Tom Douglas had his Cuoco restaurant preview tonight, the first of three for his new restaurants on Terry Avenue in the midst of the Amazon Campus. It was fun, irreverent and informative. If the restaurants are half as much fun and tasty it will help bring traffic down to SLU. Those of you that don't know the area, it is the new home of Amazon and the vison of Paul Allen, at the South end of Lake Union, hence SLU. It is the up and coming turf for new and motivated restauranteurs, Tom mentioned the adjustments and timing as well as the risks involved with bring his brand to the neighborhood.
Already there with Serious Pie 2 and Dahlia Workshop Biscuit Bar, Tom has created a venue that fits the neighborhood. Giving not just his take on good food but drawing people in to ask the questions and seek the answers. The tables at SP2 are above the workshop/bakery and it is all to bare, a great view of all the wonderful things being baked for all of the restaurants in the group.
Enough of that, tonight was about the new restaurant Cuoco, Italian and evolving. The head chef is Stuart Lane, who cut his teeth at Juanita's and also brings his experiences from an immersion in Italy's small kitchens. He is the first "outsider" to lead a Tom Douglas kitchen in the last 5 expansions. And from the chatter it is going to be fun and wonderful.
Also on the program tonight was a small glimpse of the two other restaurants the will be previewed the next week on Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately it is sold out. So it is Cuoco on the first floor and the The Brave Horse Tavern on the second, with the Tibetan "Ting Momo" in the back of the building, I can't wait to see the build out. They hope to see it opening in the first of April with an abbreviated schedule for all the restaurants.
We started with a wonderfully tasty proseco that came in a box, everything tonight was about disclosure and analytics. For a "jug" wine it had great potential and as the staff pointed out the only thing lacking was a need for more carbonation. We then started down the list of the preview dishes with explanations of not just the dish, but how it was conceived, evolved and how we the previews would like it changed.
So here it is in a straight forward line up, all comments are mine, because I got to eat the food.
24 hour rosemary cured beef: not enough seasoning, too smoky/burnt and the beef to bread was too small a taste for the bread.
bombolini, tuna: two choices, one with a stuffed tuna puree and the other with the tuna puree on the outside. They both did have some taste success but I think if you stuffed it and provided a puree to dress it you would have the bang it needed.
grilled duck gizzard spiedini radicchio and green garlic bagna cauda on rhubarb bruschetta: again not enough seasoning on the gizzard, could have used some of the the fat they cut away and should have brought back some of the taste profile with it to caramelize the gizzard. The greens were competing but I can see an argument to lean either way, spring with the radicchio or green garlic to keep it more savory. The rhubarb on the bruschetta was inspiring. The will be working on this one and I am sure they will get it right.
agnoltti dal plin: this too was a face off between the old and the new. I have to say I like Stuarts better, earthy, savory and more direct in its taste profile. The "older" version was more, which many liked, but lacked the finess that the new Cuoco version has.
tagliata of cotechino sausage with bob's re mill polenta: one of the top dishes tonight if not the top! The polenta was toothy, rich, creamy but not heavy. They explained how they got it and it was truly a revelation. The sauage, in house made, was perfect. Unlike many sausages, with mixtures that are too finely ground, this one was even but course, small grained so you could taste the different meats and seasoned perfectly. Truly a potential star if it stays on the menu.
Lastly, the desert was two versions of a vanilla rice pudding, one cold and the other warm: unfortunately I did not enjoy either one, I am not a rice pudding kind of guy, but I can appreciate a good desert. This was not one for me and I hope they consider taking it off the menu.
This said, tonight was about the dialog, Tom wanted feed back and the 60 of us were more that willing to enjoy and share our thoughts on some good food and wonderful company. It is so nice to see, learn and hear about how much work and passion goes into creating a restaurant. Now we know why we love going to Tom's, they work hard to get there and they keep working even harder to improve the experience for us the diner.