A recent addition to one of my favorite restaurant mini-neighborhoods in the city, Tavern Law on Capitol Hill had been on my list to try but something never quite pulled me in. Maybe it was the fact that I’m a big fan of its sister restaurant in Belltown, Spur, and their especially inventive bartender and felt like I’d be cheating on him. (Oh no, not that!) Or maybe it was that my first read about Tavern Law had referred to a speakeasy vibe and I just didn’t connect with that idea. But my friend had had what he called an “extraordinary” meal there and wanted to see if it could be as good the second time, so off we went.
The disparity in size of the drink menu (large and weighty) and food menu (chalk board and if you’re lucky, a hand-written single sheet) might lead you to believe that the emphasis on Tavern Law is on what comes out of the bar. Not the case at all, though the cocktails aren’t to be missed and I personally recommend two: the Old Cuban (rum, lime, sugar, Angostura bitters, mint, champagne) and the Gun Club (gin, Lillet, maraschino, scotch).
We started dinner with the house-made foie gras terrine, topped with (more) Angostura bitters gelee and served with warm toasts. It was absolutely and completely extraordinary, and no doubt the reason for my friend’s description of his first experience at Tavern Law. From there it was on to more small plates, each better than the last: pan seared butterfish with fargola sarda and carrot sunchoke, Moulard duck breast with cranberries and butternut squash and my favorite of the night, crispy pork belly with a parsnip puree, Granny Smith apples and Brussels sprouts. The only misstep in my book was the fried arancini with romesco and gramolata which was just a tad salty. Luckily, we opted to finish our meal with another order of the blissfully melt-in-your-mouth foie gras so all was forgiven.
I have to ask… What’s with the recent proliferation of self-proclaimed speakeasies in Seattle? I know that Tavern Law is going for a particular theme, but the secret door and telephone up to the speak-easiest part of the joint felt the tiniest bit hokey. (Though I concede that I might feel otherwise once I spend some time up there, so I’ll report back if I have a change of heart.) This past week also included a visit to the Knee High Stocking Company, another speakeasy-styled bar on Capitol Hill, with a nearly unmarked entrance on the ground floor of an unassuming apartment building. And as I left the building and walked up Olive, I saw a sign for Chez Gaudy, advertising itself as “The Original Speakeasy.” There must be something about our current economic state of affairs that is making the consumption of carefully crafted cocktails in hidden-in-plain-view locations sexy again. Interesting timing, no?
[Photo courtesy of rockdoggydog]