When Consolidated Restaurants Inc. (owners of Metropolitan Grill and Elliott’s Oyster House) announced the opening of a restaurant where every dish on the menu ($11–$32) would be paired with an original, miniature cocktail (an additional $6–$8), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Gimmick or booze fest? This type of cocktail pairing is usually offered by restaurants only on occasional tasting menus.
So far, Heartwood Provisions, open since February in the heart of downtown, is a delight. Executive chef Varin Keokitvon (former head chef of retail operations at FareStart) and beverage director Amanda Reed (former general manager of Tavern Law) are uniting bar and kitchen in a unique way. Reed relies heavily on food-friendly, low-proof wine products—for example, port, sherry, sparkling wine—to craft dryish, savory drinks roughly two-thirds the size of a typical cocktail. And Keokitvon’s cuisine? It’s a Northwest spin on his Laotian heritage and food travels. I loved everything he made.
The best place to witness his magic is at the 11-seat counter, which allows full views of the open kitchen and wood-burning oven. Most dishes are modern plays on classics, like a surf and turf minus the meat: wood-fired halibut in pork jus with morels and grilled asparagus ($32). One of my favorite dishes was thick bucatini with roasted cauliflower ($16), with anchovy crumbs and a surprise of garlic and squid ink confit underneath. The lemons, capers and toasty crumbs took me back to my mom’s veal piccata and was a good match with the suggested herbal cocktail of rhum agricole blanc, dolce Viognier, lemon and an absinthe rinse ($7). The combination wasn’t revolutionary, but it was pleasing and did enhance the food.
The drink pairings are optional, which works well for a lightweight like me. There’s no way I could order the accompanying cocktail for each menu item. But I appreciate the collaboration, not to mention Consolidated Restaurants’ bold new addition—the first in 33 years—to the dining scene. By making the union between bar and kitchen nearly seamless, Heartwood Provisions is onto a pairing twist that adds another layer of innovation to downtown’s dining scene.
Downtown, 1103 First Ave.; 206.582.3505; heartwoodsea.com
Heavenly kaffir lime pork meatballs with fennel and red pepper vinaigrette ($7)