In a town that regularly ranks in the top five of America’s most restaurant-dense cities, Seattle isn’t the easiest municipality for new eateries. The competition is stiff, restaurants can close as quickly as they open, ambience matters almost as much as what’s on the plate and a bad cocktail can result in Yelp-induced suicide.
Veterans to the food and beverage trade, Consolidated Restaurants — the 65-year-old, family-owned Seattle dining group with familiar titles like The Metropolitan Grill and Elliott’s Oyster House — opened up Heartwood Provisions in the shuttered 1st Avenue McCormick and Schmick’s locale almost one year ago. Brushing off the fate of its predecessor, a regular downtown diner would be hard-pressed to find any remains from the space’s former life — and Heartwood Provisions glows in the premise’s rebirth. Literally: more than half a dozen different light fixtures gleam throughout the 250-seat restaurant, backlighting the various dining area arrangements like art pieces on display at a gallery.
When we enter from a windblown December night, we immediately exhale and begin to bask in the indoor glimmer befitting a downtown establishment. Two parallel bar areas offer separate experiences on either of our sides: the main bar to the left, bustling with a library wall of booze and ladder to accommodate; and the lounge to the right, full of plump, slouchy furniture and cozy nooks ready for a book and whiskey. Farther down, the lounge turns into a moderately open kitchen with chef’s counter seating and behind the main bar rests the dining room, which also has multiple personalities of eating quarters, from bright, casual and public to brooding and private. Wood coats the floors, bars and tabletops, with aesthetic beams posted across the ceilings and panels on the walls of the dining rooms, while white subway tile is stacked in work stations and cream-colored walls finish the remainder of the decor.
An original concept for a full-service restaurant, the menu was fashioned with both food and drink in mind, and in tandem, as Chef Varin Keokitvon and Beverage Director Amanda Reed created their respective lists to fuse and complement the two sectors of the restaurant. Each dish on the nightly bill of fare is matched with a cocktail, bringing the flavors to the diner as a united front.
Our table first witnessed the pairing concept in action with tuna, two ways, in the “Raw” section. The yellowtail sporting grapefruit, avocado, horseradish and lemon-paprika vinaigrette accoutrements with the accompaniment of an Old Tom gin, lemon and bubbles cocktail was vibrant and buoyant, while the Bigeye, outfitted with pear, basil and crispy quinoa to rival the pisco and Lacuesta Blanco aperitif, was a zesty and richer match.
We also tore into the “original provision,” a plentiful bowl of upscale beef jerky with Wagyu, to mix with the beer cocktail done right, made of Cerveza er Boqueron sea salt ale and carpano bianco. Next to a Armagnac and Pineau des Charentes cocktail, light-as-air foie gras mousse was woven into an unctuous madeira gelée and topped with hazelnuts and bread crisps, oozing hedonism and not enough bites of it.
A whole trout was nicely cooked and buried beneath a mountain of sweet corn succotash and pickled chanterelles, set next to a tipple of rum, Amontillado sherry and tropical fruits, while the honey-roasted duck breast was our favorite of the two mains, precisely prepared and adorned with a parsnip confit, matched with a rum-based cocktail that melded with the honey roast.
After six courses, we put down the silverware, adjusted our pants buttons and passed on dessert, although other guests nearby looked to be lapping up the smoked caramel panna cotta and bourbon pairing.
Downtown dining without an extortionate price tag (although it is far from cheap eats), Heartwood Provisions calls guests into its luminescent rooms with promises of food and drink that keep true. Celebrate the restaurant’s first birthday with a hefty discount: Until February 8, diners can indulge in a three-course menu featuring guest favorites from Heartwood’s first year, to the tune of $60 for two people.