September 22, 2008
The former Mistral space in Belltown on Blanchard Street, halfway between First and Second Avenues, has been reborn as Spur Gastropub, and the new entry is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. The lofty prices and hefty attitude of Mistral have given way to an inviting historic space and expert service backed by a steady hand in the kitchen thanks to the chef team of Brian McCracken and Dana Tough. McCracken comes from a family of fisherman and farmers and has studied with some of the nation’s top chefs. Tough, the former Chef de Cuisine at Tilth restaurant, is most inspired by his local farmers’ crops like Bill & Steff’s tomatoes, arugula and peaches from Billy Alstott’s Farm and Annie’s French heirloom melons and cape goose berries from King’s Garden. According to their media representatives:
Brian and Dana first met working together under Maria Hines at Earth & Ocean. Schooled in techniques from around the world, these chefs have polished a cooking style where sustainably conscious dishes feature farm-to-table, native ingredients on a menu where a ham sandwich is not a “croque” and a casserole is not a “cassoulet”. Look for signature dishes like the duo’s Pork Belly Sliders (with Smoked Orange Marmalade, Arugula and Mustard) and seasonal rotations like Pan-Seared Trout (with Mizuna, Farro and Almond). Spur nods to the area’s pioneer, fisherman and occasional outlaw roots. Spur will feature a rotating photo exhibit projected on restaurant walls.
From the first moment, we were on board thanks to our knowledgeable server, Bree, who we remember from Campagne (where she also works). She advised us on which wines went best with our choices and how much food to order.
We began with Mussels and Clams with Butter, Parsley, and Chicheron (fried pork skin) and weren’t disappointed. Salads were stellar, from something as simple and flavorful as Spencer’s choice–Heirloom Lettuces with Champagne Vinaigrette, Pine Nuts, and Ricotta Salata–to my Baby Chiogga Beets with Chèvre, Arugula, and Pistachio.
The Pan-Seared Trout was a study in creative contrasts thanks to the addition of slightly bitter/peppery mizuna, sharp mustard, and crunchy almonds. The Charred Bison Burger with Provolone and Aïoli, served with a heap o’ thin-cut shoestring potatoes, was the real deal for meat lovers.
Although sated, at Bree’s suggestion, we opted to split the Sous Vide Strawberry Ice Cream and weren’t disappointed. This essence of berry was topped by the perfect plump, local berry and underlined with coconut crunch, a light, crunchy counterpoint that reminded me of similar accompaniments we’d experienced at wd-50 in New York City.
The wine list ranges around the world with well-thought-out offerings. The only local wine by the glass is A to Z Chardonnay, although local bottles include Buty Sem/Sauv Blanc and Cab Franc/Merlot and Seia Horse Heaven Hills Syrah.