Seattle’s dining scene just lost a little more luster. After four years, the critically-acclaimed Frelard destination Tarsan i Jane — known for mind-blowing tasting menus with Valencian influences and killer paella — is closing permanently. Chef Perfecte Rocher and his wife Alia Zaine, who manages the restaurant, announced that they are in the process of selling the place and moving back to Los Angeles soon.
“We are excited to share that we are expecting our second child, our son, Kosme, in January,” the couple said in a statement sent to Eater Seattle. “With both of us coming from divorced parents, being a strong family unit is our top priority. It is for this reason that we have decided to move back to Los Angeles to be closer to the rest of our family.”
Even though the restaurant hadn’t been around for very long compared with more established fine dining spots in the city, it still left an indelible impression. When Tarsan i Jane opened in May 2016, it largely retained the decor of the previous restaurant, Tray Kitchen, for a low-lift turnaround, but the food was an immediate hit. Informed by Rocher’s Valencian background, the intricately-crafted dishes featured both traditional and modern elements, while a more rustic paella Sunday brunch was a popular attraction.
Rocher and Zaine’s restaurant really came into its own with a 2018 remodel, which added many of their own touches to better match the kitchen’s increasingly complex and expensive tasting menus (up to 30 courses, at times) cooked from a wood-fired grill. The ingredients incorporated many fermented and wild-foraged native foods, turning even simple produce into transcendent plates, such as a delightful beet “bomb” or a carrot broth with a staggering depth of flavor. After the revamp, Tarsan i Jane received the Seattle Times’s highest rating, four stars, with critic Providence Cicero writing that Perfecte and Alia “diligently pursued and refined their vision of a singular dining experience.” The restaurant has also been an Eater 38 regular.
“To us, fine dining is attention to detail in every aspect of the guest’s dining experience from ambiance to service to sourcing to preparation and presentation of the food but above all, it should be welcoming and playful,” Rocher tells Eater Seattle. “I enjoyed exploring and uncovering what makes the PNW the PNW through its wild and native products.”
But like many upscale restaurants — especially ones as small as Tarsan i Jane, with a 12-seat chef’s counter and one private room — the pandemic took its toll. In the spring, Tarsan i Jane stayed shuttered for weeks, with the occasional virtual cooking class from Rocher on Instagram. It then reopened in April with heat-at-home takeout offerings, including its famed paella, and tried out a rotating array of fast-casual concepts over the summer, including a burger pop-up called XITA.
Now, those one-off efforts to stay afloat during COVID times are no more, and the restaurant is quietly heading off into the sunset. Perfecte and Alia are going back to SoCal, where they originally met (Rocher once had a stint at the Spanish restaurant Smoke.Oil.Salt, earning kudos from LA Times critic Jonathan Gold). But they hope to leave behind a lasting legacy as they search for a buyer for the business.
“Tasting menus may not make sense for the time being or near future, but that doesn’t mean the principles we stood for can’t be carried out by more casual cuisines,” says Rocher. “My hope is that Tarsan i Jane has opened up minds to what is possible when you believe in what you do. I’d love to see more people do what they believe in, whether that is in this industry or another.”