Kraken Congee is laying down roots in Pioneer Square, and you’ll definitely recognize the destination: the just-closed Little Uncle space. Co-owner Shane Robinson tells Eater that they’re hoping to move their popular pop-up into PSQ this spring, with April the earliest goal.
Kraken started popping up around town in spring 2013 with their previously unseen in Seattle cuisine, merging Southeast Asian congee with "haute ingredients" — meaning, everything from duck confit to pork belly adobo. "The all stars of the pop-ups, like the pork adobo and others will definitely make it on the menu," Robinson says.
A wok station left over from Little Uncle adds the option for fried rice and noodle dishes. They’re planning on a menu of around 18 items plus specials, divided between 7-8 congees, some rice and noodle dishes, and a handful of starters.
And the rice porridge dish that made them the darlings of the pop-up world will soon be available all day and night, as Robinson and his partner Garrett Doherty plan to be open seven days a week, for lunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), happy hour (3 to 6 p.m.), and dinner.
The bar, which served as a seating area for Little Uncle, will be given a jolt with TVs and a cocktail program. Kraken will have a full liquor license, and is working with one of their pop-up co-conspirators to develop a cocktail menu based on Asian flavors.
The Kraken Congee owners appeared on the Restaurant Startup premiere back on July 8, 2014 and secured funding for their restaurant. Doherty told Eater at the time that he was looking for a 2,000-2,500 square foot space to seat 50. Turns out, that’s exactly what they found.
Little Uncle left the space at 1st and Yesler on February 25. On Little Uncle’s last day in the neighborhood, Robinson and the show’s co-host, Chef Tim Love, stopped by the restaurant to case the joint. That same day, Love tweeted "It's official! My deal with @KrakenCongee is done! Pioneer square here we come! Stay Calm and Eat Congee!"
Robinson and Little Uncle co-owner Wiley Frank have known each other for years — since the former first started cooking in Seattle. "Wiley was my banquet chef at the W Hotel. I’ve known him and PK for a long, long time. I cooked for them at Little Uncle’s Madison window, and we’ve always been in touch." When Frank and wife PK decided to uproot their Pioneer Square lunch spot, they contacted Robinson directly.
"They didn’t even put it on the market, it wasn’t listed," Robinson says. "They thought it would be a good fit and reached out. It’s hard to find the right spot, so we’re really lucky to have this." To warm up the largely stone and brick subterranean space, they’ll be adding two finishes of wood. The layout of the room will remain the same, with tables dotted around the room and flush to the wall's built-in benches, bar seating, and the front counter abutting the kitchen.
As for their Texas-based partner, Robinson says "Tim came up and saw it. And he thinks it’s a really cool space." Since helping Kraken secure funding, Fort Worth chef Love has become a permanent part of the Kraken team. "He owns a percentage and he’ll be involved throughout the life of Kraken; he’s a permanent fixture in the business."
Robinson’s last gig was as Chef de Cuisine at Firefly on the Amazon campus, which he left last week. Doherty left his post as Bistro Chef for The Ruins dining club on Sunday.