. FOOD MATTERS, from Page 9
manager, reminds us that there are something like 5,000 restaurants in Seattle: “We want to be on the leading edge again.”
It’s a question that has faced any number of older Seattle restaurants: How do you modernize without scaring away your regulars? How do you update your decor and your menu and appeal to a younger clientele? At Ray’s, it looks like they’re going to try rocking the boat a little bit.
Dale Chihuly is something of a packrat, and now that he’s rich and famous, he can indulge his inclination. The new Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center, a $20 million project funded by the Space Needle, is a sort of corporate vanity project.
They’re careful not to call it a museum; it’s more like an indoor/outdoor library of Chihuly’s greatest hits (the chandeliers, ceilings, sunbursts and flowers; the forests, sea creatures, globes and reeds) on the former Funhouse site that’s sure to become a treasured tourist destination.
Tucked onto the north end is a moderately priced restaurant called the Collections Cafe, which houses some 28 displays of Chihuly’s personal stash of ephemera: ceramic dogs, bottle openers, Mexican ashtrays, pocket knives, inkwells, alarm clocks, vintage plastic radios, kitchen string holders (like Tom Douglas has at Cuoco), cast-iron dogs, fish lures, tin toys, carnival prizes, dollhouse furniture, shaving brushes, Christmas ornaments and, hanging from the ceiling, a cacophony of accordions, squeezeboxes, concertinas and stomach Steinways.
Let’s move on to the food and wine: custom bottles of Dunham Cellars chardonnay and Syrah labeled Billy O “Mazie” and “Mighty,” respectively, named for Chihuly’s right-hand man, Billy O’Neill.
Craft beers from local brewers. Regional fare designed by Seattle’s preeminent menu consultant, Jason Wilson, and executed by former Hunt Club executive chef Ivan Szilac, under the watchful eye of the Space Needle’s executive chef, Jeff Maxfield.
For a 50-seat restaurant, the kitchen is way overbuilt; that’s because it will also handle catering for the Glasshouse, a spectacular, new, 40-foot-tall conservatory appended to the building. There, under a 100-foot vine of red-yellow-orange-amber glass blossoms, Seattle swells will find their new favorite gathering spot for prestigious parties.
RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer who blogs at Cornichon.org.