus. I, for one, can't wait until an opening is announced.
Now that she's all on her own, I really want to see what Nakamura can do.