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Mar 12, 2014 10:06 PM

Bar Sajor

I admit it: I'm a Matt Dillon-food cheerleader. If one bothers to they could read gushing posts I've written in years past on Sitka & Spruce (both locales) and Corson Bldg. For me, despite their typical simplicity, Dillon's dishes possess a *je ne sais quoi* that consistently impresses me (but apparently is lost on dtractors). On the other hand, I think Dillon does not get adequate credit for his adept interweaving of seasonal PNW ingredients with at times complex Maghrebi/Arabesque flavors and housemade condiments.

Understated excellence again prevails at Bar Sajor. The menu is very limited: 6/7 app-size portions that are apparently all uncooked dishes; 2 meat plates grilled over the open fireplace; maybe 3/4 oven cooked entrees, bread.

We chose to start with Shigoku oysters, raw. The king of bivalve varietals, one would be silly to mess these up, and Sajor did not. Next we had a roasted dish of octopus, potatoes (and something else). Elemental, satisfying and generously portioned. Finally the chuleton de buey: a ribeye maybe enough for two. Probably the most delicious I've had. The server explained the Basque provenance of the concept: to marinate the meat in lemon then quickly cook it. In Sajor's case, he said, they use preserved lemon, and on this night it was topped with nettle salsa verde and chanterelles. Beautiful rich food.

I deferred to the "Somme" (this abbv peeves me) for wine picks as I have done well this way at Corson. I had a wonderful sparkling rose and still white; the red was a barnyard ish cab franc ish style that I don't see on the site today. It was a bit austere to start but warmed up.

The dessert was a grainy hazelnut cake that was enjoyed but not memorable. The complimentary Sauternes, however, was (wife played the birthday card).

The airy space is warm, mostly vintage wood and white, old and new; a very appropriate use of some of the best/oldest architecture in town on the most attractive block of Occidental. These blocks and immediate vicinity are becoming not only a foodie jackpot by day or night, but the centerpiece of the welcome revitalization of Pioneer Square.

[Wrote this wordy post but typo'd the title; embarassed. CH please fix. Thanks]

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  1. A fellow Matt Dillon fan here. I work next door above Occidental Square and walk by this restaurant just about everyday. How I do adore that airy, double-height space and the full height windows; there really isn't a lovelier place to have lunch on a sunny day anywhere else Downtown (unless you go al fresco). And what an absolute boon they are for Pioneer Square's burgeoning food scene.

    I've enjoyed them for lunch but have yet to visit for a proper dinner. Much of your critique I would echo, and I'll add that I was present for the book signing/dinner gala for Rene Redzepi last fall (dinner jointly prepared by Matt Dillon & Blaine Wetzel) which was held in the courtyard outside of the restaurant. In spite of the pouring rain, it was quite a memorable evening food wise.

    1. I took three work colleagues this week, my second visit, better than the first. Scallops and halibut mains were both really good, and yes, they did the oysters justice, for sure. Cheese plate strangely doesn't come with bread or crackers—is that a typical thing?

      1. We did small plates back in October. Don't remember the details, but generally found everything we tried quite good. Thought the smoked yogurt was a little too smokey. Anyway, just wanted to add another vote for a positive experience even if I can't file a traditional report.

        1. I had dinner at Bar Sajor tonight and was quite happy with just about everything I ate. Many years ago I had a really spectacular lunch at Sitka & Spruce but have only been involved with the periphery of the Matt Dillon empire (Bar Ferd'nand and S&S's malafacha night) since then.

          The current menu's divided into small plates (mostly uncooked dishes), dishes cooked in the wood oven and dishes cooked in the fireplace. There's also a short cocktail menu that simply lists the ingredients and leaves you to guess the rest, Ethan Stowell-style. Unless you are well-versed in obscure European liqueurs, expect to be surprised.

          We were all huge fans of the black cod with romano beans and roasted brassicas with sheep's milk ricotta. The black cod was cooked perfectly - the fish was soft but the skin was crispy and very flavorful. The brassica dish was great because the contrasting flavors and textures of bitter, meaty greens, creamy cheese and crunchy walnuts worked so well together. I was also a big fan of the unique flavor of the tangy smoked yogurt.

          Aside from that, the barnacles were fun once we figured out what to do with them. The waitress was kind enough to warn us about the possibility of flying liquids. Peel carefully and you get meat that tastes familiar yet unique. This dish was a lot more interesting than the mussels and clams in escabeche. The clams were fine but the mussels were very chewy. Oh well. We also had curry-esque roasted lobster mushrooms, beef tongue pastrami (not as good as the carrots and carrot juice served with it) and a fairly straightforward tomato salad. For dessert, I quite liked the carrot cake but found the huckleberry clafoutis underwhelming (mostly because I didn't like the ice cream served with it).

          Overall, the highlights of most of the dishes were vegetables and nuts. That said, I was also happy that the menu featured a lot of seafood without really calling attention to itself. Many restaurants make a big deal about the provenance of everything, but Bar Sajor simply found the best ingredients and served them to us.

          My non-trivial beef with the restaurant is that it's not particularly suited for a party of more than two. The waitress let us know that everything would be served family-style, but it seems like Bar Sajor's idea of "family" is two people. The shared plates were all fairly small and made no concessions to the fact that there were four of us at the table. Several dishes included only two or three pieces of an ingredient. Given that places like Blind Pig and Staple & Fancy seem to have no problem basing portion size on group size, is it really too much to ask that other restaurants either do the same or properly advise us as to what to expect? I know that "tiny stuff you're supposed to share" is a common trope at fancier restaurants, but Bar Sajor seems to be one of the more egregious offenders.

          As others have mentioned, the space is great. The various Matt Dillon restaurants are some of Seattle's most pleasant dining spaces and Bar Sajor may be the best.

          1. It's always interesting to me to read the raves for his food because I just don't get it. I've been to Corson (which was fun even if I didn't find anything delicious), S&S, Bar Sajor and London Plane and have never enjoyed the food. The last time at LP I couldn't even finish two of the dishes (tuna and a pea soup), and that never happens--usually if I'm hungry I can eat anything. Am I really the only person out there that doesn't like these places?

            2 Replies
            1. re: christy319

              I'm with you. Corson is the best of the bunch (I haven't been to LP) in my opinion, but I don't love it.

              1. re: christy319

                Not just you.

                I work in PSquare and have tried both Bar Sajor and London Plane at lunch. Neither are places I would suggest returning to. The food feels a bit on the twee side.

                Beautiful, beautiful ambiance, great service. (The ...I think it was a cardamom poundcake... I had was amazing. But the food just leaves me hungry and a little annoyed.)