Board Room

Power ties, power talk, powerful appetite

Il Terrazzo Carmine Hidden away in an alley off First Avenue, with a prime view of the Viaduct out its front windows, is one of Seattle's secret annals of power. Or perhaps just power dressing: Old men dressed in suits that would make your tailor gasp languidly stir their espressos. Ann Taylor's preferred customers lunch on goat-cheese salad and pennette amatriciana, a glass of clear white wine at the elbow testifying that they don't need to rush back to work. Few would call the baroque wooden chandeliers and ornate hand-painted ceramics that decorate this terrace-like restaurant "staid," but they do bespeak money, the kind wielded by opera board chairs and Madrona mansion owners. For almost a quarter-century, Carmine Smeraldo has run his restaurant in the Italian manner, with gracious formality and properly trained waiters. Are dishes like his veal scaloppine and chicken breast stuffed with ricotta and spinach butter out of step with the hipper Italian-esque fare at Tavolàta and Cafe Juanita? Perhaps. But doing justice to the classics, decade after decade, is what makes Smeraldo's restaurant so beloved by the members of Seattle's boardroom class. JONATHAN KAUFFMANServes: lunch, dinner. 411 First Ave. S., 467-7797. PIONEER SQUARE $$$ Nishino Follow the money. Only in the wealthy 98122 zip code, tucked between Broadmoor and Washington Park, could a high-end Japanese place like Nishino be considered an everyday eatery. Yet that's precisely what it is. Since 1995, Tatsu and Eri Nishino have cultivated a local clientele that faithfully returns for birthdays, anniversaries, any night when there's a babysitter, and some nights when there's not. As a result, the softly precise gearwork of Nishino has remained both dress-down casual and unpretentiously upmarket; people go outside to answer their discreetly muted cell phones. If there's a line, customers can idle at the sushi bar for a piece of ika or maguro (and sake, of course). Regulars are called on a first-name basis to their table. There, you can be assured the tempura is never greasy, the sake never off, and that no one ever gets flustered if you catapult the chopsticks onto the carpet. Nishino is, in a strange way, now a family restaurant. Yes, you'll see shy young couples on tentative first dates. (And on a budget, too, which is possible if they go à la carte.) But you're more apt to witness boardroom-friendly parents offering an unfamiliar morsel to their young kids and saying, "Eat your unagi, and you'll get into Yale." BRIAN MILLERServes: dinner. 3130 E. Madison St., 322-5800. MADISON PARK $$$ O/8 Seafood Grill If Seattle eats for sustainability, Bellevue eats for business. At the Bellevue Hyatt's O/8 Seafood Grill, chef Dan Thiessen doesn't croon over local ingredients and doesn't change his core menu as often as a Seattleite might expect. That's because, like any good CEO, Thiessen knows what his people want: Predictable food, served in a busy, sprawling dining room that yearns to be mapped in the Wall Street Journal's "Power Tables" column. And though it's predictable, Thiessen's food is great. He's given downtown Bellevue's corporate food scene a culinary soul, attracting suits by day with a dependably delicious lunch menu that blows kisses to expense-account travelers with Northwestern favorites like Dungeness crab bisque, cedar-planked salmon, and a Northwest version of cioppino. By night, solid business dinner classics like a "Cowboy" rib-eye steak, massaged with a coffee-kissed spice rub and served at precisely the requested temperature, ensure the deal gets signed. JESS THOMSONServes: breakfast, lunch, dinner. 900 Bellevue Way N.E., Suite 100, 425-637-0808. BELLEVUE $$-$$$ The Third Floor Fish Cafe The Third Floor Fish Cafe means business: the business of serving up some of the region's best seafood and the business of, well, business. This elevated cavern of dark wood and glass smells of lemon, vinegar, power, and refinement, with impeccable service, brassy prices, and gigantic picture windows exposing a postcard-worthy expanse of Lake Washington. It's home-court advantage for executives who wine and dine prospective clients. It's confessional for groups of aspiring young professionals who loosen their top buttons and their tongues in the lounge after the 5:00 whistle. The Pacific Northwest power suit—a polo and khakis—is the unofficial dress code. Chef Greg Campbell applies Robert's Rules–style fastidiousness to the food. All the critters of the sea are uniquely considered and consistently prepared to show off their finest qualities, from raw oysters with champagne mignonette to fleshy salmon roasted with thyme brown butter. The mango rice pudding with coconut cream would convince Yahoo to sell to Microsoft, no hostile takeover necessary. SARA NIEGOWSKIServes: dinner. 205 Lake St. S., Suite 300, 425-822-3553. KIRKLAND $$$ Trellis "But we have flip-flops on," my friend reminded me as we made our way into this Napa Valley–style restaurant for a quick lunch after pedicures in the downstairs spa. Knowing that respite is always on the menu at this farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of Kirkland's business district, I reassured her it was OK. Trellis, just off the lobby of the new Heathman Hotel, is led by chef Brian Scheehser, who takes pride in plucking most of the ingredients on his menu from his three-acre farm in Woodinville. His preternatural passion for garden cuisine shines in dishes like the caprese flatbread and pan-seared, applewood-smoked salmon with sautéed Granny Smith apples. It's the dish he perfected during his 13 years at the Sorrento Hotel, and the one his longtime customers are willing to cross the bridge for. The decor—a mix of hardwood floors, high-backed booths, and a floor-to-ceiling wine rack swathed in chardonnay-colored light—is just corporate enough to serve as a gentle reminder that you eventually have to return to work. JULIEN PERRYServes: breakfast, lunch, dinner. 220 Kirkland Ave., 425-284-5900. KIRKLAND $$ Union If Union is a boardroom, then chef-owner Ethan Stowell is the one giving the presentation. Specifically, he's presenting a more affordable menu intended to create cohesion with his other two restaurants, How to Cook a Wolf and Tavolàta. Until now, Union has always been the refined big brother of the three. Maybe that's because the swanky decor, with its high ceilings, spacious seating, vibrant bar, and sexy location (the space was once an adult magazine store), attracts nearby condo dwellers and a well-heeled symphony crowd demanding impeccable service. Or maybe it's because the tables are always filled with CEOs brokering deals over dishes like the luscious oxtail agnolotti with poached garlic or salivatingly good skate wing with fried potatoes and pig's ear. While the $15 price tag on dishes like these should be a magnet for young urbanites, Union maintains its fine-dining reputation—which is perfect for the suit-and-tie sector. JULIEN PERRYServes: dinner. 1400 First Ave., 838-8000. DOWNTOWN $$

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow