You may have shed a tear when Rover’s closed. How could owner/chef Thierry Rautureau do it to his friends and fans? Putting one of Seattle’s most revered, fine dining establishments on the market after what seemed like forever? Selling that charming house, half-hidden in its tranquil Madison Valley garden?
Well, economics trumps sentiment in the restaurant biz, and here we are with one less kitchen turning out haute cuisine.
Except, maybe not. For the last several weeks, Rautureau has been dropping broad hints about a new project. He’s still got Luc, of course, his informal bistro at 2800 E. Madison St., but he’s also told a lot of folks about his new venture, to be named Loulay in honor of his family birthplace in the Charentes-Maritimes district of western France, midway between Bordeaux and Nantes.
Loulay is supposed to open later this year in Downtown Seattle — at Sixth Avenue and Union Street, some say, based on informal conversations with the Chef in the Hat.
Well, what’s down there? A steakhouse, the Daily Grill, that’s part of the Sheraton Hotel, and an empty jewelry store. Around the corner, an empty space that, for a quarter-century housed a restaurant called Von’s. Hmm.…
What’s most likely is that the Sheraton would offer Rautureau a smaller space inside the hotel for an intimate, upscale restaurant.
It’s not without precedent: When the Sheraton opened, it featured a restaurant called Fuller’s, named for a patron of Seattle arts, with a series of high-profile female chefs (Emily Moore, Kathy Casey). Is that opportunity something that Rautureau would consider?
Consider it done! There’s a notice posted on the door of the space at 600 Union St., backdated to June 15, announcing the new tenant to be Loulay Kitchen & Bar. Inside, carpenters, electricians and painters are working to complete their build-out of the space. No opening date is set, but you can count on an opening before the holidays.
In the meantime, the Chef in the Hat is out in the community, doing whatever’s necessary — even demonstrating small appliances at the Best Buy in Bellevue —to keep his name in front of the public.
Stowell in Madrona?
Moving on to Madrona, now. There’s a restaurant space at 1423 34th Ave., once again vacant, originally occupied by Cremant. When that didn’t work out, it became June. Then Restaurant Bea. In other words, a cursed spot: walls that reverberated, uncomfortable seating, a kitchen that doomed dishes to failure. But now, perhaps, success.
Rumor has it that Ethan Stowell is interested. If so, it would be his 10th restaurant. Nothing admitted at press time, but (they say) the back room would have its own kitchen for elegant small parties, in the hope that Madrona may finally become a dining destination.
Name? Something like Les Red. Or Raides (“stiff”?), assuming it’s French.
As to the question of confusing Loulay with Tom Douglas’ Lola, at Fourth Avenue and Virginia Street — well, Rautureau doesn’t have a problem with it.
And the producer of the radio show that Douglas and Rautureau co-host, she’s not worried either.
Lola/Loulay? I could see more than a few confused Seattle visitors, not to mention local cab drivers.
A marina view
At Leschi, the Bluwater Bistro overlooks the marina at 102 Lakeside Ave. Vases filled with dark-pink Alstromeria decorate the window tables, and cheerful servers bring cheeseburgers made with Wagyu beef.
But outside, the marina is, well, if not quite dilapidated, at least showing signs of age and deferred maintenance. Much is made of the marina’s accessibility for boats of modest proportion, and moderate monthly rents ($8 per foot, about a third below the current rate at other marinas).
The city says it wants to upgrade the entire facility, but the current tenants are divided. They’re afraid that the Seattle Parks and Recreation, which has jurisdiction, would raise rates and commercialize a new marina.
The decision is in the hands of whoever wins the mayor’s race and what the budget priorities will be in the coming fiscal year.
Meanwhile, pass the ketchup, please.
A nearby special
Finally, a quick word about Monsoon, the French-Vietnamese spot at 615 19th Ave. E.: It’s presenting a superb “whole crab” feast special on Sunday and Monday nights. Owners Eric and Sophie Banh offer 2-pound crabs in a Singapore-style yellow curry, as well as a scallion-and-ginger preparation, sautéed in the wok with bright spices and served with mango and papaya salad.
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.