There's a beautiful Jewish tradition by which a boy attending his first day of school is sat on his teacher's lap and taught the alphabet. The teacher reads the first letter aloud, and the boy repeats it. The teacher then coats the letter with honey for the boy to lick so he'll know that learning is sweet. The first taste sets the tone for all that lies ahead.
Revel's corned lamb salad wasn't the first thing I ate in Seattle, but it was the first dish I ordered on my very first restaurant review visit here. If a platoon of Talmudic scholars were to scour the city, I doubt they'd uncover a dish that better epitomizes Seattle dining today. With the clarity of honey on a textbook page, that salad signaled how I'd eat here.
When I had the salad, it was made with spindly, peppery mizuna, a green I'd never seen in the South. The patches of lamb tasted chewy and young; the slivered radishes were alluringly bitter and the whole mess was enrobed by a cracking nuoc cham that didn't stint on the fish sauce.
Moved by the heady evocation of springtime glories, I likened the plate to an English landscape painting. But the salad's character is decidedly domestic: The Asian tilt, the locally-grown ingredients, the protein tweak, the brave citric jolt and the underlying reverence for the season are themes that keep popping up in my ongoing study of contemporary Seattle cuisine. I'd glad school's not out yet.