Branzino é buono!

Branzino is the new cool fish of the moment. Branzino is also the new cool restaurant in Belltown. Opening earlier this summer to much fanfare, Branzino is a fun restaurant that introduces some really great techniques and food to the eaters of Seattle.

Located at the intersection of 2nd and Wall, Branzino is on the same block with some other great restaurants and it shines for adding hip freshness to the Seattle dining scene. Opened by Peter Lamb of Il Bistro and Queen City Grill fame, he brought on Chef Ashley Merriman (from Brasa) to execute the menu. In addition to these two, there are other folks that helped bring the bistro to fruition.

We went this weekend for a group dinner and really enjoyed ourselves. After reading up on some fun reviews on the joint, we were excited to experience it for ourselves. Stepping into the space, it was awash with orange and wood. Very inviting and warm. Off to a good start.

Branzino on Urbanspoon

One of things about food that I really enjoy is the ability to surprise and be fun. The menu at Branzino achieves these things. Italian-inspired, it had all sorts of things we wanted to try. Our server mentioned that they make most of the pasta in house, and the mozzarella is housemade as well. Knowing this we had to give it all a shot!

We ordered a ton of stuff that night. The highlights? There were a bunch, but that’s what happens when you have a great time:

  • Octopus – This was nice. Well charred and meaty. Octopus can be tough to make right, but they had the right touch. No need to be wary of octopus, it’s great to be food adventurous!
  • Lamb Sausage – Word off the street is that Uli’s provides the sausage, so we expected it to be good. And it was! The bright acidity of the tomatoes complimented very nicely.
  • Agnolotti – I was really excited for this from the description alone. Veal. Beurre Blanc. Crispy Marrow. And it was good. Really good. The dense pasta, full-flavored meat, rich sauce, all combined beautifully. And adding the delightful fat of the marrow was a touch of food bliss. Order this.
  • Contorni – These were the ‘side dishes’, and we ordered the Risotto and the Polenta. The polenta was nice and creamy as good polenta’s should be. The risotto was excellent; cooked with lobster butter and smoked corn, I would have this at every meal here if I could.
  • Gnocchi – If we ever see the gnocchi on a menu, chances are we’ll order it. The gnocchi’s were plump and tasty; good stuff. Our devotion to gnocchi continues.
  • The service – Very attentive and super friendly. One oddity; they come to clear out the plates for new ones after every course comes out. Every time. Makes you wonder how many washing machines they have going. Our server was very nice and for a party of six she did a good job of keeping us on track (and in line!)

As for the branzino? It was good, but the presentation was even more impressive. It’s salt roasted whole, and brought to the table where a member of the waitstaff commences the show. They break the crust and start prepping the fish for serving; delicately separating the head and tail and then removing the spine bone. Very showy, but unfortunately did have to remove some bones that found their way into the flakes.

Along with the food we totally indulged ourselves with their wine list. Branzino has a nice one too, with a nice eye towards Italy, but touches on all regions. Started with a bottle of Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay. We’ve talked about Montelena before, and their Chard is a really nice wine. Lush and full it deserves all it’s accolades. Next was a bottle of Turley’s Rattlesnake Zinfandel. Bright and fruity, this was a good example of what zinfandel could be. Lastly, we had a bottle of Hartwell’s Misty Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a suggestion from Branzino’s wine guy, and it was really good. The grapes are from Napa’s Stags Leap District, which produces awesome Cab and Hartwell’s was no exception. Really good wine.

All in all we had a really great time at Branzino. Mentioned earlier that food can be at its best when it’s surprising and fun, Branzino brought both of these things. I look forward to going back and trying more of their stuff. Should I get the pappardelle or ribeye? Duck confit or the lasagna? Can I just order one of everything?

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