Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Taste of the Town / Nancy Leson

Cassis owner to open latest French bistro downtown

After much negotiation, Jef Fike, owner of Capitol Hill's fabulous French bistro, Cassis (2359 10th Ave. E., Seattle; 206-329-0580), secured funding and a lease for a new restaurant and bar. Construction is under way at Bandol, set to anchor the lobby level at the Smith Tower (508 Second Avenue, Seattle). The 80-seat restaurant, offering an additional 12-seat private dining room, should be hanging its "ouvert" sign by June.

While Cassis serves dinner, Bandol will focus on lunch and a full-service catering operation, its menu a lightened-up version of Cassis' classic French bistro fare. Fike's plans also include setting up a quadrant of the new restaurant as a traditional Parisian-style take-out. Here, customers may come and go with soup, baguette sandwiches and fresh pastries. Plans are also afoot to provide a perfect après-work venue for Pioneer Square office-wonks in need of sustenance and libation.

"I expect to open at 11 a.m., stay with the regular menu 'till about 3 p.m., then do a limited bar menu," says Fike. "We'll play that by ear. If the bar's packed, I don't want to kick everyone out at 7 o'clock. At some point I'm hoping people will want to stay for dinner, and I'll have the option to open for dinner at any time."

In such a fragile economy, why the move downtown?

"After five years, I doubt Cassis will ever make money," says Fike, "but it's my baby. I'm totally committed to keeping it open and providing for the neighborhood — and the 17 employees who've been relying on me."

Fike opened Cassis with a trio of partners he's since bought out. A Seattle native, he sees his new venture as part of the ongoing redevelopment of Pioneer Square, and views Bandol as a money-making opportunity. "At Cassis, we do everything in-house. We smoke our own fish, cure and smoke our own bacon, make all our breads and desserts and even our own vinegar. I'll be able to shift a lot of that (labor-intensive work) downtown, and with it, some of my payroll."

Greg Beckley, owner of Bick's Broadview Grill (10555 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle; 206-367-8481), expected to open his second restaurant, Saltoro, last fall. With construction completed and permits in place, the doors finally swung open a month ago, drinks were served at the new mahogany bar, and dinner's been offered ever since.

Despite Saltoro's low-key debut (the new sign has yet to arrive), neighbors have already shown an interest in the restaurant at 14051 Greenwood Ave. N., (206-365-6025), former home of Neo Bistro. Loyal customers of Saltoro's nearby Greenwood sibling have been generously showing their support, says general manager Cole Ratliff, long a familiar face from Bick's.

So, what are they serving at Saltoro, a restaurant whose Italian name (a nod to the artisan prosciutto makers of Parma) was chosen by committee (the staff at Bick's)?

"It's a Northwest grill kind of thing," says Ratliff, "or, as we like to say, a North End kind of thing." Translation? Chef Sieb Jurriaans, whose résumé includes stints at Café Campagne and at Bellevue's Bis on Main, is offering Seattle-friendly bistro fare: roasted chicken, steak frites and such specialties as bacon-wrapped pork loin with sage bread pudding and pear chutney. Entrée prices range from $11.95 to $21.95, with most entrees in the $14-range. Saltoro is open nightly from 5 to 10 p.m.

When the state's first Indian restaurant debuted 30-some years ago, it made its home in the U District — and garnered a place in the hearts of U-Dub baby boomers for whom India House was the quintessential exotic cheap date. Today you can't throw a chicken pakora in this neighborhood without hitting a restaurant selling curries, tandoori, and an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch — all of which is offered at Bombay Grill (4737 Roosevelt Way, N.E., Seattle; 206-548-9999), India House's recent reincarnation.

New owner Rajan Arora, who also owns Wallingford's Chutneys Bistro (1815 N. 45th St., Seattle; 206-634-1000), bought India House last fall, did some quick refurbishing and introduced a menu that puts an emphasis on seafood. Bombay Grill serves a buffet lunch Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and from 11:30 to 5 p.m. on Friday. A buffet brunch is available Saturday and Sunday from 11: 30 until 5 p.m. Dinner is served daily from 5 to 10:30 p.m.

Nancy Leson can be reached at 206-464-8838 or

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