Coho Cafe's two locations help their diners fight the weather—whatever that might be. In the winter, large rock fireplaces send heat bouncing off curved architecture and metal art while stomachs warm with Southwestern spices. In the summer, cool Pacific breezes fan guests on the outdoor patios while they sip cocktails and sink into cod tacos. But no matter what the temperature outside, there's an undeniable flair to the restaurant's Northwestern seafood. It's something viewers of KING 5's Evening Magazine have noticed too—they've lauded Coho for having the best New American cuisine in western Washington four times since 2008.
The cornerstone of these accolades is the kitchens' culinary restlessness. The executive chefs of both locations revamp the Fresh Sheets menu of weekly specials every two weeks to make use of seasonal ingredients and flavors. What results are bold plates such as pit-roasted salmon cooked over apple wood, and stir-fried coconut green curry with prawns and ginger-jasmine rice. Each bite pairs with a Northwestern wine as well—a fitting drink for any season.
Crab spring rolls. Thai curry penne. Grilled beef tenderloin. At the heart of this cuisine is executive chef Alvin Binuya, a man who has been profiled in and whose recipes have been featured in Seattle Dining!.
Binuya has been immersed in the world of food since he was just a boy, when he would use his parents' kitchen as a culinary laboratory to forge new flavors and antidotes for stale gingerbread men. He went on to hone his skills in culinary school and numerous restaurants before settling at Ponti Seafood Grill. Drawing from this expertise and using locally sourced ingredients, the chef fuses pan-Asian, European, and Pacific Northwest influences to create signature dishes such as grilled wild king salmon.
Ponti's dining spaces echo the villas of Tuscany. Warm colors and window-lined walls surround the restaurant's visitors as they sip selections from an award-winning wine list. Elsewhere, four private dining rooms give scenic views of the giant tarter-sauce bottles that float through Seattle's Ship Canal.
Flying Fish's menus abound with locally sourced and sustainably harvested ingredients, including the freshest of fishies. Kick off your pelagic gustation with an appetizer of steamed manila clams ($12) before sailing onward to a large plate of Columbia River spring chinook with vegetable tabbouleh and charmoula ($26). By-the-pound platters are sure-fire ways to load your cargo hold to the bursting point with seafood such as the salt-and-pepper Dungeness crab with sesame noodles and carrot-daikon salad ($28/pound). Landlubber stomachs, meanwhile, can stay out of the shark-infested surf with a hearty plate of red-wine-braised short ribs and grilled spring onions ($22) and a meal-expanding side of parmesan scalloped potatoes ($5). A dessert of honey-lemon cheesecake ($9) or warm grappa brownies ($9) ends your maritime meal on a sweet note no matter how often your blind date mentions the white whale that took his leg.
Executive chef Garrett Michael Brown doesn't skip steps, in cooking or in business. An avid gardener and hunter, and clandestine stamp collector, Brown has a penchant for taking his ingredients directly from the field and transforming them into delicious meals. He is also known for transforming simple wine bars into culinary destinations, which he did at Verve Wine Bar in Columbia City. Now manning the stoves at Belltown hotspot Branzino, Brown incorporates organic, sustainable ingredients into rotating menus of northern Italian fare.
Diners can gaze into the open kitchen to see chefs pan-searing wild scallops and stoking the wood-fired oven for pizzas made with dough, cheese, and cured meats made in-house daily. Fresh gnocchi with nettle pesto, ricotta salata, and pine nuts consistently shares space on the ever-changing menu alongside grilled octopus with puttanesca-style sauce and duck-confit pizzas with smoked mozzarella and dried cherries. Servers can help guests find wine pairings from an extensive list of varietals that highlights the finest grapes of Italy and the Pacific Northwest.
Cellars' dining room is an elegant, softly lit space set against the backdrop of a cocktail lounge. Glistening white lights stretch across the tops of booths, and exposed brick adds a rustic charm. The simple, yet modish decor complements such dishes as the filet mignon, presented atop a mound of asiago mashed potatoes. That prime cut of meat anchors a dinner menu that includes seafood creations, as well as six different gourmet burgers.
Queen City Grill's chefs seek out culinary inspiration on land and in the sea, creating a menu that earned praise from the Seattle Times in 2007 and garnered a rating of "very good to excellent" from Zagat. Fillets of Alaskan king salmon and Oaxacan prawns line the grill tops alongside dry-aged new york steaks, slowly roasting over the flames. The chefs embrace northwestern flavors by sourcing local greens for the house salads and topping hand-packed burger patties with Beecher's cheeses. To accompany each meal, servers can recommend wines from the restaurant's 500-bottle selection, which features an extensive spread of crisp whites and bold reds from Washington, Oregon, and beyond.
Opposite the dining room's immense wooden bar, booths line the wall of brick-lined windows, illuminated by sconces and small windowsill lamps. The tables on the outdoor patio area, however, rely on the romantic light of the restaurant's staff of indentured fireflies.