They finally got the place back open! For those who've had their heads up their you-know-what's for the last year, Matt's closed last fall for renovations and expansions, which--shocker!--took way longer than expected. It finally re-opened in July. Needless to say, any local with even a minor interest in food has probably been thinking of popping back in.
Ed and I decided to head to Pike Place and try for a walk-in table. The reservation policy is totally confusing, so feel free to enlighten me in the comments, but when Ed walked in around 6:30 they'd just seated the entire bar (which they don't reserve) and all the tables were booked until three years from now or something. So we wanted to put our names down for the bar and go somewhere for a drink. Except they don't take names for the bar. Apparently it's first-come-first-serve-only-if-you-never-leave, which I guess means you have to sit in the hall that entire time? What a load.
So I explained my confusion to the hostess--who deserves an award for continuing to smile while being quite bitchy--and she finally relented and took down Ed's name. We promised to check back in and off we went to the Alibi Room for a drink. Hey, maybe all my time in NYC is paying off? I wasn't about to sit in that friggin' hallway for almost an hour.
Back at Matt's we get two seats at the bar, start looking at the menu and take in the new room. It's about double the size of the old Matt's, but it feels bigger than that and airier. There's a view! And I love that there are bar seats at the actual bar and at the open kitchen.
While we're picking our favorites we're given a little bread with a wonderful fennel seed, carrot and celery-infused olive oil for dipping. I just love it when restaurants pay special attention to details like this. It makes me anticipate my dinner much more.
We decide to do a tasting. Well, that makes it sound like they offer a tasting menu, which they don't. But we wanted to have a special dinner, so we asked the bartender to help us create a tasting with wine pairings. We figured we'd do three appetizers and one entree, one at a time so it'd feel like four courses, with wines to match. It was like the good old days: Sitting at the bar, excited about a menu, sipping some nice wine. I even slipped the menus into my purse. Now, if only we were still on an expense account....
First up: Seared foie gras on brioche with reduced Villa Manadori balsamic vinegar (a special). We hadn't had foie gras in so long and it was nicely seared and had a fantastic crust, and was warm and soft inside. The reduction was sweet-tart, a traditional pairing for foie. We drank a surprisingly fruity viognier with this course. The whole thing was sublime: I always feel like I'm celebrating when I eat foie, so it was a nice start to the night. I do wonder why the chef didn't create a more seasonal sweet-tart accompaniment--maybe something with apricots or nectarines?--because this pairing is very season-generic. But that's something we noticed again and again on the menu.
Next up was mussels with chorizo and charmoula. My mom always steams her clams with sausage and beer, so the sausage-shellfish combo is an oldie-but-goodie for me. We sipped a dry nebbiolo with this--a really nice pairing with the smokey mussels.
Onto the tuna confit. I love fish slow-cooked in olive oil (Le Bernardin's chef Eric Ripert poached escolar in olive oil at a very very low temperature and it was unforgettable). So this wasn't anywhere on par with that, and was just good, but nothing special. I think most people would consider this tuna salad, so unless you're interested in the technique or the olive-oil flavor, probably not worth having. Also, nothing seasonal about this. We continued our nebbiolo with this course, and it worked well.
Last but certainly not least, one of my all-time favorite things: halibut cheeks. Dear lord, they are so good. Another dish off the specials list, the fish was seared golden and surrounded by a cava-caper berry buerre blanc. Nice. Roasted fingerlings, gorgeous green beans and purple heirloom carrots were tucked underneath. We had a glass of Wineglass Cellars (Yakima, WA) Chardonnay with this and it was nice with the subtle butter sauce.
Done? Don't forget: I'm a (former) professional. And plus, when the fresh green Kadota figs were spotted down the bar, we were sold.
A chunk of Cabrales and a little drizzle of that Manadori vinegar, plus a swirl of the tawny port Ed ordered, and that's a fantastic way to end the meal. I think we might've gotten high somehow during this final course. Or maybe just drunk.
Matt's in the Market: Will we go back? Of course. The food was good, the room feels airy and casual. And the service, after the initial chilly welcome, was great, easy to engage and swift. The un-seasonal menu made me a little confused--why duck breast in August? Couldn't it wait until October? This place is, after all, perched right above Pike Place Market, home to the freshest, most seasonal produce in town. And the door policy has got to get a little more flexible.
Will regulars who loved the old Matt's love the new Matt's? Totally. By the time we left, one of the cooks had taken a spot at the bar a couple of seats down from us and he was BS-ing with the bartender. It's always been that sort of place, and that hasn't changed.