Truth is, I loved Restaurant Zoe from the get-go. When it opened in Belltown 10-plus years ago I was writing for Citysearch and I remember that, during my two review dinners, I tasted some of the best salmon I've ever had in a restaurant. (I'm convinced that, like Dungeness crab, salmon is almost always better enjoyed at home straight off the Weber, which is what made Zoe's salmon such a standout in my memory.)
Within the first six months they were open, back in 2000, I had my first taste of mutton there; it was as gamey as you'd ever want it to be, which is a compliment in mutton-speak. They were ahead of their time with the mutton; it's still a rarity on menus. And through the years, Restaurant Zoe has done just that: created sometimes-stellar plates, other times just great versions of familiar flavors. Sometimes pushing our palates' boundaries, other times nailing the people-pleasers.
I've been itching to get more info on the new Zoe, which is opening in January in the Oola Distillery building at 14th and Union. And when I talked at length with Scott Staples earlier this week, I could hear the excitement about the new, reimagined Zoe in his voice.
Staples told me he couldn't be happier about opening Zoe in the new neighborhood (also home to Quinn's and Sole Repair). He's working closely with the Oola Distillery people, planning to use their spirits in cocktails at the new Zoe, which has more bar seating. Staples and co. will also host private events, fundraisers and special dinners in the distillery space.
We can expect a cozier Zoe 2.0: the restaurant will seat 70 (down from 90 in Belltown) and there’ll be an outdoor patio. But the most exciting news, at least to me: Staples has installed a wood-fired oven and grill. Slow-roasted meats cooked over wood, smoked dishes and foods cooked directly over wood fire are a focus. “Meat cooked over real wood is a primal thing,” Staples said, and I couldn't agree more. There's magic in smelling a wood fire, in hearing the crackle and pop. I'm excited to see how Zoe Belltown’s former sous chef, James Sherill, puts the new equipment to work as the new top chef at Zoe (former chef Daniel Newell now heads Scott Staples Catering).
More details--including a menu sneak peek--coming in the next few weeks.