Last week, Chris Cvetkovich signed the lease on the location that will become Nue, a project inspired by street food tasted during the chef/owner's global travels. The restaurant in REO Flats on Capitol Hill's Auto Row neighbors Omega Ouzeri, the upcoming Greek spot from the owner of Vios. Eater toured the space and learned more about its menu and concept from Cvetkovich, a first-time restaurateur with two decades of experience working in tech.
Cvetkovich spent the last five years doing 3D animation for clients in the food science industry. "My kitchen at home kind of looks like a meth lab with rotavaps and refrigerated centrifuges," he says. After working full shifts in the office and putting in another eight hours a night cooking at home he decided to take the plunge into the restaurant world and open Nue.
Cvetkovich has traveled to more than 50 countries, taking notes about his favorite dishes along the way. "I travel pretty much to eat," Cvetkovich says. While its kitchen will use some "high tech" equipment, Nue's street food-inspired menu will embrace a range of preparation techniques.
While the concept is in its early stages and he plans to bring on a chef to round out the menu, Cvetkovich says Nue's offerings will be centered around lesser-known small plates that riff off of dishes found in South America, the Mediterranean, Asia, and beyond.
"Seattle has a lot of cool ethnic restaurants but there's only a handful of dishes that come back. Everybody know banh mi, everybody knows pho. But when you're in Vietnam there's hundreds of others. The idea is to bring those back."
In addition to room for 30 in the dining room and a full bar, Nue will have a window where you can order from the menu off the street, and a liquid nitrogen ice cream station. The machine will rotate between three or four flavors, including traditional options like lemon custard, and some experiments—Cvetkovich throws out smoked hay as an example. Hanging meats and a walk-in with cut out windows flank one side of the open kitchen; an island will be built out front surrounded by chairs for outdoor dining when weather allows.
So can a newcomer pull it off? "A lot of my people ask me, 'do all your friends think you're crazy for doing this?' because I've never run a restaurant before," Cvetkovich says. "But they don't. They ask me, 'what took you so freaking long?'"
Cvetkovich sees business models changing in the restaurant industry. "We have retail entering the restaurant space, we have subscription services. What I'm taking from the tech and game industry is that you have to be tactile, you have to be able to move and change around. Not that you're going to be flighty, but if you're agile, I think you can keep on top of it."
Nue is planning to start serving lunch and dinner on December 1.
· Nue [Facebook]