To call this a typical restaurant opening would be like saying American Idol is just a talent show. Both are a phenomenon that defy description. American Idol garners more votes than a presidential election, and I cannot recall being this excited about a meal since my first dinner at Chez Panisse, twenty-five years ago.
I was visiting Seattle recently and heard a faint vague whisper about some new restaurant happening. After hours of research trying to track down the place, and ten-pain in the butt-emails, voice mails, and phone calls later, I scored a reservation on opening night at The Corson Building, a food based community center space—saaay what?
Short History: Chef/owner Matthew Dillon had been getting rave reviews from his teacup-sized restaurant Sitka & Spruce, (another bad name and bad location, located in some strip mall) for which he had been honored as one of “Food and Wine Magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs of 2007.”
On another note, a few years ago, Dillon had discovered a dilapidated century-old building that used to belong to an Italian ornamental stoneworker, in Seattle’s funky Georgetown neighborhood, and fell in love with the place. Located right under a freeway ramp and next to the train tracks, and directly under flying airplanes, it was hardly the best site for a restaurant. Undaunted, Dillon and his partner spent the next four years renovating the building, planting an herb and veggie garden, making chicken coops, caring for his bees, etc. to create The Corson Building, a culinary community gathering place that will feature exciting events, benefits, culinary classes, and open-to-the-public dinners.
But for now, all you need to know is that you need to do everything in your power to land a dinner reservation and there are some rules to follow:
1. The space is only open a few nights of the week for dinner, so check their website immediately for available dates. You must make a reservation!
2. There is only one seating per evening, and the pace is a leisurely one, so plan accordingly, but strolling around the grounds between courses is encouraged.
3. Dining is family style so you will probably make some new friends by the end of the evening.
4. Dinner is prix-fixe: $110 with wine and $80 without per person.
For our opening night dinner, we began with Champagne, oysters, and homegrown radishes wrapped with paper-thin cured ham (Dillon had butchered and cured the meat himself.) To the best of my recollection it was followed by course after course of garden-fresh salads; one with salmon and the other with tongue, a meltingly-tender slow-cooked halibut on mashed potatoes, leg of lamb with Greek yogurt, smoky paprika chicken with pita and fava bean relish; carrot, bitter greens and garbanzo bean, a local cheese plate with rhubarb compote and anise flavored ice cream with roasted dates and strawberries.
My verdict: Every single morsel that crossed my lips was sheer unadulterated perfection!
The Corson Building
5609 Corson Ave, Seattle
By Janice Neider for Tango Diva
Photo courtesy of Tango Diva