A dear friend recently moved back to the United States after many years away. To celebrate, we went to Sutra, a newish vegetarian restaurant in Wallingford.
There are quite a few things about Sutra that make it special:
1. It is prix fix
2. The menu changes frequently (maybe ~weekly?)
3. There are 2 seatings a night
4. The restaurant is very small, perhaps able to seat only 25 or so at the communal tables per seating, and the kitchen is located in the same room as the dining (which makes for bit of a noisy experience)
In addition to beer and wine, there is an impressive and changing list of non-alcoholic drinks ($3) to start with. I ordered a fresh peach and butterscotch melon juice, and she ordered ginger limeade with basil. They came in pretty glasses and were an enjoyable way to start the meal process.
Before the first course was served, the cook rang a gong to quiet our chatter, and proceeded to say a few words about being thankful for all of the steps that your food takes to get to you. Then he brought out the first course, which was a patty pan squash stuffed with the most delicious almond and roasted chili mixture in a smoked tomato sauce with fresh basil. I think that of all the fantastic things I tasted during this meal, this stuffing was the most spectacular.
The next dish that came was a salad of lightly wilted arugula, cucumber, heirloom cherry tomatoes and arame in a spicy wasabe sesame dressing. With the exception of the arame, which we both had to choke down due to its rather pronounced ocean flavour, the salad was excellent. It took us a few bites to realize the heat was coming from the wasabe and not from exceptionally spicy arugula, and the compliment of spice from the two was wonderful.
The main course tonight was tricky, as it was a combination of my two least favorite common vegetarian main dishes: eggplant and portabello. Luckily, the cooks are able to accommodate the occasional dislike if you call ahead of time to give them ample notice. So for me, they substituted in squash for the other two vegetables. It came battered in coconut, then served in a beautiful stack with steamed basil spinach. On the plate there was a big scoop of carrot leaf sauce, almost like soup, then a swirl of what tasted like reduced raspberry balsamic.
The savory coconut crust was an amazing combination of light, rich and crunchy, and the basil spinach was delicious. I really was impressed with all of the flavors in the main dish. It was beautifully presented too.
For dessert, we had a fantastic blueberry, ginger lime tarte with a homemade graham cracker crust. It was served with a sweet swirl of vanilla bean infused mirin.
We were really impressed with this place. The experience of a prix fixe meal is one a vegetarian doesn't often get to indulge in, and it was so fun and luxurious to get to partake. The food was absolutely created by somebody who views cooking as an art, and each dish was an expert combination of flavours, textures and colors.
We also loved the way the place worked: the fact that there were just two seatings and one menu a night kept the restaurant waste to virtually none. They change the menu with the seasons and the whims of the chefs, so produce is highlighted when it is most delicious. While we were there, a couple large flats of tiny hot peppers were delivered straight from an organic farm, and they were whisked away by the ecstatic chef who was excited to dry them and use them through out the winter.
If there was a downside to the place, it would be that the love for the food and process might be a bit overwhelming to the diner looking to have a private dinner without the inturuption of the chef coming by to have you smell a delicious melon or a whif of their freshly roasted coffee beans. But somehow those details didn't bother us too much, perhaps because it was clear that the slight theatrics were clearly, truly heartfelt.
Sutra is indeed the result of much culinary love and awareness and respect for food and the earth. The dining room/kitchen is small, and it felt almost like being at a very tasty dinner party of some highly passionate and well skilled friends.
Excellent new addition to the world of Seattle restaurants!
1605 N 45th St
Seattle, WA 98103