June 15th, 2008 by Eric

The open kitchen at Branzino

After a long week at work, we were ready for a Friday night out.  Our destination was the week-old Italian restaurant Branzino, the newest addition to the Second Ave restaurant row in Belltown.  I called that afternoon for a reservation, and we scored a table with a view of the open kitchen – we always prefer that to a view of the street!

The atmosphere and clientele are as you might expect of a new restaurant in Belltown – a bustling, small space filled with young, hip diners.  The menu is typically Italian – antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni – and our server explained that dishes are meant to be shared, served one or two at a time.  After some difficulty figuring out how much to order (our server kept saying “everything here is served à la carte” but not answering our question of how many dishes would be appropriate for two people), we settled on panzanella (bread salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil), gnocchi with lobster and spring peas, maltagliati (flat pasta) with morels and rabbit, a veal chop with fresh cherries and mushrooms, and a bottle of Barbera d’Asti to go with it all.  When we ordered the veal chop, our waitress mentioned that the price had gone up $5 (to $36) since the menu was printed.  We looked at each other, considering switching to a more reasonably priced fish or octopus secondo, but we stuck with it since the cherries and mushrooms sounded so good.  (Dawn often orders dishes just for the sides!)

The panzanella started off nicely, until I hit a pocket of salt on one of the pieces of mozzarella.  I’m a big fan of salt, but this was far too much, and basically ruined the dish for me.  It must have been an isolated spot because Dawn enjoyed the rest.  Next came the pastas; good, but (ironically) they both could have used more salt, given their somewhat bland flavor.  The veal chop was also a surprise – after several bites we realized there were no mushrooms or cherries.  We asked our waitress if there was a mix-up, and it was then that she realized that we had been given an old menu when we sat down; the veal chop had changed to being simply served with lemon zest and chopped parsley on top.  Since we’d already started, we decided to keep it, but explained that we had ordered the dish for its original description.  Our waitress made up for the error by offering us a complementary grapefruit sorbetto with strawberries for dessert, which turned out to be excellent and was Dawn’s favorite dish of the night.

Would we go back?  If we found ourselves in Belltown looking around for a bite, then perhaps.  The wine selection was quite nice with some reasonably priced bottles, and the staff was very friendly the whole evening, even when things got hectic.  Let’s hope the inconsistencies in the dishes were simply part of being a new restaurant. 

2429 2nd Ave, Seattle
(206) 728-5181

Branzino on Urbanspoon

One Response to “Branzino”

  1. Larry Ockene says:

    We tried Branzino on Saturday night with another couple, and it was a disappointment all-around. We were seated promptly, given bread (4 little pieces for 4 people), and told the specials. Then, at least 20 minutes went by, our bread was long gone, our water glasses were long empty, we had no wine, and there was no waitron in sight. The conversation was good, so we weren’t too annoyed, but at one point, Sharon said “I wonder when our food will be here” only to realize that nobody had yet even stopped by to take our order.

    Finally, our waitress came by, and took our appetizer and wine order. This part was all fine – the charcuterie was wonderful, as were the calamari. Alas, another 4 meager slices of bread was not sufficient to soak up all of the great sauce surrounding the calamari. But at least partially satiated, we ordered our main courses.

    I had the tagliatelle, which is Branzino’s take on carbonara. The dish was quite cold, and I ended up sending it back (I seem to have a lot of this in my restaurant karma these days). When it returned, it was maybe 10 degrees warmer. There was simply no excuse why they couldn’t get this right. When the waitress checked in again and I told here it still wasn’t right, she very apologetically offered to remove the item from the bill.

    The two women had the fish stew. The fish was fresh and tender, but the broth was so salty as to be inedible. So while the fish was devoured, nobody made any attempt to soak up what is normally one of the best parts of a good stew. Our other companion’s scallops were also salted to the edge of inedible.

    For desert we all ordered coffee, and I ordered the pear tart. The coffee came first, 10 minutes ahead of the desert. It was cold (all 4 of us agreed) – huge groan. We asked for another pour. Waitress said she’d brew a new pot. In the mean time, dessert came; they brought me the wrong thing (creme caramel, which was delicious and velvety in texture). We shared it, but it was long gone by the time the new coffee came. Again – very apologetic waitress said she’d remove the coffee from the tab. She said twice (again, very contritely) that she hoped that we’d consider coming back. Not a chance.

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