UrbanSpoon, the website that keeps tabs on restaurants around the country, has come up with its top new restaurants for the United States, and one of them is in Madison Valley. It’s Bar Cantinetta (2811 E. Madison St.), open since late summer for lunch and dinner.
It’s not a huge kitchen (as you might recall from the previous tenant, La Côte). Dinner might start with stuffed rice balls called arancini, or a particularly fragrant butternut squash soup drizzled with crème fraîche and crumbs of amaretti. Pastas for the second course, as you’d expect in Italy, and a main course of black cod.
The chef is Emran Chowdury, who actually supervises all the kitchens in this mini-empire (the other Cantinetta restaurants are in Wallingford and Bellevue). He impressed me mightily with a dish of braised oxtail and gnocchi a couple of years ago.
Chowdury’s lunchtime menu at Bar Cantinetta is a delight: two soups or a salad (one of the soups is that creamy butternut squash), then a choice of panini: speck-lettuce-tomato on Macrina country potato bread, grilled cheese on Challah or a spicy meatball sandwich slathered with tomato sauce and melted cheese.
Chowdury was born in Toronto to Indian parents and studied and worked in Canada before moving to Seattle. He’s in great company: The other Seattle restaurants on the UrbanSpoon list are Rachel’s Ginger Beer, Radiator Whiskey, Rock Creek, Stoneburner, Von Trapp’s and Westward.
UrbanSpoon was founded here in Seattle by Ethan Lowry and still has its headquarters in South Lake Union; it’s not part of IAC Interactive.
Very high-end dining
In the meantime, in Madrona, there’s nothing concrete to report about Red Cow (1423 34th Ave.), Ethan Stowell’s new spot where Bea, June and Cremant have come and gone. The intriguing thing is what he’s planning for Noyer, an intimate spot in the backyard behind Red Cow. Stowell discussed his project with me in November, and what he’s planning is unheard of in Seattle: a very high-end dining experience. This was at a media event for his latest venture, called Mkt, a 28-seater in the Tangletown neighborhood (2108 N. 55th St.).
The plan for Noyer: four tables, four seats at each table, so maximum of 16 guests a night; a 12-course, “chef’s surprise” tasting menu, for $150 per person. (Eyebrows going up yet?) Matching wines, another $150.
I can see those eyebrows going up more and more. But Stowell tells me that, at those prices, he can ignore the three-times markup that restaurants normally practice. That is, if the chef pays $9 for a piece of steak, he needs to charge $27 to $30 for the dish; if he pays $15 wholesale for that bottle of wine, he needs to sell it for $45 to $50.
Stowell argues that you don’t need those markups at higher price points: maybe 50-percent food costs, 50-percent wine costs. You can buy a lot of prime ingredients and darn-good wines at that rate.
Three chefs in the kitchen, plus a dishwasher, and two servers and a server-assistant on the floor — that’s seven staff for 16 diners. I gotta say, I wish him luck.
Where are they now?
And here’s an update you’ll appreciate: Carlos Kainz and Julie Guerrero, who used to own Dulce’s Latin Bistro (where Pritty Boys Family Pizzeria now stands, at 1430 34th Ave.) left Madrona to take over the space on Western Avenue below the Pike Place Market. That didn’t work out, and Guerrero returned to Madrona as a manager at Bistro Turkuaz.
Now, they’ve organized another restaurant of their own, Dulces Bistro & Wine, in the Lawrence Lofts project at 19th Avenue and Madison Street.
Another month has gone by, and Thierry Rautureau has finally announced a date for the opening of Lulay, his new, three-level restaurant in the Sheraton Hotel at 600 Union St.: Dec. 4. That said, it’s more than likely that everyone will have signed off by the time this reaches print.
RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at Cornichon.org and Crosscut.com. To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.