On Wednesday morning, I sat down with chef William Belickis (of Belltown’s Mistral, which closed March of 2008) in a 5,000-square-foot concrete space at the intersection of 8th Avenue and Westlake in South Lake Union that, in the span of four months will inevitably be one of the most expensive restaurant openings of the year. (Full disclosure: I’ve noted in former articles that my husband and I were patrons of Mistral, and that Belickis cooked at our wedding.) Though firm decisions on furniture, light fixtures, and draperies haven’t been made, Mistral Kitchen will be clean, sleek, and slightly industrial, with the look of a real restaurant kitchen, down to the polished concrete floors in the main dining area.
At our meeting, Belickis had the architectural plans for me to look at, and walked me through the vision of the restaurant. The entrance to Mistral Kitchen itself will be showpiece, with a sculpturally designed ramp by renowned architect Tom Kundig of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen. Taking inspiration from the famous apple-lined archway at starred New York restaurant Bouley (Belickis cut his teeth working with Michelin-starred chef David Bouley at the original Bouley) the ramp will be lined with crates filled with fresh, seasonal fruit—think citrus and rosemary in the late fall/early winter, when the restaurant is slated to open. “I decided on the crates of fruit because it’s something you’d find in any restaurant kitchen, and I want to give diners that sensory experience, that aroma of fresh fruit, as soon as they walk in,” says Belickis.
From the entrance, diners will find themselves at the bar, and further along, one of the three open kitchens with bar seating. The first kitchen will feature a wood-burning oven, and a tandoori oven (expect items like roasted shellfish, and tandoori ribeyes). The next kitchen will be what Belickis calls a “technical” kitchen, responsible for turning out all the canapés and lighter first courses for the restaurant (think tomato spheres with mozzarella and liquid globe basil and other such trademark inventive culinary treats from Belickis.) The last kitchen is the pastry kitchen, outfitted with a blast freezer. Here, Belickis plans on debuting “a frozen cloud of carrot cake, with white chocolate yogurt frosting” which he explains will be much lighter than frozen foam—this dessert will literally disappear when it reaches the ambient temperature on the diner’s tongue, leaving only the essential oils and flavors of the dessert. (Though a pastry chef has not signed on board yet, rumor has it that Belickis is in talks with one of the very best in the city.)
Much has been made of the Mistral Kitchen “Jewel Box”, a private dining area that seats up to 24 individual diners. Belickis claims it will be a recreation of the old Mistral, though the room will certainly be more intimate and elegant, with white linen, crystal glassware, and all the trimmings you’d expect from a fine-dining restaurant. There’ll also be more interaction between the chefs and the guests, given that the main kitchen (situated at the “tip” of the restaurant) is in close proximity. The architectural team has ensured that the Jewel Box is insulated from the Happy Hour crowd, with woven insulation through the studs, a double wall that cuts down on the inevitable ever-so-slight vibration from the dishwasher, carpeting, and a cantilevered ceiling for noise absorption that extends out into the main dining ar