Welcome to The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
Eric Perlin was one of several Michael Mina employees who relocated to Seattle to be a part of the new RN74. These days he's a fixture in both the dining room and bar, where he has mastered the art of walking swiftly without appearing to be in a hurry. Despite the venue's growing happy hour reputation, and the proliferation of wine, Perlin says no truly crazy shenanigans have yet occurred here (either that or he's too classy to share). However Perlin did share his thoughts on Vegas versus Seattle, finding a seat, and non-wine uses for the restaurant's signature Solari train board.
It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday night: what's the wait for a table? Probably about an hour or so. But...we always take a quick walk through the restaurant to see what we have available. Often times there are some primo seats at the bar, a cozy booth in the lounge, or some lively and social seats at our communal table. Our full menu is available everywhere so it gives us a great deal of flexibility accommodating walk-ins. The bottom line is that we want people to spend their evening with us having dinner so we will go out of our way to accommodate them.
What's the strangest request that you've accommodated? I really haven't had any strange requests yet.
Any requests you couldn't accommodate? So far, I've not had a request that the restaurant couldn't accommodate.
Any unusual requests relating to the Solari board? The train board is the centerpiece of the dining room and everyone wants to see it in action. Every wine listed is the last bottle we have in house of that particular wine. When we sell that last bottle, the board flips and something else replaces it. We have the ability to put personal messages up there and are happy to do so if a guest requests. Happy birthday wishes are popular. We had an employee that left us for the summer to go study abroad and came in to eat with her mom for her last stateside meal. We put some "bon voyage" wishes up there and when her mother saw the message she started to cry. It was lovely. What I really want to see is someone propose to their fiancée up there. Kind of like the foodie version of proposing via Jumbotron at a Seahawks game.
How busy does it get during happy hour? Thursdays and Fridays can get pretty insane. People always seem pretty eager to get a head start on the weekend and the entire bar and lounge usually fills up right at 4. We are full by 5 every other day. Happy hour has to be my favorite time of day. The energy and vibe in the restaurant is amazing. And just when it seems like everything is starting to die down? 10 o clock rolls around and we will back up for late night happy hour. Gotta love it.
Do you see many VIP or local celebs? Call me crazy but local celebrities to me are the chefs, sommeliers, managers, and owners from all of the amazing restaurants here in Seattle. And yes we see them all the time. These people know food and wine and it is incredibly flattering to have them join us for dinner or drinks. This is such a food town and the industry here is so tight-knit, it really makes our night having these people stop in to say hello.
What are your favorite items on the current menu? I love braised meat so the beef bourguignon really hits the spot for me. The short rib on this dish is so tender you could cut it with a feather. Our foie gras sliders are a no-brainer and pair beautifully with some of the 50-plus-year-old Sauternes we often pour by the glass. For lunch I'm addicted to our house-smoked salmon BLT and probably eat it at least twice a week. But my absolute favorite has to be our Liberty Farms duck breast. This has to be one of the best duck preparations I've ever had. Eating it is a religious experience.
How does Seattle compare to your Mina posts in Vegas? Seattle is way better. I love Vegas and it's my home, but it's such a transient city. The majority of our guests were people visiting from out of town that we would never see again. I always loved the guests that would come to town once or twice a year and make it a point to dine with us and say hello. Here in Seattle we have repeat guests that dine with us multiple times a week. Sometimes even multiple times daily. Seeing these guests brightens my day and hands down is my favorite thing about the industry here.
At the end of the day, what's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Definitely our rock star host team. Sometimes I get pulled in so many different directions that service would crash and burn if they weren't there to bail me out. A couple more tables in the dining room wouldn't hurt either.