Party for One

Upper West Side dining in a downtown boîte de nuit.

The actress Greta Garbo once said she chose to live in New York City because it was the only place in the world where she could be alone. I remembered this at precisely the moment when I realized that I had failed to line up a dinner date for opening night at Fire and Ice. No matter, I thought, I'll go solo. After all, the new restaurant's press release said it aspired to be Seattle's friendly, neighborhood version of an N.Y.C. lounge, and anyway, I've never had even the slightest aversion to dining out alonein New York or Seattle or anywhere in between. I took my prettiest summer dress off its hanger and headed downtown. By 6 p.m., Fire and Ice was buzzing. The sweet hostess (who looks a hell of a lot like Regis' post-Kathy Lee partner, Kelly Ripa, only way cuter and smarter, too) offered to seat me at the bar, as she was sure one of the gentlemen there would keep me company during my meal. I politely declined and asked to sit outside. The second kindness came when my equally good-looking waiter took unnecessary pity on my solo flight and offered to buy me a martini. This time I accepted and ordered the beef carpaccio ($9) and grilled baby romaine salad, too ($7). By the time my appetizers arrived, I was deep in memories of Upper West Side restaurants that I either slaved and served in or enjoyed as a patron during my years in Manhattan. Although I couldn't explain it at the time, the atmosphere at Fire and Ice was entirely without the snooty undertones that I usually associate with Belltown. AS IT TURNS OUT, it's actually within the boundaries of the Pike Place Market, so there you golocation, location, location. With tables of young couples with baby strollers and stylish mid-30s friendship clans dining around me and, on the sidewalk in front of us, the busy patter of important feet going important places, it occurred to me that without even trying, Fire and Ice was accomplishing its goal of being both a midscale neighborhood joint and a glossyOK, semiglossydestination. One bite into the salad and carpaccio and I realized that it had also reached its goal of providing beautifully presented Northwest-centric cuisine. Deliciously salty white anchovies, a crisp disk of pancetta, and zingy pecorino Romano peppered the perfectly charred romaine, and a lemon-balsamic dressing consummated it. The paper-thin rare beef slices were rolled into perfect scrolls around arugula, more Romano (who can get enough?), and shaved celery. Lemon dijonnaise (a mayonnaise and mustard- based sauce) and tomato-infused olive oil were drizzled on top to provide the punch for these melt-in-your-mouth bites. I may be just one woman, but I cleared both plates happily and ordered pepper-crusted ahi tuna ($20) for my main dish. Two of my favorite things in this world are coarsely-ground black pepper and ahi, so when I tell you that Fire and Ice has married them with absolute perfection in this gorgeous entr饬 I really, really mean it. Placed lovingly on a round of crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside fried soba noodles and heightened with a sauce of soy-ginger vinaigrette, the two pieces of rare broiled fish were magnificentthe entire dish sublime. If you can believe it (I think my handsome waiter thought I was joking or filling my purse with food), I actually ordered dessert, too. The ch趲e and mascarpone cheesecake ($7) came with candylike caramelized mission figs, fig and aged-balsamico dressing, and a crushed pistachio crust. It was beautiful, and I did not want it to end. WHAT I FOUND on my second solo trip (along with a fabulous sliced beef tenderloin with tangy blue cheese crumbles, braised shallots, baby white potatoes, and a delicious cabernet reduction sauce, $20, and some disappointingly mediocre mussels, $8) was that owner/chef John David Crow doesn't want nights at Fire and Ice to end, either. In pursuit of that big-city-lounge feeling, banquettes are pushed aside at around midnight, red pillows appear out of nowhere, the music becomes more festive, and the bar extends into the tastefully understated, white-walled dining room (designed by Crow's mother, Janet). Most importantly, the kitchen stays open until the very N.Y.C.-ish (and very un-Seattle-ish) hour of 1 a.m. And even if you prefer an early start over a late ending, there's a party for you, too: Happy hour is every day from 4 to 6 p.m., with specials like $4 Bombay martinis and Veuve Clicquot champagne. Crow, who has logged time at the Brooklyn and the Space Needle and consulted for the owners of Bick's Broadview Grill in Greenwood, hopes to fill the gap between pricey, elitist Belltown restaurants and friendly, casual neighborhood joints. Just in its infancy, Fire and Ice, which occupies the space once filled by Avenue One, is off to a grand start. By the time you read this, they'll have inaugurated a lunch menu and, most likely, hosted a slew of impromptu parties, tooeven if, like mine, they're just parties of one.

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