"Flying Fish has been around for 15 years. It was originally opened by chef Christine Keff in 1995, in the middle of Belltown back when the area was a busy and popular but not quite so busy or so popular--or quite so jammed up with hat-boy bars and last-call survivors wandering up and down 1st Avenue horking Jager into the gutters. For 15 years, it offered a dependable spot for seafood in a city that never really lacked places for seafood, but managed to rise above much of the competition by focusing almost completely on seafood, and playing up the World Food/Fusion angle back before that was such a completely overdone gimmick.
Recently, Keff--who has had a remarkable career, stretching from New York City to the Pacific Northwest, including stints at the Four Seasons, the Hunt Club, at McCormick and Schmick's as their executive chef, and standing up before the Manhattan crowds to receive her James Beard Award in 1999 as Best Chef Northwest--decided that she no longer saw herself or her restaurant as fitting in with the neighborhood that had grown and changed around her. She started looking around for a new home for her tried and trusted concept and found a spot in South Lake Union that was nearly perfect: the first floor of a shiny new tower, all wrapped in windows and with a ready-made neighborhood clientele just aching for something new to fall in love with.
I never knew the old Flying Fish. It was before my time in Seattle. But speaking to those who did know it, I understand the risk that Keff was taking in picking up stakes and moving. What she had was that most rare of restaurant life-forms: a going concern--a popular, respected, and occasionally beloved restaurant still moving considerable numbers after 15 years in business. And even if she was no longer crazy about her neighbors, the thought of killing something like that and essentially starting over in a new location is just insane by most rational restaurant-world standards.
But she did it, buoyed up perhaps by the 10 years she'd spent in New York opening and closing restaurants, or maybe just by the confidence that comes from truly knowing what you're doing. The new Flying Fish is busy. It draws a decent crowd on traditionally slow nights and a heavy one during prime time. And the how and the why of that are written into every square inch of the space and the menu."
From Strong Safety, this week's review of Flying Fish.And you can find out all about the how's and the why's of chef Christine Keff's new Flying Fish tomorrow, when this week's review hits the stands and the internets. As usual, it's all full of lists and history and fish and zombies, but also details the weird things that chefs do when they start getting the urge to move or to expand and how people react when a beloved neighborhood institution pulls up stakes and decamps for new frontiers.
So check it out, won't you? And stay tuned later in the week for another food porn slideshow focusing on the beautiful plates that Keff's kitchen puts together and the (oddly) inspired space in which they're served.