11, 2003 — Sometimes,
everything about a restaurant experience falls so perfectly into
place that it seems like every other meal thereafter will pale
in comparison. Our recent trip to Seattle's Restaurant Zoë
proved well worthy of such prolific praise.
For weeks, my husband and I planned this night out with our
close friends Kate and Jessica, who'd been before and knew we
would adore it.
So, although you could quite easily enjoy a meal at Zoë for
the same price as Nimbus or Calumet in Bellingham, we entered
the serene space ready to spend some serious cash.
And spend we did. Kate is an educated wine connoisseur and
immediately lit into the wine list. Before the lengthy night was
through, we would consume two bottles of red and Kate would
insist I sample her snifter of aromatic Darroze Armagnac over
The trendy Belltown eatery offers soaring ceilings, clean
lines and earth tones, brought together in a balance of casual
and elegant. It serves a limited but impressive menu. Chef Scott
Staples' name has long been synonymous with spectacular seafood,
and Zoë continues the successful trend.
Formerly of Kirkland's Third Floor Fish Cafe, Staples opened
Restaurant Zoë in late 2000 with his architect wife, Heather,
who designed the airy yet comfortable space. The eatery is named
after their daughter.
2137 2nd Ave., Seattle
Phone: (206) 256-2060
5 to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday 5 to 11 p.m.,
Friday and Saturday
Serving: Pan-Mediterranean cuisine in a
restaurant right out of the pages of a high-end food
Menu items sampled:
Chestnut leaf wrapped goat cheese $7.50
Tempura squash blossom $9.25
Braised veal cheeks $19.75
House smoked hanger steak $16.75
Pan-seared sea scallops $23.25
Spice-crusted Alaskan halibut $23.75
Molten chocolate cake $6
Gianduja crème brûlée tart $6
Darroze Armagnac $11
During our languid, luxurious meal of several courses, we
sampled many items from Staples' menu; not a single one fell
short of spectacular.
Jessica started with a "Clear Conscience" mocktail,
a designer drink built around fresh tangerine, cucumber, lemon
verbena, lime and soda, shaken and served in a martini glass,
then garnished with a decoratively peeled cucumber slice.
The initial lip pucker from the citrus components was
tempered by the smooth and cooling cucumber.
As we enjoyed our wine and waited for our appetizers of
chestnut-leaf-wrapped goat cheese and tempura squash blossom to
arrive, a tong-toting server made sure we were never low on Zoë's
house-made potato focaccia.
Looking as though they'd been served right off the cover of
Bon Appetit, the appetizers were petite in size, but gigantic in
flavor and texture. A round of goat cheese rested inside a
grilled chestnut leaf served on a crust of crostini topped with
roasted red grapes and caramelized onions. The chestnut leaf
gave a smokey aroma to each bite.
Our exceptional server Joe had suggested the tempura squash
blossom, and as we would quickly learn, he always steered us to
the best the menu had to offer. While I'm confident that nothing
served at Zoë would disappoint, Joe suggested the superstar
dishes with honesty and absolute astuteness about their
A small plate of three lightly battered and fried blossoms
arrived presented on a mound of chèvre and diced zucchini and
squash, set atop a drizzle of savory tomato coulis.
As a pleasant surprise, Joe brought us an offering from the
kitchen as a next course, four large silver spoons on a platter,
each holding a heap of duck confit and French lentils, finished
with an apple-balsamic reduction and fresh herbs.
When our entrees arrived, each was presented beautifully and
with obvious attention to detail. Again, we felt as though we
were eating from plates that had been whisked straight from a
magazine photo shoot.
My husband enjoyed braised veal cheeks, tender pieces of meat
served atop spaetzel, with prosciutto, crispy sage and pea
vines. If you're a veal fan, you'll find this dish undeniably
I ordered the house-smoked hanger steak, a tender cut of meat
cold smoked and served rare with veal jus and coupled with
grilled summer vegetables and fingerling potatoes. The infusion
of smoke pushed the flavor of the steak to another level.
Kate and Jessica both opted for seafood. The colors on Kate's
platter of pan-seared sea scallops were electric. Carrot
vinaigrette made a pool a vibrant yellow orange, topped with
several plump, golden-edged scallops. Mounded in the center of
the circle of scallops was a corn flan with smoked bacon,
English peas and cippolinni onions. The flavors and textures
were complex and Kate likened the dish to her wine: Both had a
Jessica's spice-crusted Alaskan halibut was nestled in a bed
of Israeli couscous, a larger pearl-shaped grain made shades of
emerald from pureed parsley and other fresh herbs.
The crowning glory to the dish was a drizzle of curry oil
around the couscous that complemented the crunchy spice-coated
fish but didn't overpower it. Her halibut also had the same
apple-balsamic reduction we'd sampled with the duck confit.
For dessert, we decided to share the molten chocolate cake
and Gianduja crème brûlée tart. Both were magnificent, but we
raved a bit more boisterously over the cake, a warm truffle
concoction with a liquid center. A dollop of peppermint ice
cream shared the plate, resting on a thin chocolate wafer.
The Gianduja crème brûlée tart was built around a dark
chocolate shortbread shell filled with silky milk chocolate
hazelnut custard and topped with fresh whipped cream and fresh
Yet another unexpected treat from the kitchen arrived just
before the bill, a small plate holding four quarter-sized
chocolate shortbread cookies. Each crisp cookie had been rolled
in sugar and topped with white chocolate ganache and a single
hazelnut, a winning combination of crunchy, creamy, salty and
Restaurant Zoë is managed by the affable Tom Knowles who,
after I introduced myself at the end of the night, sat down and
graciously accepted our effusive compliments on the ambience,
the food and our exceptional server, Joe.
Three hours after we entered the restaurant, the four of us
floated out on a nearly palpable cloud of contentment, talking
dreamily of our next visit to Restaurant Zoë. I wonder if Kate
and Jessica are free this weekend?