Belle Clementine Comes Up Short

The relatively low prices on this great menu seem to be short-changing, of all people, the diners.

David Sanford has the best intentions. At his communal dining space in Ballard, where one seating is offered each night (reservations and a credit card deposit required), the former caterer and personal chef hopes to build a community gathering place around food. He’s kept the ingredients pure—meats sourced from local farmers, seasonal veggies whenever possible—and the prices low. Even gratuity and a glass of wine are included in the price: $40.

But that relatively low price is a problem, because after paying the kitchen staff, tipping the servers and buying wine—well, seems there’s hardly enough left to, you know, feed the diners. Meals feel penny-pinched. Instead of the generous spirit with which Sanford hopes to entertain guests—he shyly introduces himself and the menu early in the evening,—when six pieces of chicken are served to five guests, or when the entrée of the night is a rustic bean soup, diners sense the scrimping, the financial calculations behind the menu.

Sadly, charging more for the meal can’t correct the inconsistencies: Undercooked vegetables arriving long after the entrées they’re meant to accompany, sloppy presentations like perfectly delicious braised rabbit with olives, piled on top of a massive heap of polenta. The restaurant, as is, feels a bit like the dinner parties I attended in college: warm and welcoming, with some promising food mixed in, but overall, a little bit amateurish.

Brunch Sun., dinner Thu.–Sun. Ballard, 5451 Leary Ave. NW; 206.257.5761; $$