When chef Travis Kukull and Epic Ales brewmaster Cody Morris shuttered Gastropod last fall, food nerds around the city sank into mourning.
The modest, 600-square-foot SoDo restaurant, which tied with Capitol Hill’s Mamnoon for our 2013 Best New Restaurant, was home to some pretty eclectic, inexpensive food and fantastically off-the-wall beers.The duo closed Gastropod to focus on opening Mollusk, a massive, and more traditional, industrial-style gastropub on the northwest border of South Lake Union on Dexter Avenue. Most of the 5,000-square-foot restaurant, which anchors an apartment building, is devoted to the state-of-the-art brewery, which allows Morris to create more mainstream beers in addition to his experimental, farmhouse-style brews. Beer geeks, take comfort: The sour ale Partytime!!! is still on tap, and the mushroom beer is coming back, too.
According to Kukull, Mollusk is simply a bigger and better Gastropod—more seats and more beers on tap—located in a central, burgeoning neighborhood. The restaurant’s name has a double meaning, by the way: It refers to the seafood-centric menu, but is also a nod to alt-rock band Ween’s album Mollusk, which was always on heavy rotation at Gastropod. At Gastropod, Kukull’s creative cuisine didn’t cling to a specific genre.
At Mollusk, his focus is Near East and Southeast Asian cuisine. While some of Kukull’s amazing, inventive flavors are still there in some dishes—his Nutella-based Malawi chicken wings ($9) spiked with yuzu are stellar—in others they are missing. Laotian lemongrass wild mushroom curry ($19) lacks richness and funk. Giant grilled squid ($15) is stuffed with so much nasi goreng the squid ink butter and Chinese sausage bits listed in the description are lost on the palate. It’s a one-note dish, and that note is starch. The popular Gastropod okonomiyaki (Japanese egg and veggie pancake) is now a bulky waffle topped with eel or octopus and bonito flakes. It, too, lacked flavor and is more bread than shredded seasonal veggies (all for a whopping $25). Kukull says the waffle is a work in progress. I suppose the restaurant is, too.
Making SLU rent while retaining the magic of that miniscule Gastropod kitchen can’t be easy. Here’s hoping Kukull and Morris find that balance. South Lake Union, 803 Dexter Ave. N; 206.403.1228; molluskseattle.com