There was excitement last fall when the news broke that Greg Atkinson, the former Canlis chef, cookbook author (his sixth book, At the Kitchen Table, is due this fall and he's long been a contributor to Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Times Sunday pullout) and Seattle Culinary Academy instructor, would be heading back into a restaurant kitchen at Kailash. Alas, the vegetarian fine dining concept died earlier this year.
The good news is, Atkinson's itch to return to restaurant cooking didn't die with that concept; he's opening his own place, Marché, in late summer near his home on Bainbridge Island.
Atkinson is one of the most underrated chefs in the Northwest; though he was an early adopter of the now-pervasive practice of eating what's seasonally available and locally sourced, he's been out of the restaurant scene so long that many diners think of him as a cookbook author first.
But Atkinson was revolutionary during his seven years at Canlis, where diners in the mood for steak and lobster might not look fondly, at first, on raspberry mignonette on their raw oysters. But the now-ubiquitous pairing of raspberry vinegar and oysters was all Atkinson, a pairing he dreamed up way back in the 80s. He gently nudged the Canlis menu toward a more modern sensibility, and during his tenure the restaurant went from its 1 1/2 star rating to 4 stars.
So what can we expect from the inventive chef with the encyclopedic knowledge of Northwest ingredients? Sustainably raised meats, foraged foods, impeccably fresh seafood all adorned with fresh seasonal herbs.
The early menu ideas Atkinson shared with me include ivory King salmon with fennel risotto; spot prawn and tomato bisque with prawn quenelles; herb-crusted chicken with sweet corn pudding; and plum galette with caramel ice cream. There'll be an intimate lounge with herb-tinged cocktails and seating for 48, plus patio seating for another two dozen.
It's a family affair: Atkinson's two sons, Henry and Erich, will be putting in time at Marché, too. And get this: Atkinson will be writing a “Diary” of the restaurant’s infancy for Food Arts, where Atkinson is a contributing editor.