The Whale Wins will have you at hello. This new restaurant from chef Renee Erickson (of Boat Street Café and The Walrus & the Carpenter fame) is bright and airy by day, then at night becomes romantically lit, with an installation of downward-facing light fixtures spelling a huge artistic HELLO in two directions.
The Whale Wins can be found in the Fremont Collective along with the relocated Joule restaurant and Evo's flagship store—selling skis, skates, and snowboards. (Word is that there's a skate park in the basement.) While there will soon be patio space out front, the action is currently in the L-shaped dining room, where there's also a friendly bar (serving predominantly French wines and cocktails) and an open kitchen. Olives, salt, and Boat Street Pickles are among the many items on pantry shelves. White walls and wood logs contribute to a country cottage feel, with bowls of food out on the counter begging to be sampled. You might find yourself with an urge to snag a sardine or some roasted fennel.
That's all part of the plan, as Erickson explains on her website: "Piles of delicious, ripe, seasonal vegetables, wood oven–fired meats and fish, and pickled treats—favorites from my childhood and my travels—will be displayed in abundance and served to share in a bright, beautiful setting." Those travels include England and southern Europe, while the locality and seasonality of the Pacific Northwest added their influence. Erikson told me that she'll be sourcing ingredients from where it makes sense to find them, like area farms and gardens, and even foraged from such places like local beaches.
The menu is simply divided in two halves: Pantry and Oven, with several items available as large or small portion. Pantry currently consists of small, shareable plates like Salumeria Biellese Culatello & Butter, Vegetable Hummus with Braised Greens & Pickled Peppers on Toast, and Rogue Flora Nelle Blue Cheese & Ballard Bee Company Honey. But with the wood oven a big, visible feature of the restaurant, it's hard to resist the roasted meats and vegetables it produces. Look for such things as marrow bones, clams, cauliflower, and even Butter Roasted Zucchini Bread. And if anything also includes Erickson's renowned Boat Street Pickles, it won't just be the whale that wins.