The mid-June opening of RN74 Seattle, big name chef and local boy Michael Mina's long-awaited local outpost, ticks ever closer. Last week the European Solari di Udine train board arrived, a signature of the original RN74 in San Francisco that will also be the focal point of the Seattle dining room.
Another central component of the restaurant, executive chef Michelle Retallack, also arrived recently. Mina himself will be in the kitchen for the first few months after the Burgundy-meets-Northwest wine bar and restaurant opens. A friend has even lent him a houseboat for Mina and his family to live on this summer, creating some major bragging rights for his kids when school starts back up.
However Retallack, a 14-year Mina vet, has moved from San Francisco to Queen Anne and says she's excited that her six-year wait for a position in Seattle has come to an end. According to Mina, Retallack passed up offers to head up several of his other restaurants because she was waiting for a chance to move to the Pacific Northwest.
Retallack spoke with Eater recently, discussing her long-awaited Seattle move, the kitchen at RN74 Seattle and how our version will differ from the San Francisco original.
Retallack, 33, started working with Mina at Aqua in San Francisco as a pastry extern back in 1998. She worked her way up the ranks quickly, and when Mina struck out on his own to form the Mina Group, he asked Retallack to come with him. Shehelped Mina open restaurants in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Jose and elsewhere, then spent 12 years at Michael Mina San Francisco.
I understand you've been waiting for RN74 Seattle for a long time?
When we opened up Michael Mina in San Francisco I stayed there and worked as executive sous chef for about five years. I was ready to move on at that point and take the next step in my career. But about six years ago, halfway through my time at Michael Mina SF, there was another Seattle offer. Like a lot of deals, it fell through, but I heard about it early on and said, "yeah, I want that one!" Since then I've been waiting for Seattle to come back up.
What made you want to relocate here? I went to culinary school in Portland and I love the Pacific Northwest. The thing about Seattle that really appealed to me is the quality of life.
Oh yeah, like what? It's as simple as having a parking spot and a yard and being able to live in a suburban-type area but still be in the city. It's beautiful up here. San Francisco is great but it's a tough lifestyle after a while. I'm so excited to have seasons; the rain isn't going to bother me a bit.
How will the menu at RN74 Seattle be different from the original? The basic menu philosophy is the same, food that is wine friendly, and some classics from the region [RN74 gets its name from a scenic vineyard-lined highway that runs through France's Burgundy region]. I like to take something classic that people might be able to relate to, like pate de campagne. It's a cold pork terrine but we're gong to serve it wrapped in brix dough [a thin, crepe-like dough]. You deep fry it and it gets super crispy. We serve it warm when it's typically cold, with apple mustard. It's flavors people expect but presented in a way that's completely different. We're also going to be really vegetable-forward on about half of our entrees, highlighting all the regional produce.
Anything about the kitchen you're particularly excited about? It seems simple, but the pass, our main workspace, is one big flat, open L-shape. A lot of times in restaurants they'll have poles with shelves on it, or refrigerated drop-ins for your mise en place. Having one big solid open counter gives you a lot of versatility of how to use the space. You're not locked in.
Any favorite restaurants so far in Seattle? I've been up here quite a few times recently; I think my favorite that has stood out through all visits is Sitka & Spruce. Oh, and of course Book Bindery. Shaun and I worked together a couple years ago.
· @RN74Seattle [Twitter]
· All Previous RN74 Seattle Coverage on Eater Seattle [-ESEA-]
[Photo via Michelle Retallack]