In a window-wrapped corner space next to the recently expanded Spinasse (which now has a new, open pasta-making station, but retains its utterly charming trattoria), chef Jason Stratton has debuted Artusi, a drop-in-friendly, wildly decorated—zebra-patterned walls, ceilings hung with tubular light fixtures—aperitivo bar.
Stratton, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs of 2010, oversees the menu here. And it’s a very affordable assemblage of dishes: buckwheat grissini (aka breadsticks) with anchovy and olive butters ($5); cured trout with pickled turnips and horseradish ($6); and shaved raw mushrooms with hard-boiled egg ($6) in an herbal lovage, pine nut, honey and fish sauce “Apicius,” a reference to the cookbook author and infamous epicurean of the Roman empire.
You’ll notice that, among the dozen or so smaller plates, there’s much that’s fishy and/or pickley; the food acts as a foil for a gin martini. I like that.
There are a few slightly larger dishes on the menu: stewed morels with the slightest echo of juniper oil ($14); local truffles with Asian spices and verjus over buttery soft polenta ($16). But delicious as they may be, those dishes aren’t meant to suffice as dinner.
Stratton’s aim is to lure you with his menu of sleek cocktails (try the Bambi Warhol, $8: gin, vodka, Cocchi Aperitivo Americano, orange bitters and citrus zest) and a few snacks; if a full dinner is your goal, you could do much worse than supping next door. Allison Austin Scheff
Dinner Wed.–Mon. Capitol Hill, 1535 14th Ave.; 206.251.7673; artusibar.com $