VIP eating

Space-age creamy richness in Belltown.


2230 First, 374-8717 5-10 p.m. every day; bar menu until 1a.m. AE, MC, V / full bar SOMEONE AT Bada Lounge has great faith in the fast metabolisms of the beautiful people. Though both the decor and the majority of the clientele indicate a see-and-be-seen mentality, the plates—excepting those with stronger Asian influences—revel in butter, cream, and oil like French pigs in truffles. Nestled in the formerly dark Chef Wang space in Belltown, Bada (reportedly pronounced "pah-da," which means "ocean" in Korean) is absolutely unassuming from the street, a long and narrow space-age hallway revealing little to passersby. Perhaps owner Steven Han—whose family is also responsible for Wasabi Bistro, Mountlake Terrace's Zen 244, and Mill Creek's Sushi Zen—intends a secret, clubby intrigue; it's certainly not a foot traffic-friendly design. It would be silly to keep the r鳵m鳠of its chefs similarly under wraps, though; with alumni from some of Seattle's finest (Campagne, Flying Fish, El Gaucho) and even an expat from Spago Beverly Hills, Bada's kitchen pedigree is worth bragging about. And so is the decor, which will strike the majority of Seattle's straight population as impressively modern and unique. Those who've spent time in the now defunct Aro.Space or the still very happening Manray will no doubt be struck by d骠 vu, as will fans of A Clockwork Orange and any frequent visitors or former denizens of both coasts' culture capitals—there's a definite L.A./New York vibe in Bada's red walls, sharp corners, and Space Odyssey fixtures. Meanwhile, the dove-gray, spectrally lit surfaces and ergonomic seating bring to mind the VIP lounge of some especially jet-setty Nordic airport. VIP status may very well be necessary to get a seat at one of the centrally placed tables—a recent Friday night found the place well and fully booked —though drop-ins are welcome to dine in one of the many cushioned cubicle booths that rim both the far side of the main room and the entranceway. Crouching down to slurp up oysters on the half-shell ($15, half-dozen $8) feels a little awkward and humiliating—like being an especially ungainly grown-up at the kids' table—but the best view of the crowd is here, including the dramatically lit bar and a wide hanging screen that projects a constant, gently undulating ocean scene, the soothing underwater equivalent of burning-log Christmas videos. AND THE FOOD IS generally well conceived and fairly well executed— with exceptions that seem eminently fixable. The aforementioned focus on oil and cream means that several dishes start off scrumptiously, then devolve into an overwhelming richness—such is the butternut squash soup ($8), with its somewhat fishy crab garnish, ginger, and pumpkin seed oil. Sinfully silky and palate pleasing on first taste, its status as a cholesterol counter's worst nightmare soon becomes all too apparent; it might be better as an indulgent sauce. The seemingly deep-fried gnocchi that accompanied a pan-roasted chicken with root vegetables ($15) were also way too rich, though Bada may have already seen the error of its ways; the gnocchi were nowhere to be found the next week. The chicken itself was appropriately herbed and flavorful, if a little on the fatty side. A Niman ranch pork chop ($19) came similarly untrimmed, though admirably juicy, with succulent braised greens, a tiny, dessert-worthy roasted apple, and so-called "soft polenta," which seems to consist of regular polenta stirred to a Cream of Wheat consistency with serious helpings of the almighty butter. With seafood, Bada gets its timing just right, neither falling prey to the common sin of overcooking nor providing unasked-for sashimi. A seafood risotto ($14), tastefully al dente, had a near-perfect creamy texture, an intriguing rim of romesco sauce (a sort of roasted red pepper reduction), and a small, faultlessly cooked crowning of prawn, octopus, salmon, and scallop. A seared king salmon ($17) was also perfectly prepared, with tasty, spicy curried cauliflower and red lentil dal. The tempura calamari ($8) with sunomono cucumbers and hot-and-sweet Chinese mustard was meltingly tender, though the piquant sauce and palate-cleansing paper-thin cucumber slices couldn't disguise an overly salty batter. Elsewhere on the menu, a watercress salad ($7) with Gorgonzola, pears, walnuts, and pomegranate vinaigrette is marred by its ungainly leaves—once it gets to your mouth, you'll enjoy it, but the splaying, unwieldy watercress isn't exactly first-date material. Desserts stay on the heart-attack express—marvel at the pecan-crusted cr譥 frae cheesecake ($6) and citrus cr譥 caramel ($5)—with the exception of a trio of seasonal fruit sorbets ($5). And the wine list leaves few grapes unturned (providing eight sparklers with which to impress, including status queens Veuve Clicquot for $90 and Cristal, just $220). The place isn't called a lounge for nothing; downtempo DJs five nights a week, VIP rooms, and two gorgeous red felt pool tables mean the ladies haven't put on their stilettos just for the sea scallop phad Thai. Twenty- and thirtysomethings more focused on taking each other home for dessert can sate themselves with the extensive cocktail options, as well as a 5 p.m.- 1 a.m. bar menu featuring such un-Chex Mix options as chopped tuna salad ($8), Hong Kong shrimp pizza ($8), and pommes frites ($3). The rest should feel free to enjoy the full menu—but maybe get a note from your cardiologist first.

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