The Watering Hole: RN74, 1433 Fourth Ave., 456-7474, SEATTLE.
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. match. 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’ve 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 someone in our party.
The Barkeep: The reason it’s so loud in RN74 is precisely the reason that conversing with a bartender is an impossibility—the place is packed. As Seattle’s newest business-dining and tourist-heavy 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 traces 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 and the Village Sazerac (pronounced the French way: vih-lahzh). Both were a pleasing departure from the usual cocktails one finds around town.
The IOHWIR is made with with Bulleit bourbon, maraschino liqueur, 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 mellowness of the Pinot and ending with the sweetness of the maraschino. This rich but refreshing drink is not something you’d want on a hot summer day—hence the name—but rather après-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. The soda adds an African flair—that is until one realizes Fever-Tree is a European brand, 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.