Sitka and Spruce: Right, Now
My wife and I went to the Melrose Sitka & Spruce location for the first time last week (we had been to the Eastlake spot years ago, and to Corson Building last summer). We did have to wait an hour (spent at the adjacent bar with wine and oysters), and were then seated at the bar facing the window. Space is limited, but fairly comfortable, and looking through the cut-out view into the walk-in fridge is great fodder for passing time for those curious about the alchemy inside.
At the risk of overstating it, I believe that Dillon and his crew are doing more than anyone at the moment to foster a distinctive and respectable Seattle-centric cuisine, which is something it seems most vistors to this board are after more than anything else (either that or "dinner by the convention center"). And the results are both innovative and delicious: sardines in escabeche with tahini, oranges and carrots; turnips with pork belly; and glorious roasted goat (maybe two different cuts--one had an almost confit texture) with hot peppers and a sort of baba ganouj-ish puree. This last was by far the best goat preperation I've tasted. A babysitting emergency forced us to skip dessert, but the three courses alone were just outstanding.
I have a Seattle native friend, a major food-o-phile now living in the San Jose area who goes to places like French Laundary and Manresa, etc. He was so high on Sitka that he immediately went back just recently after his first visit a couple months ago. Of course, Sitka does not attempt or deliver gastro-science wonders or prix-fixe masterpieces like such places of national renown. What it does do is make the very most of local produce with sprinklings of the middle east, france and spain, in a current yet conscious and very smart manner. I think Sitka's cooking reminds my friend of home, or at least home as he came to hope it would become.
In considering where to go before winding up at Sitka, I looked at menus for other SEA places with ostensibly similar styles, cred, buzz-factors, and reservation scarcities. Their menus, compared to Sitka's, while quite appetizing, seemed relatively "safe" and curiously similar to one another. I always say "try everything once before judging", but with Sitka going as it is, it's tough to try others right now.
Sitka & Spruce
2238 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102
I would probably consider the lunch I had there last summer to be my favorite Seattle meal of the year. Each dish (romano beans with tahini and a carrot-chickpea salad) seemed to have been created by selecting each ingredient individually rather than starting out with the end in mind.
Having a counter seat made the experience even better. People kept walking up to the kitchen to take a photograph.