July 16, 2009
Many people still don’t realize that Matt Janke, the irrepressible owner of Matt’s in the Market, sold his namesake restaurant many moons ago, leaving the popular Pike Place Market resto in the very capable hands of Dan Bugge, former fishmonger at Pike Place Fish who used to eat at Matt’s every day at lunch and grew to love the place so much, he bought it!
Which is one of the reasons that Bugge and his public-relations representatives decided they were long overdue in hosting a dinner for local media. The other reason was to test-drive dishes for their upcoming appearance at the venerable James Beard House in New York City on October 1.
So on a summery Monday evening, about 30 of us gathered in the restaurant (which was closed to the public) to see what Buege and his executive chef, Chester (Chet) Gerl would cook up.
Among my favorites of the five very generous courses was this octopus dish. Served with salsa verde, Olsen Farms papas bravas (buttery roasted potatoes), and a spicy chili oil, the plate was not only beautiful to look at, but a wonderful interplay of flavors and textures–warm potatoes, chewy (in a good way) octopus, herbal green sauce. A winner!
As good as the octopus was, however, the star of the show was the whole Pink Snapper, sourced from New Zealand waters and served with Manila clams, Castelvetrano olives, caperberries, cherry tomatoes, and herbs. I only wish I’d had a spoon to lap up the shellstock-based sauce. Now that I think of it, I suppose a clam shell would have served the purpose. Darn!
Chef Chet left us all in a very festive mood by serving Gummy Fish (made in-house so they weren’t as chewy as traditional gummi fish) flavored with Champagne and basil (!) and served swimming in Strawberry Soup topped with Sour Cream Ice Cream.
Here’s the proud owner of Matt’s in the Market, Dan Bugge, and his public relations representative, Michi Suzuki. On the DVD player in the background they showed a lively demo tape that Bugge had made with a buddy of his from the Food Network. While watching it, we learned that Bugge had thrown fish for Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show!” Bugge described Leno as “one of the nicest guys I know,” when I questioned him further about the heady experience.