Editor's note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
"A feast for the eyes" may be an overused expression, but it's certainly relevant to the new Collections Café at Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. In the shadow of the Space Needle at the Seattle Center (site of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, also known as the Century 21 Exposition), you can see Dale Chihuly's stunning glasswork—and then continue your art appreciation inside the café. (Note: You don't have to pay entry to the museum to eat at the café.)
In the café, the first thing you'll notice are the collections. Chihuly collected seemingly everything from his travels over the years, saying, "I love to find beauty in everyday objects." Accordions hang from the ceiling, displays of figurines and more are on the walls, and the tables house all kinds of knick-knacks.
Place your food order, and you'll notice that the artwork extends into the kitchen. The collected talent of chefs Jason Wilson of Crush, Jeff Maxfield of neighboring Sky City (atop the Space Needle) and Ivan Szilak—the onsite chef—developed the menu with the intent to match the museum's ambience and philosophy. This is most evident in the vivid colors of the food, such as the pink of the prawns, the red of tomato jam, and the greens of the likes of frisée and fried basil.
Collections Café offers a space that's bright and cheery, and full of wit and whimsy. The food is fresh, largely local, and, like its setting, playfully artistic. Come take a look at the dishes and the space in the slideshow above.
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.