It had been sometime since the Food Girl and I had had an opportunity to visit with our friends Shauna and Brian. After many tries, we were able to finally find a time that worked for all of us. Unfortunately it didn’t happen to work for our usual meeting locale; Umi Sake House. We had tried to make a reservation, but unless we wanted to go out after 9 p.m., we were out of luck (yes…we are old enough that 9 p.m. on a Friday night seems late anymore…especially after a long week at work). So, I did a quick search to see what was open, and was both surprised and excited to see that Restaurant Zoe had a seating for 4 at 7 p.m.
I had heard of Restaurant Zoe before, but I’m not entirely sure where. It could have been through one of the many people I follow on Twitter, or something I looked at on UrbanSpoon. But while I was not fully able to identify where I had of Restaurant Zoe, its reputation absolutely proceeded itself. It also helped that I had eaten at the other Scott Staples restaurant, Quinn’s in Capital Hill, before (though it was pre-Deck on Food).
That evening I ended up being the first to arrive, about 45 minutes before our reservation, so I took a seat at the bar and ordered myself a drink while I looked around the space. The entrance was unique in that there was a heavy curtain blocking the doorway. When you walked in to the restaurant on the first floor of the contemporary brick builiding, you find a spacious room done in what I’m referring to as the Contemporary American style. The decor was simple, not overly done, with dark wood tables (no tableclothes) and modern looking chairs. The walls were simply painted and the kitchen was visible throughout the dining room.
I started with a beer, but when Brian and Shauna arrived I switched a speciality drink known as the barbancourt buck. It was a combination of rum, ginger, cinnamon and lime, and was one of those drinks that I refer to as “dangerously delicious”. By that I mean that it was so good that you could order a half dozen and be fairly well intoxicated before you even know it. I had to pace myself to make sure that I would be able to get home.
Right about the time the Food Girl finally made it in after her unfortunate trek from Kirkland to Belltown, the hostess seated us at our table and we were promptly greeted by the server, me by name (I appreciated the fact that he took a moment to look it up on the reservation). We ordered another round of drinks, and then took a look over the menu. After a few minutes our server (and I can’t for the life of me remember his name) came back by and we discussed appetizers 0r “small plates” as they are called. We had decided on the spot prawns with gnocchi, but were unsure of what else we wanted. He suggested the braised short rib served with gnuddi, so we went with it. We also took the opportunity to order dinner and I went with the duck breast, one of my favorite things to order when I go out!
While we were waiting for the plates to come out, we continued to talk, drink and snack on the seemingly never-ending supply of bread and olive oil. It was great because they gave us our own individual plates which were always being refilled, and the olive oil/balsamic combination was just high quality and delicious. I had to pace myself or would have made an appetizer out of just that. We were also treated to an amuse bouche of lentil salad with goat cheese. It was a pretty simple bite, not overly savory or sweet, but balanced nicely and a good little snack. I probably could have eaten four or five of them myself as a nice little warm up.
After another round of drinks, the appetizers arrived. I started with the spot prawns which was delicious. The gnocchi were nice a light, and the flavors worked really well together. There was a little sweetness and acidity from the tomato confit, and a bit of richness from the butter lettuce. The only thing is that the prawns got lost in everything else. My last bite was delicious, and it didn’t even have any of the prawns in it. As for the short ribs, it was definitely very good and a much richer dish. I learned that gnuddi are basically gnocchi, but made with ricotta cheese. When you combined that with the tender beef and a little bit of the sauce, the dish was very flavorful. But, it was something that was good to share because of the richness; an entire dish of that would have filled one up for sure.
Before our entrées arrived, we were presented with another little treat; a butternut squash squash soup with a touch of creme fraiche. It was a very nice and simple and delicious soup, sweetness from the squash, creaminess from the creme fraiche. Finally, after all of the drinks and small plates and fun-filled conversation about housing projects and the state of the mobile industry, our “large plates” hit the table. The first thing I noticed about mine is that the plate looked beautiful which I can say as someone that aspires to be an amateur chef is winning the first battle (my plating is pretty brutal). I took a bite, getting some of the duck, sunchokes and spinach. It was good. The duck was nicely cooked medium rare with a nice crispy skin (everything that my duck attempt wasn’t). But everything seemed a little bitter for my taste. However, on the second bite I got some kumquat, and the dish went from good to excellent. The sweetness of the kumquat balanced the bitterness of the spinach and sunchoke, yet still allowed the duck to shine. I made quick work of the remaining part of my dish.
When the dessert menus made their way around, we all passed, though I did partake in a cup of decaf coffee which of course couldn’t be a simple drip coffee at a place like Restaurant Zoe…it was a wonderful French press. We wrapped up our conversation and finally headed out after a good 3 hours. The night itself was a great time; wonderful food, excellent company, and a great venue. We couldn’t have asked for anything else, especially from a place that ended up being our fall back option.
Final Verdict – 4.25 Stars