The Watering Hole: RN74. 1433 Fourth Ave., 456-7474, SEATTLE.
Julien Perry Trying to chat with these guys is like trying to stop a speeding train.
The Atmosphere: Built to resemble an old-school European train station, RN74 indeed is as busy and loud as the Metro after a Paris Saint-Germain F.C. game. Plaid-shirted servers skirt the throngs with fistfuls of wine-appropriate glasses while large tables of suits argue over who's footing the bill.
The various times we visited RN74, the level of activity seemed never to deviate from anything less than a frenzy, making it hard to both concentrate and communicate. Be prepared: This extends to "le W.C.," where train noises are piped in and the screeching whistle of a phantom train literally scared the pee out of one in our party (OK, me).The Barkeep: The reason why it is so loud in RN74 is precisely the reason actually conversing with a bartender is an impossibility--the place is packed. As Seattle's newest business dining and tourist-visiting hot spot, the bar was three or more people deep each time we visited. In their pursuit of expedient service, the bartenders' presence is little more than peripheral tracers and hair-lifting lilts of quickly displaced air. Feeling it a bit impoli to punch groins to get at the bar after a third visit, the only option for a first call was to venture away from the bar.
The Drink(s): Thanks to manager Eric Perlin and server Nathan Barker, we were presented with two drinks--the "I'm Only Happy When It Rains" (do we have a choice these days?) and the "Village Sazerac" (pronounced the French way: vihl-AHZH). Both drinks were a pleasing departure from the usual cocktails one finds around town.
Julien Perry Only drink this when it rains. Which means in Seattle you can drink these all the time.
The IOHWIR is made with with Bulleit bourbon, Maraschino liquor, lemon juice, and a housemade Pinot Noir reduction. Reminiscent of Kriek, minus the fizz and plus the bourbon, this hearty concoction packs a liquor-forward punch followed by the mellow of the Pinot and ending with the sweet of the maraschino. This rich but refreshing drink is not something you'd want on a hot summer's day--hence, one assumes, the name--but more appropriate apres-ski or to warm up after a chilly deluge.
The Village Sazerac is made with Bulleit 95 rye, housemade plum bitters, simple syrup, Fever Tree soda, and a piece of ice encapsulating a single boozy pinot noir grape. This cocktail starts stiff but relaxes thanks to the mellowing plum bitters. Fever Tree soda adds an exotic African flair. That is, until pondering how (or why) to make soda from the bark of a fever tree, one realizes Fever Tree is a European brand of soda water, and all exotic visions dissolve faster than a mosquito bites.
The Verdict: RN74 is nothing like most of Seattle's fine-dining scene. It's lush and hurried and loud and fractured--but not in an entirely unpleasant way. It's as if you're in a bustling big city elsewhere, enjoying a change from the refined, muted tones of the Seattle standards you are used to. Grab a drink and watch the traffic of the restaurant--if you can actually get a seat at the bar. You probably won't get to chat up a relaxed bartender, but you may be visited by a phantom in the bathroom.