Saturday, July 7, 2012

RN74 - All aboard for a food tour of Burgundy, France

Ro admits that she isn't well versed in French cuisine so it was quite a treat for her that our friends, Shawna and Steve, suggested we have a double date at RN74 for dinner (which by the way took months to coordinate due to conflicting schedules).  Shawna was fortunate enough to dine at the RN74 in San Francisco and absolutely loved it, but hadn't been to the Seattle location yet. We hadn't been either and were excited, but had low expectations because we had both read mixed reviews about the Seattle restaurant.

RN74 is named after a main highway or Route Nationale that runs through Burgundy, France.  RN74 Seattle is a taste of France, but much closer to home, located in the renovated Joshua Green building on 4th Ave and Pike in Downtown Seattle where the Rite Aid pharmacy used to be (Ro remembers it so vividly).  The interior of the restaurant is decorated using a lot of dark wood with hints of light emanating from various colored and differently shaped vintage style lanterns.  The dining room has some resemblance to that of a train station with the wine specials displayed on a "moving" train reader board.  It was a jaw dropper.  The train station theme is continued using subway tiles in the ladies restroom.  Our research confirmed that the interior for both RN74 locations was train station inspired (designed by AvroKo, an award winning New York City based design firm). Click the link and read more about the train station inspiration.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Nix-Gomez
 Upon arrival, we were conveniently seated in a half moon booth right next to the Chef's table. Chef's table you ask? Yes, Michael Mina (hometown Ellensburg, WA) was in town preparing a special six-course tasting menu with wine pairings for RN74's 1 year anniversary.  Celebrity Chef sighting anyone?  This was somewhat humorous as we were asked by Shawna before hand if we were interested in doing the tasting menu as it included an intimate reception with Michael before dinner.  We decided to pass on the $245 price tag per person and made it a challenge to meet the chef regardless of sitting at the chef's table that night. So sitting right in front of the chef's table seemed to play right into our strategy (we couldn't have planned it any better and our pocketbooks are thanking us to this day).


Shawna and Steve with our cute waitress
Our waitress greeted us and we immediately noticed how Seattle she looked with numbers tattoos exposed.  This became a conversation topic throughout the evening as she told us the meaning of a different tattoo each time she visited our table. She also informed us that because the restaurant was celebrating their one year anniversary, the dinner menu options included a tasting menu featuring their signature dishes from the past year. We were both enticed by this so we each ordered the tasting menu which was $74 (cleverly priced). The tasting menu also included a wine pairing for $47 but we opted out of their pairing since Shawna and Steve brought a bottle of DeLille Cellars Doyenne from their private wine collection to go with our dinner (how can we not love this couple)?

The special 1 year anniversary tasting menu started out with an amuse bouche of gruyere grilled cheese and tomato soup. A great starter with the creaminess of the tomato soup, which went perfectly with the nutty taste of the melted gruyere cheese. It was a great start to our tour of these re-invented French classics.  

The second course, which was a highlight of the evening, was ahi tuna tartare with scotch bonnet pepper, pine nuts, mint and sesame oil with a quail egg perched on top.  After the waiter explained what it was, he proceeded to mix the ingredients for us table side (captured below).  The ahi tuna was very fresh, tender and with the sesame oil reminded us of Hawaiian style poke.


Before
Mixing

More mixing


Ta da - El fin
The third course was Mad Hatcher "Coq Au Vin" with red wine braised chicken leg, egg noodles, and bacon lardons.  This course was followed by boeuf bourguignon - braised short rib, maitake mushrooms and pommes rissoles.  Both the chicken and the short ribs were cooked to perfection. The short ribs were incredibly tender and made an impression on us. FloJo explained that these dishes are French comfort food at its best and are the equivalents to American roast chicken and beef stew, but with a Michael Mina twist. 



By this time we had caught up on each other's lives (it had taken us over a month to plan this date), our waitress' tattoos and Shawna and Steve's amazing vacations to both France and Italy.  We loved how Shawna had researched classic French dishes before their trip and  made those dishes for their traveling companions throughout their time in the French countryside buying ingredients in local markets and shops.  Steve was sent down the street each morning to the local bakery for chocolate croissants (note to selves: we must travel with these two in the future). 

For dessert we ended the journey on an incredible high with hand-cut beignets with butterscotch actually made with Macallan 12 (our preferred house Scotch).  Who knew butterscotch could/should be made with real hooch? 


By then we were huge Michael Mina fans, but had yet to accomplish our goal of actually meeting him.  However, none of us were ready to throw in our napkins without meeting the James Beard Foundation Best Chef (2002).  Steve was so cute, knowing how much his wife wanted to meet Michael, he used his incredible charm and asked our tatted waitress if we could meet Michael Mina (charm and courage enhanced by two shared bottles of wine).  She checked and said Michael was talking with another table, but  was making his way toward our table. We checked our teeth and adjusted our hair before his arrival.  He sat with us and told us his restaurant owner war stories as we shared a third bottle of wine paid for by Michael. Just kidding!  He did in reality stop by and was gracious enough to chit chat with us about his favorite places to eat in Seattle (The Coterie Room and Spur stood out to us as they are a couple of our favorites too).  He graciously agreed to help us document the evening by taking a picture with us.
From left to right: Steve, Shawna, Michael, FloJo and Ro


Thankfully, as a country we've moved beyond freedom fries and re-embraced the land of gourmet.  Michael's creativity and ability to take simple French country dishes and elevate them to gourmet status summarizes our take on the menu.  If you too love French food like FloJo or if you're a newbie like Ro and French cuisine curious, you should buy a ticket to ride this train and check out RN74.  The menu is a little pricey, but a lot cheaper than making an actual trip to Burgundy. If you are a Burgundy wine fan they have an extensive list that can be hard to find in Washington.  Bon appetit gourmands!


Salut!  Live life with flavor and fun!

P.S.  Check out this blog by fellow Seattle blogger Tom Biro who we are now following.

RN74 on Urbanspoon