Lark debuted in its new location at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Central Agency building, and at a pre-opening walk through chef/owner John Sundstom was admirably calm about the impending opening day. It's an ambitious move, but after ten years making the most of a small kitchen on 12th Ave. it's also a change that makes sense for the James Beard Award-winning chef and partners JM Enos and Kelly Ronan. Lark 2.0 doesn't gain many seats in the dining room with its royal blue mohair booths, but it does include a much larger, open kitchen and expanded, metal-topped bar that seats 16.
The dining room in the fully restored 1917 Auto Row warehouse is long and narrow, but with tall ceilings and big windows the room, which seats 50, feels spacious. Dozens of small hanging Edison bulbs line the ceiling, which Sundstrom says should just need to be changed once every five years -- an eventual pain in the ass worth it for the warm light that fills the space at night.
Sundstrom says about two-thirds of the menu stays true to 12th Ave.'s offerings, with the remaining third including new additions, including Lark's first ever burger. It's made with St. Helen's beef and smoked mayonnaise, served on a buttery homemade bun sprinkled with duck cracklings. Two kinds of bread are made on-site, served tableside with salted butter and smoked lardo, because why not. Also on the menu: Bluebird Grains farro with mascarpone and black trumpet mushrooms, charred octopus with Bomba rice, and foie gras two ways: either as a terrine with pear vanilla compote and brioche or seared with charred sweet onions, PX vinegar, and crispy chicken skin.
The mezzanine overlooking Lark's dining room houses Bitter/Raw. Bitter/Raw seats 60, with a central communal table and rectangular bar. The menu is split in two.
Part one: a raw bar serving oysters, clams, and caviar. There's a fresh sheet that will change every week or two, with diners stamping orders on a sheet of paper, dim sum-style. And riffing off of seafood plates at New York's Balthazar, the bar serves tiered Celebratory platters that range from $50 to $140. The composed plates star Northwest seafood, like Alaskan bay scallop with habanero, persimmon, and mint and Lummi Island uni with ginger ponzu, crispy garlic, and cucumber.
Part two: Sliced-to-order charcuterie served with chutneys and pickles, landjager with two mustards, and lardo "cinnamon toast" (again, why not?) Bitter spirits fill the drink list, including cocktails featuring Cynar and Averna paired with apricot and peach bitters.
Slab Sandwiches + Pie
The third part of Sundstrom's new Central Agency trifecta doesn't open until just before the holidays, but Slab Sandwiches + Pie is almost ready to debut in a sweet space with a separate entrance and its own branding. There's a standup counter for scarfing down a Cuban or 12-hour brisket sandwich, and, come summer, a few red tables will line the street outside. But Slab is mostly a grab-and-go lunch affair, with Vita espresso, pantry essentials, and fresh juice. Sundstrom hopes that with the addition of Vancouver sandwich shop Meat & Bread moving in across the hall, the Central Agency building will become the new center of Capitol Hill's sandwich universe.
Sundstrom says he's sentimental about moving out of the original Lark space but is already renting the room to groups hosting holiday events. He also hints at a possible new concept for the location -- with its prime 12th Ave. address -- beyond private parties. Prediction: 2015 is going to be a big year for team Lark.
Lark and Bitter/Raw, 952 E. Seneca St., Capitol Hill, (206) 323-5275, website, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily