Here's what I know about Campagne, the restaurant which chef Daisley Gordon remade as Marché, the subject of this week's review: Per the Seattle Times, it was beloved. According to our own Julien Perry, there were white linens on the tables. And Corby Kummer called it his favorite restaurant in Seattle.
As a newcomer to Seattle, I can size up a restaurant on its merits, and assess how it compares to its contemporaries. But it will be years before my summations will be tempered by consideration of what's come and gone. I'm in no rush.
I find restaurant histories fascinating. The restaurant mortality rate is extraordinarily high, so I'm always interested in how restaurants evolve and survive. I'm a sucker for restaurants from the icebox era: I collect historic restaurant visits the way some women collect vintage hats.
At a restaurant which celebrates its past, a reviewer would be foolish to ignore the multitude of meals prepared, served and devoured before he or she even knew the place existed. What happened at Maneki a century ago is as critical to its character as the quality of the shrimp it served last night. Longevity doesn't excuse bad food or poor service, but it can be as compelling as a smart wine list or perfectly-seared steak.
But not every restaurant is eager to linger on its previous incarnation. When El Gaucho decided to shut down its Waterfront Seafood Grill and rebrand the venue as Aqua by El Gaucho, it issued a press release indicating it meant to make a clean break. "We wanted to update the restaurant to make it a little more in tune with the El Gaucho identity," the release quoted owner Paul Mackay as saying.
Many readers were surprised I didn't acknowledge Waterfront Seafood Grill's reputation in my pan of Aqua, but I can't imagine why that information would matter to eaters. Restaurant customers are paying for the meal they get, not the one served seven years ago. Free from the constraints of nostalgia, I can fairly weigh in on whether it's worth their money.
A meal at Marché certainly belongs in the worthwhile category. Campagne may have been wonderful, but Marché is lovely right now.
Update: I wrote this post days ago, not knowing Marché would get the double review treatment this week: Bethany Jean Clement wrote up the restaurant for The Stranger, and had lots and lots to say about Campagne. I love when our reviews synchronize -- here's more on why -- but the coincidence makes the foregoing seem like passive-aggressive commentary on her fine work. It's not.