Altura: Mostly Marvelous

Not quite perfection, but the food's mostly outstanding at Broadway's Altura
Allison Austin Scheff  |   April 2012   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION

The early word? Phenomenal. Soaring reviews appeared in The Seattle Times and The Stranger a short couple of months after Altura opened in October. But early hype gives me pause; living up to panting accolades is always challenging, particularly for a kitchen that’s still getting its footing.

My doubts multiplied when my party was whisked to a corner table and stranded for 20 minutes during one visit. Service bounced back remarkably well that night, though, proving impressively informed on the intricacies of the menu, suggesting smart wine pairings (and with such high by-the-glass markups, that’s a good thing). About those prices: Altura is not a place to drop by for a casual night out. Best to dine here when the purse strings are loose or the occasion calls for a splurge; the restaurant’s three-course tasting menu is $49.

But the food? Mostly marvelous; the prettiest, most precise plates wearing the kind of food one tastes rather than simply eats, food that begs diners’ full attention: silken house-made pappardelle with meltingly tender oxtail, sensational lamb rack with tender baby herbs. Then, too, slightly overcooked ling cod teeters to the table on a tower of softened leeks; albacore crudo barely withstands the one-two punch of salty olives and lively blood oranges.

Swooping brocade curtains, an angel statue reclaimed from Europe, the wine steward wearing a suit—the place has a formality about it that’s disarming, such a departure in a city tirelessly hungry for shared plates and affordability. Here’s hoping there’s room for both that, and this.

Dinner Tue.–Sat. Capitol Hill, 617 Broadway Ave. E; 206.402.6749; alturarestaurant.com. $$$

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