Hearting Heartwood Provisions

I rarely get giddy about a restaurant. It’s happened, in all places, in Cleveland in recent years. As for Seattle, restaurants like Joule and Hitchcock come to mind.

The giddiness I felt at the new Heartwood Provisions, mind you, was not from the alcohol. Let’s get that out of the way. I drink little, though in hosting my meal, the restaurant did pair each course with a cocktail. That’s their thing, and it’s far from a gimmick. These drinks (many of them vermouth-ed concoctions) made sense with the accompanying food. They’re not very large, so you won’t likely get drunk even if you have a big meal, though they will increase your tab a bit. (Though less than wine pairings would.) The drinks certainly add a new dimension to the meal.

That said, the food stands fine on its own. I’d gladly return to the restaurant for more of it, even without the accompanying drinks. Chef Varin Keokitvan demonstrates astonishing accomplishment, combining ingredients to bring out incredible contrasts (and complements) in flavor and texture. There’s a lot going on with some plates, but unlike other restaurants that tweeze numerous components, rarely are Keokitvan’s ingredients extraneous. The platings are playful and purposeful.

And it’s fun to watch the action happen while seated right at the chef’s counter in the open kitchen. The setting is a far cry from the former McCormick & Schmick’s days.

Service is thoughtful and knowledgeable (even just a week after the restaurant’s official opening), much welcomed in a place where you’ll want to make wise menu decisions. I especially appreciated that the staff wanted feedback, with no sense of egos getting in the way.

With all of Seattle’s restaurant openings, this one is flying under the radar. I’ll be interested in local critic response to see if the sentiment matches mine.

Here’s a look at my first meal at Heartwood Provisions, which hopefully will become a destination restaurant for downtown regulars, as well as others seeking a special occasion.

To start: a few slices (different cuts) of Jamón ibérico as an amuse bouche.
“The Original Provision”: Wagyu beef jerky with spicy chili preserve. This soft, tender jerky was unlike any jerky I’ve tried in the past. Amazing and addictive! Paired with Cerveza Er Boqueron “Sea Salt Ale” and Carpano Bianco Vermouth.
Smoked steelhead roe with creme fraiche and seed crisps. An interesting way to eat “ikura.” Paired with vodka, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Talisker 10yr Single Malt Scotch Rinse.
One of my favorite dishes of the night: razor clams with cucumbers (some gelled to have a kelp-like quality), dill and piment d’espelette. Not shown: drink pairing of white rum, yellow chartreuse and verjus.
A small snack mid-meal: a “Cheez-It” made with parmesan tuile wrapped around chad roe as a “compound butter” filling. Pretty amazing.
Another favorite dish, gorgeous and delicious: a variety of beets with honey-chevre, chermoula, orange, and pistachio praline. (Beets and pistachio. Wow!) Beverage pairing: Blanco Tequila, Meletti 1870 Bitter, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, honey and lime.
A fun part of a tasting is getting dishes I might not have ordered on my own, like this tasty kabocha squash with chevre, smoked einkorn, black sesame and sofrito. Pairing: Plantation Nicaragua Rum, Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Falernum and Verjus.
Ling cod with cauliflower, pickled mushrooms, golden raisins and thyme butter. I like all these components together. Pairing: Yzaguirre Blanco Vermouth, Yzaguirre Dry Vermouth, Benedictine and lemon.
Wagyu braised oxtail with roasted roots, juniper crumbs, beet puree and horseradish cream. I wanted more of that horseradish cream, and could have skipped the juniper crumbs (perhaps the only dish component that didn’t work for me all night, though it did add texture). Pairing: Gilbert Cellars Late Harvest Tempranillo, Ron Zacapa 23yr Solera Rum and Amaro Montenegro.
How’s this for fun? Break the “glass” to get at the key lime mousse with graham cracker streusel and creme fraiche ice cream. Paired with Apolloni Vineyards Dolce Viognier, Ron del Barrolito Rum and Becherovka.
Second dessert and final pairing: smoked caramel panna cotta with brown butter apple, hazelnut crumbs and vanilla ice cream. Paired with Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Licor 43.