food we like
One warm evening in late September, rather than jog my neighborhood loop, I opted to run downtown for a change of scenery. Once in the city, I passed Seattle Art Museum and made my way down the Harbor Steps headed for the nearby waterfront. Halfway down, I skidded to a halt in front of an unfamiliar rustic slate sign with a chalk drawing of a portly pig and two words: Lecosho OPEN.
Had Armandino Batali created a sophisticated new counterpart to showcase his empire of meaty goodness? The rustic pig is no doubt synonymous with Batali’s famous cured meats though he by no means holds claim on swine as a restaurant logo. I peered through the window, breath fogging the glass as I absorbed a warm, convivial scene within. The vibe was unpretentious though decidedly posh and a menu posted outside had me salivating with its chic French bistro meets laid back Pacific Northwest meets hip gastro pub offerings. Had I not been clad in head to toe spandex, I would have found the pull irresistible.
Ever the cautious diner, I tend to rely on the good word of those with a greater sense of abandon and deeper pockets than my own. Because dining out requires either a babysitter or a third wheel, choosing with care is imperative. Thus, my initial excitement was promptly filed away and might have stayed that way had Lecosho not come up the following week during my daughter’s soccer game. Her coach, a local wine distributor, offhandedly mentioned the new spot as the latest venture of veteran restaurateur, Matt Janke, of Matt’s in the Market Fame.
At Matt’s, Janke brought the bounty of the farmer’s market to the table with a flair for inspired simplicity. In his postcard-sized restaurant on the second floor of the Corner Market building, daily offerings were unfussy, never contrived and consistently delicious. Buttery pan seared trout, local greens and rustic walnut tart were par for the course, prepared with love by Matt himself in a postage stamp-sized open kitchen. After selling Matt’s a few years back, Janke remained under the radar, working gigs at Wild Ginger and Ballard’s hotspot, Bastille, before taking on this new space, previously occupied by Japanese restaurant, Koji Osakaya.
Another six months might have passed but for one fateful Saturday night when my family’s unanimous hankering for Lunchbox Laboratory burgers was kiboshed due to a hand-scrawled sign on the door unapologetically stating, ‘Sold Out’, followed by the discouraging news of a one and a half hour wait at nearby pizza hot spot, Delancey. It was late. Stomachs were rumbling. Tables were full. Then it came to me: Lecosho. It was new and relatively unheard of. The odds were in our favor. I called. Sure enough, they had a table for us.
Seated in a cozy nook at the far end of the space, we perused a menu abundant in local meats, plentiful seafood and half a dozen tempting sides. In a nod to old school but with a twist, a bibb wedge was topped with crisp pancetta, drizzled with silky toasted onion ranch and garnished with roasted romas like gleaming rubies sidled up to a pyramid of green. My daughter went gaga for potatoes fried in duck fat while my husband set his sights squarely on ribeye steak, seared to juicy perfection. I opted for comfort in the form of roast chicken with creamed farro and braised greens. A thoughtful wine selection seamlessly played off the menu.
Our bibb salad was an enlivened juxtaposition of tangy, salty, creamy goodness with rich sweet caramelized tomato, a generous smattering of toothsome bits of cured pork and buttery lettuce enrobed in velvety dressing. A side of five thick, crisp brown potato slices nested in a petite oblong dish were promptly bogarted by my potato-fiend offspring until intervention afforded a relatively reasonable distribution. She now requests goose fat with every meal. I did not argue when presented with my husband’s Oregon ribeye, plump and proud with two round pats of smoky bleu butter and a touch of coarse sea salt. The last time a steak of its caliber passed my lips was last fall in Paris, at acclaimed, time-honored bistro, Allard. My husband said little as he enthusiastically made headway on the Mad Hatcher farms roast chicken. Our daughter dreamily devoured bites of steak, chicken, farro, greens and potatoes, giving the place her wholehearted stamp of approval.
At halftime, we swapped plates and compared notes. The chicken was a revelation, all chickeny flavor intact and rivaling the steak in its masterful preparation. Creamed farro channeled risotto with its satisfying chew and flavor infused grains. Braised greens were given the royal treatment, studded with flecks of house cured pancetta. Thoughtful service mirrored the meal with a welcome lack of pretention and genuine attention to detail. For dessert, we shared three dainty scoops of brightly flavored gelato sandwiched between two brown butter shortbread cookies with a hint of pink peppercorn in a sublimely refreshing finale.
My optimistic husband took this outpouring of admiration at face value and promptly booked a table at Lecosho for my upcoming birthday. Despite our flawless introduction, I was skeptical. Could the restaurant live up to its initial allure or would it prove a one-hit wonder?
On the big night, I dolled up and crossed my fingers. We kicked off the celebration with housemade duck liver mousse, smooth and velvety save for a smattering of tart sweet dried bing cherries and flakes of crunchy sea salt. The mousse was addictive, like savory candy for grown ups. Birthday or no, I summoned the willpower to not lick clean the dainty ceramic dish in which it was served. Next, we shared steamed mussels in a briny broth laced with the flavors of sweet fennel fronds and smoky spears of spicy chorizo. In an ode to our first visit, we revisited the bibb salad, ribeye steak and roast chicken. Each dish lived up to if not rivaled its prior incarnation. Wait staff graciously presented the birthday cake my darling husband had special ordered from my favorite bakery. I felt like a queen.
We anticipated good food but were rewarded with perfection. Round two proved Lecosho not only gets it right but they do it night after night in flawless succession.
Go-go to Lecosho. Your belly will thank you.