Welcome back to Week in Reviews. Seattle's food critics recently visited Seven Beef, Bateau, Mollusk, Lionhead, and Gracia. Here's what the reviewers had to say:
CAPITOL HILL/CENTRAL DISTRICT—Seattle Met critic Kathryn Robinson measures "Seattle's current excess of mad prosperity" through the lens of two busy, pricey steakhouses practicing whole animal butchery. She enjoys the flavors at Seven Beef, but is disappointed by the restaurant's "schizophrenia," where "a Vietnamese experience coexists awkwardly with the prevailing steak house identity," the servers are "affable" but "callow," and on any given night "90 percent of the steak menu is unavailable." Bateau, on the other hand, has "great service," the French-style steaks are "uniformly lush," and the sides "vault Bateau to stunner status":
I could go on, about the veal sweetbreads piqued with capers and pickled elderflowers and the return of Boat Street's perfect amaretto bread pudding—but it makes more sense simply to summarize that this is a kitchen worth trusting with both your appetite and your C-notes.
SOUTH LAKE UNION—For Seattle Met, Robinson also considers Mollusk, where the Southeast Asian-influenced menu is "about three times longer than" at its smaller spiritual predecessor, Gastropod, "but alas, not nearly as solid":
Indeed, [co-owner/chef Travis] Kukull's contrarian impulses often wound the enterprise. (Onion-olive chocolate chip cookies, anyone?) Add in the execution bobbles—chicken for the curry was exquisitely sourced, then overcooked—and what you have here is a winner that maybe got too big, and too ambitious (dinner every night plus weekend brunches), too fast. Or perhaps simply a chef less suited to the shiny commercial kitchen than to the creative vanguard.
CAPITOL HILL—The Stranger's Angela Garbes visits Sichuan-styled Lionhead, where owner Jerry Traunfeld (Poppy) tells her, "I don't claim to be an expert on Chinese food, I just like to cook it" — and Garbes likes to eat it:
The [duck] had been braised so long that both its flesh and bones were tender; I nibbled on its soft little ribs and sucked out every bit of flavor that I could. I dipped pieces of juicy breast into a mixture of coarse gray salt and Sichuan peppercorns; my tongue lit up with the taste of citrus before getting pleasantly tingly and numb. It was marvelous.
BALLARD—In an early look for Seattle Weekly, Nicole Sprinkle enjoys the huarachitos with duck carnitas at Gracia but otherwise leaves unsatisfied, lamenting that "no one has perfected" Mexican food in Seattle yet:
Unfortunately, the tacos (five options at $8 for two pair) aren't spectacular. The classic Yucatán dish, cochinita pibil—pork slow-roasted with achiote seeds and sour orange juice—has that requisite citrus note, as well as a jolt from the habanero and tang from the pickled onions. It's fine, but something—I can't quite put my finger on it—is lacking.