I am16 going on 17: A review of one of Seattle’s elite restaurants, Altura I used to think that turning 17 would be like winning the National Invitational Tournament (College Basketball’s Losers Bracket). Yeah, I survived a year of driving, and yeah, I can buy my own ticket to an R rated movie, but I’m still legally a child. Not good enough to play with the big boys. The best I can do is to partake in some 17-year-old shenanigans and hope I don’t feel the ramifications too much the next morning. C’est la vie. Yet, after feasting at Altura Restaurant tonight, 17 might just be my best birthday yet.
I shared this meal with my preferred dining partner, my father. Whether it’s pulling together a dinner party at home or venturing into the depths of the International District, there’s no one I’d rather share a meal with.
When you walk in to Altura, the first thing you see is a beautiful Renaissance style statue of an angel, shining lantern in hand. The light green walls are adorned with old school Italian Renaissance scenes including a golden embroidered tapestry fit for a castle in the Italian countryside.
The wait staff is like the attractive family you wish you were a part of, while still somehow remaining down to earth and warm. Before we ordered, we were presented with two amuse bouches (small one- or two-bite teasers that hint at the brilliance to come). The first was a shot of pear juice infused with tonic oil and citrus, a smooth, sweet, and deliciously tart palate cleanser. The second was a silky smooth asparagus panna cotta in a tiny espresso cup, finished with a generous dollop of golden trout roe.
Altura’s menu is arranged in four sections: small plates, pasta, entrée, and dessert. Ordering is done in courses. Either three courses for $49 a person, four for $59, five for $69, or, what I would imagine is a heavenly chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings for $123 (Look forward to reading about that experience in my 21st birthday dinner article). We chose the four-course option. Altura then blessed us with the ability to choose any four items off the menu each. Meaning that even with a party of two, it is possible to indulge in nearly every dish on the menu.
Our first plate consisted of sweetbreads, gulf prawns, nettles, pine nuts, kumquat, and herbs. Now, my love affair with sweetbreads began at the scandalously young age of 11 when my parents tricked me into eating the luscious thymus gland at the Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island. So when I took my first bite, I was engulfed with not only my nostalgic lover, but the oh-so-pleasant surprise of a new partner, the citrus tang of kumquat. The braised nettles and pine nuts provided some serious depth of flavor. The prawns, however, unfortunately ended up getting lost in what was an otherwise brilliant opener to the meal. Also, look for the porchetta, green garlic, hot mustard, spring onion, and radish. The dish is a spicy, springy, porky success and highlights the ability of Altura to pair old favorites like porchetta with new style, presentation, and flavors.
The pastas, stinging nettle gnudi, rabbit ragu, wild mushroom, fried sage, and parmesan and pappardelle, oxtail and tripe ragu, Calabrian chili, and breadcrumbs, were simply extraordinary. The gnudi are akin to the pillowy innards of ravioli and had warm notes of nutmeg. They were matched brilliantly with wild mushrooms and a savory rabbit ragu. The pappardelle was an exhibition in comfort. The oxtail and tripe ragu just melted with the subtle heat of the chili.
The highlight of the meal was tail and trotters pork shank, spring greens, artichoke fritti, and sizzled quail egg. The beautiful cake of salty pork parts was just plain sexy. Rendered fat and sautéed spring greens are hard to beat and a sizzled quail egg topped off a truly incredible dish. We finished our entrees with rabbit shoulder in savoy cabbage, parsley salt crusted rack with hot mustard, saddle and sausage with braised radish and cabbage. The dish was akin to Peter Rabbit’s Garden in the best possible way. The rabbit shoulder sat braised in a bed of savoy cabbage, parsley salted rack adorned with hot mustard, and saddle wrapped with a rabbit sausage and cooked to tender perfection amid pastel pink braised radishes.
The mascarpone gelato, olio verde, roasted strawberry, tellicherry pepper fuille, black pepper, and carmel almond crumble would be our final dish. A plate was passed to the pantry/dessert station with the words “Happy Birthday” scrawled along the rim in rich ganache. It seems like a simple gesture but in that moment I felt cared for. The dessert, more savory then sweet was a combination of deep green olive oil, sweet soft strawberry, and spicy black pepper – a delicious end to a marvelous meal.
Now, 17 might seem a mundane birthday, but I have discovered the path to birthday bliss is a five-month-old establishment that will someday become a cherished institution. Chef Nathan Lockwood, leader of the kitchen brigade, states that Altura’s menu is, "The freshest seasonal foods, simply prepared and perfectly presented." I could not agree more. Every aspect from service to presentation to décor and of course flavor has been meticulously refined at Altura, and I hope that when the time comes for you or someone you know to begin his or her 17th rotation of the sun, they start amidst the green-gold glow of Altura.
Altura is located at 617 Broadway E., Seattle, WA, 98102 (between Roy and Mercer Streets). Contact them by phone at 206.402.6749 or email at email@example.com. Reservations are available by phone and online through Open Table.