perhaps the most anticipated and discussed opening of the summer (the corson building being stiff competition in the category), spinasse opened last week.  though justin niedermeyer’s handmade pasta has been available in seattle for some time now, it’s a relief to have it so stationary, in it’s new home in the ex-globe space on 14th.

to begin with, the restaurant is beautiful.  it’s simple and spare, without seeming bare. three long, hefty tables fill the room, with perfectly mismatched chairs tucked into them, and lacy curtains in the front windows to filter the evening light.  each feature is just so and clearly thought out, with nothing left to chance.  there’s the strip of copper on the bar, the decorative pasta making tools, the batch of just-cut pasta laid out on the counter as a prop.

just beyond the bar is the kitchen, framed by a doorway so only it’s more attractive parts are showing (no stove, garbage can or dish pit).  there are no chef coats or bandanas; rather, collared shirts and subtle aprons reflect the relaxed atmosphere of the place.  and with such a small dining room and straightforward menu, they are able to do their business calmly and neatly.

the staff contributes greatly to the atmosphere.  no one seems stressed, despite the fact that this is only their fourth day open.  in fact, everyone seems happy to be there, as though they know they’re part of something special, something they can  be proud of. as a result, being a guest at spinasse is a relaxing experience.  it’s a little like being in your own kitchen, but much more lovely (and with servants).

the menu is short and simple.  a handful of appetizers, three house made pastas, and two meats (goat and chicken tonight).  in the dining room, it’s prix fixe only; $33 for two courses, $47 for four, with an a la carte menu at the bar.

we picked the bi-level bar, settling on the taller marble section so we could tower over the lower seats of the butcher block area.  i began with a glass of sparkling from piedmont (as all of the wine is), a villa sparina gavi.

the wine list is arranged by producer, with the reasoning being that because it’s all piedmontese, the location of the vineyard has less of an effect on the wine than does the person who makes it.  this makes it challenging for most of us, and i could see how even differentiating between reds and whites would be difficult for anyone who hasn’t had gavi or barbera before.  it’s a short list, however, which means everyone on the staff could (and will have to) quickly become an expert on it.

a pretty amuse came with our aperitifs, one crostini with chicken liver and porcini spread, one with rainbowed tomatoes and dill.  we also started with a boat shaped plate of salami and it’s delicious friends, balsamic cipollini onions.

the fritatta with squash and squash blossoms was exquisitely seasoned and cooked.  a touch of mint, more than a touch of salt, bread crumbs for crunch, and perfectly cooked eggs turned unglamorous ingredients into a satisfying delicacy.

the veal in the vitello tonatto, poached, served cold, and thinly sliced, though rich and silky, wasn’t especially flavorful.  the tonatto part of the equation, however (creamy tuna and caper mayo), i could eat by the spoonful.  the earthy veal was the ideal carrier for this salty and decadent sauce.

and next…the pasta i’ve been thinking about every time i’ve eaten pasta since last october (when i attended one of justin’s dinners at sitka and spruce).  the tiny agnolotti were all uniform but each unique, as anything made by hand is.  the edges left by the pasta wheel are neatly jagged and the delicate dough of each little pillow is thin enough to be transparent, revealing the darkness of the veal and rabbit filling.  just butter, grated cheese, and a few sage leaves are tossed with them, but nothing more is needed. they’re perfect and put all other handmade pasta to shame.

the dessert option is one cheese.  i understand it, but sometimes cheese doesn’t cut it (luckily licorous is within walking distance).  even while paying the bill at spinasse, i was looking forward to going back.


Spinasse on Urbanspoon

~ by patmybutter on August 21, 2008.

One Response to “spinasse”

  1. […] like  a panting mouth, hoping to wrangle in some moving air.  it took jsut the one meal for me to join the slew of self-appointed critics attempting to use adjectives to describe their […]

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