The Latest From Seattle's Tom Douglas: Seatown Seabar at Pike Place Market

This post is part of our Hidden Gems series, which is brought to you by Basil Hayden's bourbon. Spicy, unexpected, and full of potential. Just like your plans tonight.

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[Photographs: Leslie Kelly]

The best way to warm up for the Seatown Seabar is to first walk through the Pike Place Market. Those photo-opp-worthy displays of fish and pretty produce that inspires Seatown's kitchen will put you in the mood for the ever-changing menu at the latest restaurant from chef Tom Douglas, located on a prime corner across from Seattle's landmark market.

His seventh restaurant opened in August with a seafood-driven menu that's somewhat limited because they're still working on getting a venting system in place. That means your nose will know what's offered as soon as you walk in the door.

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From left: Tom Douglas and executive chef Eric Tanaka.

On a recent Saturday evening, the dining room was busy, with a steady ebb and flow of customers. I grabbed a seat at the gorgeous, curvaceous bar because my husband wanted to keep an eye on a football game. (Yes, there's a lone flat screen in one corner, adding to the casual vibe.)

For starters, we ordered cocktails from the short, clever list. A Gotham for me—the Seabar's nod to a Manhattan—and a gin rickey for the Mister. Both were nicely mixed from the small, but well-stocked service bar that occupies one corner of the open kitchen. The bar features five selections of premium bourbon.

While sipping drinks, there was a good deal of debate over what to order—everything looked so good.

Fortunately, there are several combos on the Cured, Chilled and Raw side of the menu, so you can get maximum menu exposure. I was absolutely ecstatic about the smoked seafood sampler: cider-brined Idaho trout, Columbia River sturgeon, black cod, Coho salmon and white king salmon gravlax finished with fennel salt. Those exquisite smoked fish were served with buckwheat blini pancakes, cream cheese and capers fried in duck fat. OMG! I could snack on those capers all night long, but there were appetizers to try.

Again, I wanted to order one of each from this line-up, which included a dry-aged beef tartare and sticky ribs, but was happy with a chickpea stew that showcased two of my favorite things: pork and Dungeness crab. This soupy surf-n-turf had the mildest Indian accent and was perfectly seasoned. Loved it.

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For mains, we dove back into the seafood. I'm a huge fan of shrimp and grits, but have never had them prepared with Alaskan spot prawns, which added a succulent sweet quality to balance the heat of housemade chorizo.

The kitchen deserves three cheers for the salmon, steamed in verjus. (Made from the juice of green wine grapes, it's considered vinegar lite.) The full flavor of the fish came shining through, especially when combined with a bite of the bacon lentils and braised salisfy the salmon was perched on.

As I ate my entrée, a passing server noticed I was making noise: "Sounds like you're enjoying everything." Isn't that what they call an audible on the football field?

I tried to keep my audibles down during dessert, a lovely crisp made with pears and cranberries, but as soon as I took a bite of the buttermilk ice cream on top this warm treat, I couldn't help myself. So tangy and sweet at the same time, so perfect with the tart fruit crisp, I just had to go Mmmm.

Seatown Seabar

2010 Western Avenue, Seattle WA 98121 (b/n Virginia Street and Pike Place; map)
tomdouglas.com/index.php/restaurants/seatown

About the author: Former Seattle Post-Intelligencer food critic Leslie Kelly now writes for Seattle Weekly, Seattle magazine, the Memphis-based StateofQ.com and AlDente.com, Amazon's food blog. She wrote about working in professional kitchens for Serious Eats in a series called Critic-Turned-Cook.

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