"Douglas was at Seatown on the day of the Dave Niehaus memorial, but he was there to eat, not cook: big sandwiches with friends, a quick pop-in to check up on the premises and the work of his lieutenants. Being the closest thing Seattle has to a celebrity chef--our Little League Emeril or Bobby Flay, the very big fish in our medium-sized pond--the man doesn't exactly sweat out shifts behind the line much anymore. He writes books, conceptualizes menus, trains chefs and sees to his empire (Palace Kitchen, Lola, Etta's, Serious Pie, Dahlia--both the lounge and the bakery--and now Seatown in both its guises), lording over seven full-on houses and a host of smaller, side-businesses, all interlinked, all internally supporting, bleeding synergy like a wound. He is a man with a deep and commanding understanding of the wants and needs of hungry people and has spread himself across the spectrum, doing fine dining and catering for the Richie Riches, mid-range Mediterranean and Italian and, always, the fish; operating a bakery that supplies all his other operations, hawking spice rubs, books and cookies across the counters and running a pizza joint for those looking for pies topped with Brussels sprouts, clams or truffle cheese.
Photo courtesy tomdouglas.com
Street food became a big thing--food trucks, walk-up carts and stands. Seatown, in both incarnations, is his line-jumping answer to that--a simple, cheap and comfortable place to graze on small plates that Douglas is too smart to call small plates, to snack in comfort and not have to suffer through an entire, sit-down meal. In that, it is a stroke of genius: the entire operation co-opting the desire for simplicity and ease without buying into its physical manifestations. He's a smart man who makes smart restaurants and Seatown is no exception. The entire double-sided operation feels like the kind of place you'd just luckily stumble upon on a dark, rainy night in an unfamiliar city. And Douglas put it at the emptying-out point of Pike Place Market, the intersection of the city and the waterfront: right where that scenario would most likely play itself out over and over and over again."
From this week's review of Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie, the new jewel in Tom Douglas's Seattle crown.
The crew at Seatown do a lot of things very well. There are a couple of things they do with questionable inspiration but no less enthusiasm. There are nights when the place is busy and alive with bodies and booze and food and others when the crowds are thin and everyone kind of looks around as if to say, "This place is awesome, so where are all the people...?"
I've been there on both kinds of nights. I've eaten my way though the menus at both the bar/restaurant side of the operation and the strange take-out/prep/rotisserie counter on the other. And tomorrow, you can read all about both.
One thing you won't get to read about, though? The one plate at Seabar that I hated more than anything. At the very last minute--literally as we were putting the paper to bed for the week--I found out that Douglas had removed from the menu the one dish that I felt was a complete and total failure of both vision and execution. Obviously, he (or someone in his kitchen) felt that way, too.
It seemed wrong to include my long discussion of this one dish in the formal review, so it was pulled at the 11th hour in order that the review itself would present the most accurate and up-to-date information we had. But because that plate was still something that I ate--something that had an effect on my overall impression of Seabar--I didn't exactly throw that section away. Once the review is up online and safely on the stands, I think it's fair game.
Which means that some time later this week we can have a little chat about that missing meal--one of the worst deliberate things I have ever put in my mouth for money--and what it means when a good chef and crew do wrong. Be looking for it either Wednesday or Friday.