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Hotel Restaurants


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#1 Long Duck

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Posted 27 September 2003 - 12:20 AM

After reading about Nikko closing I thought maybe we could run a thread about hotel dining and why it seems to be such a struggle to find and I guess keep open quality dining rooms. It seems that the hotel dining scene in Seattle is struggling. Several closings (Nikko, Library Bistro, etc.), restaurants like 727 changing their concept and food to a chowder/steak house type menu. I don't understand! In other major cities some of the best restaurants are within the confines of a hotel (Fifth Floor, Jean George, etc.). E&O at the W seems to be the only one that is producing quality food. Chef Sundstrom does a nice job I think keeping the menus exciting and innovative without getting too avant garde. Having been to the Hyatt recently I was shocked by their menu. I have been once or twice before and have had good experiences with the food. Do they have a different Chef now? Anyone know? And what about the Georgian? Is Fairmont going to keep it open? I would love to hear all of your thoughts on this topic.

#2 tighe

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Posted 27 September 2003 - 09:44 AM

LD, welcome to eGullet.

Somewhere else we had a brief discussion of the perils of hotel dining, but that was a while back. I think there are a lot of factors in play, but it doesn't really surprise me that hotel restaurants are being hit particularly hard by the bad economy. After all, some significant portion of their business comes from those staying at the hotel, and the numbers of travellers, particularly business travellers, is still way down.

In terms of the quality of the food, I would assume a big part of the challenge is that they have to strike a balance between having things that would appeal to just about anyone who might stay in the hotel, while still trying to offer food that is sufficiently interesting to attract a local clientele. I don't know if its the same elsewhere, but I imagine that it is very difficult for a hotel to establish a reputation as a 'local' restaurant, that is, build a real bond with local diners. By virtue of its location alone, it is going to be perceived as serving travellers. I think The Painted Table was a notable exception to this.

A group of us ate at The Georgian during the 25 for $25 promotion and my shorthand review would be: very nice food, glacial service and morgue-like ambiance. Cost issues aside, I can't see it ever being a place I would make a point of going to given the other options that are avaiable.

Now the caveat: one of my favorite places in town is in a hotel, Brasserie Margaux in the Warwick. I've written about it ad nauseum here. Here's the longest of the threads in case you're interested.
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#3 SeAAttle

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Posted 02 October 2003 - 09:51 PM

......... restaurants like 727 changing their concept and food to a chowder/steak house type menu..............

We have not been to 727 for several months and had not heard about this change. Can you elaborate? I thought it was one of the best places in Seattle.

I agree with tighe about Brasserie Margaux!

#4 tighe

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 08:03 AM

We have not been to 727 for several months and had not heard about this change.  Can you elaborate?

Looking at their menu, it seems pretty conventional. When I went there in the past I thought there were more creatinve and intriguing dishes offered.
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#5 girl chow

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 09:17 AM

Sazerac, in the Hotel Monaco, has consistently been good every time I've been there.. even after Kevin Davis jumped ship to Oceanaire (which I STILL haven't tried).

Otherwise I ditto Tighe's comments... and add that when the corporations that own hotels are watching the bottom line, this cannot translate well for some hotel restaurants. Budget cutting=mediocre menu with cheap ingredients like chowder.
A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.
-- Frank Bruni

#6 tighe

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 09:36 AM

Sazerac, in the Hotel Monaco, has consistently been good every time I've been there.. even after Kevin Davis jumped ship to Oceanaire (which I STILL haven't tried).

Question....does anybody know what Jan Birnbaum's affiliation with Sazerac is at this point? I know he was the chef when it first opened, but I've heard conflicting things over the past few years. I've only been there once, but liked it.

I don't think we should gnash our teeth too much about the state of hotel dining in town, there are good places. Tulio, the Hunt Club and Andaluca all come to mind in addition to those already discussed.

edited because I'm a spaz....

Edited by tighe, 03 October 2003 - 09:39 AM.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#7 LEdlund

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 09:41 AM

Sazerac, in the Hotel Monaco, has consistently been good every time I've been there.. even after Kevin Davis jumped ship to Oceanaire (which I STILL haven't tried).

I was just going to mention Sazerac. It's close to my office so I end up going there pretty regularly. The bar is great and they have good happy hour prices on appetizers. The menu is fun and changes often enough to keep me interested. I like the New Orleans influence to the menu.

Other than Earth and Ocean, BM and Sazerac, do we have any hotel restaurants are worthy of patronage?
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#8 Kimo

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 09:42 AM

Prior to moving to Seattle, I worked at several hotel chains in Hawaii (sales and marketing, not in food and beverage). The cost of running a hotel kitchen is outrageous. The prices seem high to the average consumer.; the prices barely cover food and especially labor (and benefits) costs. However, most hotels lose money in their kitchens (unless they have a great bar on the beach or at the pool with $8.50 lava flows and $8.00 Mai Tais). Restaurants are provided as an amenity and service for the hotel's guests. In Hawaii, the F&B employees are union and have incredible benefits (I was salaried and was a beneficiary of the awesome benefits plan, which included $3 generic medicine, no HMOs, no out-of-pocket while visiting our family doctor and no monthly fees for a family of four). At some hotels, Seattle included, the executive chefs make so much that there is no reason to leave. One of my former executive chefs had 10+ years at a major resort company and earned six digits. Why should he do anything out-of-the-ordinary? The best hotel restaurants I have experienced in Hawaii had executive chefs who were planning to open their own restaurants in 3-5 years and were establishing their reputations at high-end resorts prior to going off on their own. Kimo

#9 girl chow

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 09:49 AM

Question....does anybody know what Jan Birnbaum's affiliation with Sazerac is at this point?  I know he was the chef when it first opened, but I've heard conflicting things over the past few years.  I've only been there once, but liked it.

As far as I recall, I think Mr. Big Dawg has been/still is an operating/owning partner of some kind, but hasn't spent much time in the kitchen since in opened.

I believe he was there for the Mardi Gras party this year, so I'm assuming he's still behind the scenes.
A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.
-- Frank Bruni

#10 tsquare

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 10:13 AM

Tulio

This will be interesting since Walter Pisano, the original chef (and son of "Tulio") has left. Watch for him at Troiani's in December in the old Flemings space.

and now, back to our regular programming. I'd give Fish Club another try.

#11 girl chow

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 03:56 PM

E&O at the W seems to be the only one that is producing quality food.  Chef Sundstrom does a nice job I think keeping the menus exciting and innovative without getting too avant garde.

How strange we were just discussing this, but I just heard that Johnathan Sundstrom is leaving Earth and Ocean to open his own restaurant. Maria Hines, who previously worked there with Sundstrom?, will be the new chef.
He's opening something on Capitol Hill. Anyone know the rest of the story?
A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.
-- Frank Bruni

#12 tsquare

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 11:21 AM

A PR release:
CULINARY CHANGES FORTHCOMING AT EARTH & OCEAN- JOHNATHAN SUNDSTROM TO OPEN OWN RESTAURANT

EARTH & OCEAN ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF CHEF MARIA HINES TO THE CULINARY POST

Seattle, WA- For the past three years, Executive Chef Johnathan Sundstrom has received substantial public and media accolades both locally and nationally, for the culinary talent he has demonstrated at Earth & Ocean. Capitalizing on his successes, Johnathan has decided to expand his professional portfolio and open his own establishment this November. Along with partners, J.M. Enos and Kelly Ronan, Johnathan will open a casual, neighborhood restaurant on Capitol Hill with a menu influenced by America and Europe. Johnathan has developed a wonderful relationship with the entire crew at Earth & Ocean and his presence will be missed. With great excitement, the staff has learned that the gifted Maria Hines will return to Earth & Ocean to take the new lead as Executive Chef.

Maria worked for Earth & Ocean as Executive Sous Chef from the restaurant's opening in 1999 and with Johnathan Sundstrom from 2000 to September of 2002. In that year, Maria left Seattle for an opportunity to open 15 ria in the Washington (DC) Terrace Hotel for the Myriad Restaurant Group. There she worked with Chef Jamie Leeds, recently nominated a Rising Star in Washington D.C., from Starchefs.com.

Maria moved to New York City in April of this year, accepting a position as Sous Chef with Chef Kerry Heffernan at Eleven Madison Park, a Union Square Hospitality Group restaurant lead by the renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer. Danny Meyer, president of Union Square Hospitality Group, is also the operator of Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern in New York.

As a "West Coast girl", originally from San Diego, Hines has ultimately always wanted to be back in the Pacific Northwest. When she was in Seattle she fell in love with the local food resources and small farms. Says Hines " I support the practice of buying organic and I am passionate about the use and promotion of heirloom products. Not only will I have direct access to the food items that fuel my culinary creativity, but as an avid outdoor sports person, I can also take advantage of the mountains, the clean air and the friendliness of Seattleites."

Hines has traveled extensively through Western Europe and Morocco, and has now cooked in the northwest, southwest and northeast regions of this country. Her food will focus on a regional American theme, combining the comfortable with adventure. Look for such dishes as: Nettle Farms Chicken Noodle Consommé, Roasted Free-Range Chicken and Sally Jackson Cheesy Biscuits, Pacific Halibut & Penn Cove Mussels with Polenta and Arugula Sprouts and Niman Ranch Pork Chop and Beans with a Smoky Ham Hock Jus. Hines also envisions that the Earth & Ocean menu will offer an Organic and Vegetarian tasting options

#13 MsRamsey

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 12:55 PM

I wonder just where on Capitol Hill his restaurant will be. We could use some more good restaurants.
"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."
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how the bill to ban production of foie gras in
California was summarized for signing by
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#14 thelastsupper

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 03:05 PM

I wonder just where on Capitol Hill his restaurant will be.  We could use some more good restaurants.

True dat.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Sundstrom is freed from the constraints of designing his menu with hotel clientele in mind (however chic). How exciting!

On 15th somewhere maybe? The old Jack's Bistro space?

#15 KarenS

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 03:34 PM

There is a Hotel and Restaurant group called Kimpton. They are very low key because they do not want their restaurants perceived as chains. Sazarac, The Painted Table, The Fifth Floor, Masas, Postrio, Ponzu, Scalas Bistro, Kuletos, Grand Cafe, are (or with Masas and Painted Table- were) Kimpton restaurants. Kimpton brings in Partner/ consultant Chefs (donna Scala, Wolfgang Puck, Jan Birnbaum, etc...) Their contracts are sometimes renewed or sometimes not. Library Bistro, Pazzo, Bambara, Panzano, Cobalt, Helios, are all Kimpton. The company started in SF and is very large now (DC, New Orleans, Denver, Portland, Seattle, SF, Aspen, Boston, Salt Lake City).

#16 MsRamsey

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 03:35 PM

On 15th somewhere maybe? The old Jack's Bistro space?

You read my mind.
"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."
-- State Senator John Burton, joking about
how the bill to ban production of foie gras in
California was summarized for signing by
Gov. Schwarzenegger.

#17 tighe

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 05:40 PM

It will be interesting to see what happens when Sundstrom is freed from the constraints of designing his menu with hotel clientele in mind (however chic). How exciting!

On 15th somewhere maybe? The old Jack's Bistro space?

I was about to post almost the exact same sentiment. Great minds must think alike. :wink:

Is the space across the street from Jack's, used to be Hopscotch, still vacant or did something else move in? I think he would certainly be better off in that area than on Broadway or in the Pike/Pine corridor.
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#18 nightscotsman

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Posted 07 October 2003 - 08:17 AM

It should also be interesting to see what Chef Hines will do back at Earth and Ocean. I seem to remeber universal bad reviews when she was the head chef when it first opened.

I also wonder if there will be any pastry chef changes, or if Sundstrom will have a pastry chef at his new place.

I do hope they go into the old Jack's Bistro place. A wonderful space that has gone to waste far too long.

#19 tsquare

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Posted 07 October 2003 - 09:16 AM

It should also be interesting to see what Chef Hines will do back at Earth and Ocean. I seem to remeber universal bad reviews when she was the head chef when it first opened.

I also wonder if there will be any pastry chef changes, or if Sundstrom will have a pastry chef at his new place.

Was she ever the head chef? The press release says executive sous chef at opening and with Sundstrom.

A small aside - Sundstrom did a terrible job at Carmelita - what was that about? He went on to work well with vegetables at E&O. Was his heart just not in it? Was the budget too tight for his cuisine? If so, how will he do on his own? But, J.M. is the best and I think together they will create something wonderful. And who is Kelly (maybe pastry?) Are you ready to find a spot back in ol' Seattle?

#20 mamster

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 06:57 AM

Sundstrom's new place will be called Lark and it will be in the old Kokeb building on 12th.

http://seattlepi.nws...3_dining08.html
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#21 tighe

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 10:15 AM

Sundstrom's new place will be called Lark and it will be in the old Kokeb building on 12th.

http://seattlepi.nws...3_dining08.html

This location seems like kind of an odd choice since I don't think the immediate neighborhood is going to provide a lot of support for a higher end restaruarant. With his reputation he'll probably be able to attract people from all over. Last time I walked by Kokeb, the building was pretty decrepit, anxious to see what they'll do to spruce it up. Hope they'll be open for lunch....
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#22 MsRamsey

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 10:28 AM

A better location would have been 19th and Aloha, where that sucky inconvenience store (Gilmore's Market) is finally gasping its last breaths. It's a densely populated area and close to Kingfish and Monsoon. Are you listening, Chef? :biggrin:
"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."
-- State Senator John Burton, joking about
how the bill to ban production of foie gras in
California was summarized for signing by
Gov. Schwarzenegger.

#23 vengroff

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 10:38 AM

A better location would have been 19th and Aloha, where that sucky inconvenience store (Gilmore's Market) is finally gasping its last breaths.

I lived just off 23rd on Aloha in the early nineties and used to shop there when I was desperate. I can't believe it is still around!
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#24 malarkey

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 10:52 AM

I was just saying to Mr. S. that that would be a fabulous location for a Mont's type little grocery store. Wish I had the dough to start it because I think it would be a winner in that neighborhood.

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#25 tighe

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 11:46 AM

A better location would have been 19th and Aloha, where that sucky inconvenience store (Gilmore's Market) is finally gasping its last breaths.

I lived just off 23rd on Aloha in the early nineties and used to shop there when I was desperate. I can't believe it is still around!

I have a soft spot in my heart for the place....

When I was going to high school on Capital Hill, it was one of a handful of little groceries in town that would consistently sell beer to the underaged.
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#26 MsRamsey

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 01:11 PM

It's the worst convenience store IN THE WORLD, and it's right around the corner from my house. I've vowed for months that I was going to write an essay about it. They carry maybe some Dinty Moore, possibly a couple cartons of milk, some beer (that's in their favor, I suppose), and NO frozen pizza. Have you ever heard of a neighborhood corner grocery that didn't carry frozen pizza?
"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."
-- State Senator John Burton, joking about
how the bill to ban production of foie gras in
California was summarized for signing by
Gov. Schwarzenegger.

#27 tighe

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 02:13 PM

Sundstrom's new place will be called Lark and it will be in the old Kokeb building on 12th.

I walked over to the building today at lunch...paper on the windows, Kokeb awning tossed out back and some minor repairs already started on the exterior. I tried to peer through a small gap in the paper, but was met with a glare from someone inside, didn't see much of anything.

Studpid question...why do new restaurants and retailers so regularly paper over the windows of spaces that are being worked on? It's such common practice that I'm sure there's a good reason for it. Is it the desire to have a "ta-da!" moment or are there practical considerations?
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#28 tsquare

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 04:04 PM

to keep the construction workers from wasting time people watching. Unlike us web browsers.

#29 tighe

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 04:33 PM

to keep the construction workers from wasting time people watching. Unlike us web browsers.

Interesting, never occured to me that it was to keep people from looking out, rather than keeping others from looking in.
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

#30 tsquare

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Posted 22 October 2003 - 05:06 PM

Nancy Leson's take on the subject:

what she said