For those of you, and I know you are many, who have read the recent issue of Food and Wine, you are aware of this years Top Ten New Chefs. Therefor it will be no surprise when I write of Seattle’s own Matt Dillon’s honor in being included.
His restaurant, Sitka and Spruce has barely been open a year in a strip mall on eastlake avenue. The restaurant includes the bare minimum of required front of the house attributes, a mere 5 tables, a menu on the chalkboard, and a handful of wines. Matt and his cooks run the food, the single waitperson hashes out the rest, and the line stretches out the door at all times.
I myself have stood in this line many times eager for what ever Matt has to offer. Sometimes I have to be happy with what ever Matt has left, as my friends and I wait and watch the dishes we had hoped for being erased from the fleeting menu as they run out. More often than not, forcing us to make different decisions we are treated to something delicious we would have missed. Case in point, the head cheese I had no plans on ordering. The offerings come in two sizes so you can customize your meal, sharing with friends and maxamizing on your enjoyment. I dream of the day when I can walk in with enough people to just order the entire menu.
I take into account when ranking a restaurant how well I remember my dinner as time passes. From Sitka and Matt I distinctly remember tender squash filled ravioli with simple sage leaves in butter to coat, pork belly cooked crisp with Yakima cherries and a sweet vinegar redux. I haven’t forgotten the squab with winter root vegetable studded farotto, the tuna with a sweet onion and fennel slaw and cardamom granita.
I recall cooing at a warm chocolate cake with elderflower cream, made from elderflower foraged by Matt’s roommate. Often most critical of desserts, I found myself swooning over Matt’s simple olive oil gelato served with what else but vinegar, a trio of sweet fruit scented vinegars to be precise to drizzle at will.
But the most distinct and lasting impression left upon me by this restaurant came from slices of yellow cucumber, cooked lightly, tossed with fresh dill and drizzled with Trempetti olive oil. Deceptively simple, but remarkably memorable.
To me, not only is Matt’s cuisine incredible, it’s quintessentially Seattle. The space is unassuming, come as you are, where folks feel as comfortable in their fleece pullovers as the hipsters at the next table. Matt uses more local purveyors than any restaurant in this city, which prides itself on it’s farm to table mentality. And Matt himself can be found in the kitchen, looking charmingly rugged with his beard and T-shirt, pouring himself into each plate.
If you do decide to go, go early and be prepared to stand in line.