Dance Fuel

Medusa's kitchen is as lively as its DJs.

Even in this land of Odwalla wishes and REI dreams, champagne and caviar still hold a little currency. Not all Seattle residents are content with the brewpubs and doggie bakeries that satisfy their laid-back fellow citizens, and those special fewan elite army of BCBG-swathed social soldiershave managed over the last half-decade to colonize their own small area of the city, transforming Belltown into the clubby ground zero for the unashamedly aspirational. Spaces like Belltown Billiards, Axis, and the Frontier Room host their own version of the apple-martini-swilling Beautiful People, but until recently, no dance club large enough to hold them all existed. Enter Club Medusa, an ambitious new contender for the superclub crown. More overtly heterosexual than the dear departed, less joint-cover rowdy than the Last Supper Club, Medusa attempts to instill a little big-city glamour into a largely provincial scene. The crowd that frequents Seattle's thriving rock clubs are not part of the equation here: Crossover between Medusans and the Chop Suey-Graceland-Crocodile axis seems virtually nil. Strict dress codes, double-digit cover charges, and, yes, real velvet ropes approximate an Urban Club Experience, as does the cavernous space inside, with its Greek columns, fountains, and multiple bar stations. Showbiz-y laser lights, fog machines, and go-go dancers, along with the strange movie-set quality of the interior, recall Vegas clubs like Rain and Ra more than warehouse-ier New York spaces, and that's reinforced by an out-of-towner feel on weekends: Carefully coiffed hair, second-skin pants, and suspiciously golden winter tans are the tribal uniform, though the crowd's not above a few bridge-and-tunnel-style fashion felonies. AMIDST ALL THE flash and flesh, a kitchenfully equipped with a 4,000-pound stone-fired pizza oven and high-flaming open burnerssomewhat innocuously resides. In King County, drinking establishments can't exist without at least a cursory hot food offering; Medusa has chosen to take the injunction seriously with a Northern Italian-focused menu that sometimes stumbles but still deserves more attention than the club's patronsmore focused on meat of the human varietyseem to give it. Most patrons who take advantage of the kitchen at all concentrate their attentions on one of the six "personal pizzas" on offer, from the basic, basil-garnished Margherita ($7.95) to the more ambitious Veracruz (roast chicken, pico de gallo, and jalape� $9.50) and Veg Head (roasted eggplant, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and smoked mozzarella on caramelized onion, $7.95). Best are the Margherita and strong, smoky Medusa, topped with Torino's pepperoni and Italian sausage and gooey piles of cheese on a light, thin crust ($9.50). All varieties are also available by the slice throughout the night for $3. More determined diners might well start with a well-arranged bruschetta plate ($5.95) of crisp, nicely oiled crostini and a piquant, garlicky spread or insalate caprese ($6.95), the nearly fail-safe classic of layered sliced roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil, which scores on the large, fragrant leaves but falls short with its only ordinary cheesethick white slabs lacking the sweet, nutty flavor of true mozzarella. The dressing on a crisp, generously portioned insalate Caesar ($4.95) bravely emphasizes its anchovy origins, though the flavors balance far better with a generous shaking of salt and ground pepper. An appetizer of spiedini di gamberoni ($8.95)pancetta-wrapped black tiger prawns grilled with a pesto baste and roasted pepper aﯬisounded like a meal in itself, so we decided to save our seafood for the main courses; a choice for which we were duly rewarded. The prawn puttanesca ($14.95) is one of the strongest offeringsa hefty handful of lightly saut饤 shellfish tossed in a delicately spicy sauce of capers, kalamata olives, and coarsely chopped tomatoes, all served over fresh (never dried) pasta from Pike Place Market. The grilled New York steak ($19.95) earns it price by size alone and is tender and not too fatty; a merlot wine green-peppercorn sauce and saut饤 wild mushrooms are a nice addition, but the accompanying side of lukewarm pasta in cream sauce, which also appears with the chicken marsala, seems tacked on, not really appropriate to the dish. The chicken ($10.50) is the closest the menu comes to outright failurethe pounded-out breast is simmered in an oddly sweet, sickly sauce, and the meat itself is strangely flavorless. No desserts are offered; instead, our waitress cheerfully suggests a "dessert shot" from an after-dinner-drink lineup featuring quaffs like the Buttery Nipple and Chocolate Cake. Wine choices are beyond slim (you want a red by the glass? It's cabernet or merlot, period), but champagne is abundantfrom $28 Chandon Brut Imperial to a $285 Louis Roederer Cristal. Before 10:30 on most weekends, staff tend to outnumber patrons, so service runs from solicitous to obsequious. Still, a 10 p.m. reservation and relaxed meal should put you right in the middle of the action by the time you've finished your dessert shot. Ladies are free on Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m., but the action doesn't really kick in till after midnight. By then, you should be ready to scuff up those fancy shoes on the dance floor (DJs play as late as 4 a.m.) and lift another glass of Veuve Cliquotthis is, after all, your town.

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