Wednesday, March 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Taste of the Town

What's new: French bistro in Madrona; Pan-Asian and sushi in Sodo

Seattle Times restaurant critic

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If things go as planned, March 7 will mark the debut of Cremant (1423 34th Ave., Seattle;, 206-322-4600), where chef-owner Scott Emerick's "cuisine traditionnelle" speaks French with a home-style accent.

Madrona is the setting for this 50-seat bistro, where Emerick, assisted by his wife, Tanya, will preside. You'll find their restaurant's namesake French-sparkler among the many wines offered by the glass, the bottle or "un tiers" — in an 8-ounce decanter.

The chef's name may not yet be familiar, but his impressive résumé makes him the human equivalent of a fine-feathered poulet from Bresse. During three years in Paris, the Bellevue native attended Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française Jean-Ferrandi and worked at several Michelin-rated restaurants (including Guy Savoy's Les Bookinistes). Here he's worked with local luminaries Tamara Murphy at Campagne, Jim Drohman at Le Pichet, John Neumark at Café Juanita, Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez at the Harvest Vine and, most recently with John Sundstrom at Lark.

Settling in on his own turf, Emerick is taking the classic approach to French cookery, offering roasted marrow bones ($12), potted duck ($10), steak tartare ($14) and cassoulet ($19) plus "plats pour deux" like poulet roti (whole roasted chicken, $40) and bouillabaisse ($45). Dinner will be served 5-11 p.m. nightly.

Sodo Bites

Small plates and a bar take center stage at Bites Asian Tapas & Wild Sushi (1028 First Ave. S., Seattle, 206-447-7599; a 90-seat newcomer also slated to open late next week. Chef and co-owner Jay Lao, late of Los Angeles, has taken over the former Salute at the Stadiums in Sodo, redesigned to appeal to a younger, hipper crowd.

In addition to Japanese sushi-bar fare, Lao is offering a profusion of pan-Asian nibbles — but no entrees. On the menu: Korean spicy pork ($8), Malaysian beef satay ($6), Thai crab cake ($7), spicy tuna bruschetta ($7), octopus peperoncini ($8) and salmon cheese wonton ($6). Nightly dinner service is scheduled upon opening, with weekday lunch to follow soon.

Pass the salt

One of the great things about going out to eat is getting turned on to new ingredients. My latest passion is salt — as my overflowing condiment cabinet will attest — and I have a variety of restaurants to thank for turning me on to some of the best sprinklers in my collection.

My first heady taste of Truffle & Salt, distributed by Seattle-based Italian food importers, Ritrovo, came courtesy of Café Juanita. I later scored a jar of it ($18) at Metropolitan Market, and it's become a household staple since. A small pink rock of Bolivian salt — meant to be grated with a microplane — was a chef's surprise from Ron Siegel at The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. It's the coolest looking salt in my collection. And my latest and greatest gift from the sea is a stunningly smoky black sea salt, sampled for the first time at Mixtura, the new Peruvian restaurant in Kirkland.

That taste sensation led me on a salt-centric mission: a Google search that swiftly brought me to a company called SaltWorks where I found and purchased (yes!) a jar of Artisan alder-smoked sea salt ($15.99). Check out their Web site ( and you'll find a world of salts. Better still, I found that this 4-year-old company is Redmond-based, owned and run by Mark Zoske and his fiancée, Naomi Novotny, who gladly take phone orders (425-885-7258).

Soon to be added to SaltWorks' voluminous selection (and presently available at Ballard Market) is yet another Ritrovo-distributed product: chef Don Curtiss' signature Fennel Salt, found on the tables at his Ballard restaurant, Volterra. Toasted fennel seed and organic orange-peel perfume this terrific condiment, which is making its "red-carpet debut" on Oscar night. That Seattle sea salt is part of the gift package at the celebrity gala "Night of 100 Stars" in Hollywood, where Curtiss and his wife and business partner, Michelle Quisenberry, will be on hand to strut their salt.

How does salt go from a table top in Ballard to the Beverly Hills Hotel along with Oscar and friends? Quisenberry explains that Nancee Borgnine (VP of marketing for Hollywood Connection, and Ernest Borgnine's daughter), tasted the goods at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, loved it and wanted to include it in the gift bags. Having tasted it and loved the stuff at Volterra, I can certainly see why.

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or

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Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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