Welcome to Five Years In, a feature in which Eater chats with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their fifth anniversary.
Chef William Belickis doesn't shy away from change. He ran his original restaurant, Mistral, in Belltown for eight and a half years with great fanfare, but Belickis shut down the successful restaurant to start anew with Mistral Kitchen.
"It was in Belltown and the neighborhood was changing and so I decided I wanted to be in a different neighborhood and do some different things," he says. "I really needed a bigger space and I was so fortunate that the developers happened to approach me and say 'Hey, we have this great spot, what do you think about it', and so I took it."
Mistral Kitchen was born in the Denny Triangle area in late 2009, designed to appeal to serious diners as well as the casual after-work crowd. And Belickis recalls a memorable first day.
"We tried to kind of have a gradual start to the restaurant's history, so we did a holiday party for a company that's [run by] a good friend of mine," he remembers. "And we accidentally set off the fire alarm. So it's pretty hard to forget that."
Over the past five years, Belickis has guided his reincarnated restaurant to the upper echelon of Seattle's dining scene, all while paying attention to an ever-changing neighborhood. "I'm not afraid of change," he says without hesitation. "You have to be willing to adapt."
One of those recent changes is the complete re-do of the restaurant's Jewel Box, formerly a high-end dining room with its own menu. The new Jewel Box tentatively opens tomorrow as an "upscale cocktail lounge," as Belickis describes it. He'll serve a menu of small plates, "bar-friendly food with some good spices and a little bit of Korean and Spanish influence."
The inspiration came in part from an unlikely source. "I built it for a lot of reasons but a big one is that it's a tribute to this amazing glass artist who I met from outside of Philadelphia," Belickis says. "So we've wrapped the entire room in his glass work. It's really beautiful."
For all that change and reinvention, Belickis has always insisted on carefully-sourced ingredients from local purveyors. "This area has the best oysters in the world, so we always make sure we have oysters on hand," he says. And he's kept the diner favorite half-roasted chicken, doused with mole negro and served with cauliflower, oyster mushrooms, and chard.
Looking back, Belickis says there are too many good memories to choose from. "It's all been great," he says. "I've been so fortunate to have a great team of people here. We have amazing customers, we get great ingredients. I'm pretty lucky in that sense."