The Eats: Sutra, 1605 N. 45th St., 547-1348. Farm-to-table vegetarian, mostly vegan cuisine.
The Deets: Serving fixed-price, four course suppers (with two seatings on weekends and one daily dinner service), this small storefront on the Wallingford strip accommodates a humbly-sized yet bustling house. Reservations are not required but are recommended, best exemplified by wishful diners who arrive after the first course and are politely turned away. The open kitchen is teensy-weensy, like the serving staff, with just one or two bodies at each station, and Sutra's guiding practice is to serve all guests at once.
Owners Amber Tande and Colin Patterson also operate Sutra Yoga & Wellness Center next door, so there's a palpable new age feel to the enterprise. In some ways, it feels much like the Napa-based, Michelin-rated Ubuntu, which functions on a nearly identical model, with an adjacent yoga studio and community-focused menu planning. But the astral-planing, trendy vibes of such a place seem more natural there, in the midst of yuppie, avocado-loving Cali (and I can say that, because I lived there).
As a vegetarian making a life in Seattle, I applaud everything about Sutra--from its sustainable values and locally sourced produce to its recycled paper menus--but considering the time commitment (this isn't the kind of place where you can grab a drink and an appetizer and hit the road) and the price tag ($165 for two, including tip and wine pairings), my own personal uptight Seattleite left wanting a more a pampered experience.
The Beets: The kitchen's use of ingredients is creative and ambitious, and items are painstakingly acquired through relationships with local purveyors. With such pride in their pantry, the actual menu reads like a run-on sentence. Two courses after the pictured salad and soup above (fine, but very earthy and sparsely dressed), our third course unraveled as follows: "heirloom rice-mung bean dosa served with a nigella-sumac-tomato-Tokyo market turnip & cauliflower curry with a peppercress-mace chutney & a cashew-preserved lemon tuille finished with a pomegranate-molasses drizzle."
To Sutra's credit, each ingredient was discussed in detail at a briefing before dinner service, accompanied by the tolling of a gong and a quick blessing of the local farms, foragers, and workers who labored to produce the evening's food. But with such a list of ingredients and thank-yous, most items were more verbally dazzling than anything else. The components of each dish took such time and care to construct that by the time they arrived, were only slightly warm and flavors often clashed or counter-balanced one another, as with the dosa above, whose rice-mung bean cake was too tangy and accompanying tomato-turnip-cauliflower chutney under seasoned and too zesty.
As for my uptight Seattleite, our wine pairings were pitifully small, served in dinky glasses, and were always dry before we finished our course, making me wish we ordered a bottle of wine. Our server was sweet, but was taking care of the entire dining room and had little time to chat. When we got up to leave, no one took notice until we muttered, "Thank you," on the way out.
The Tweet: Sutra's values are perfectly centered, but the food and ambiance teeters off balance.