Finding Comfort in Restaurant Bea
I first met Tom Black when he was the chef at Fuller’s (a former fine dining restaurant at the Seattle Sheraton) in 1998. He came to the restaurant to work under A-list chef Monique Barbeau. I then followed Tom’s cooking journey over to Woodinville when he became the Executive Chef at the new Barking Frog at Willow’s Lodge in 2001. After his tenure there, he set out for a couple years traveling, cooking on yachts, moving around the country and doing a variety of culinary stints and adventures (during this time I followed him on Facebook). When I heard Tom was going to open his own restaurant in Seattle, I was beyond delighted and a couple of weeks ago I got a sneak peek at his new place, Restaurant Bea. Located in the lovely Madrona neighborhood, Restaurant Bea wasn’t yet open to the public and I was fortunate enough to be a guinea pig during a trial run night. To tell the truth, there was nothing trial about it, as the restaurant was in was in full swing operation mode and there was none of the usual pre-opening chaos could be sensed through the service or in the energy of the main dining room.
The restaurant has warm amber-ish lighting and one fabulous, deep orange wall in the back. The other walls have beautiful flowered wallpaper that gives is a homey-country kind of feel. The bar toward the back of the room was lively, especially with the partial open kitchen as the backdrop – you feel like you are in the midst of the kitchen action. The only, and I do mean only, criticism I have (if you can call it that) is that it was drafty near the front door where we were seated. A little draft though wouldn’t keep me from coming back time and time again. The night’s menu was a limited list of items during this practice session but there was more than enough to get a real taste of Tom’s signature cooking. To start my dinner companion and I shared Bea’s tots (who doesn’t love tots?) – a potato croquette with herbs and green goddess dressing. Crispy outside and soft mashed potato-like on the inside. Next were the Veal meatballs – hearty and delicious but with a super light touch and a sherry-scented demi-glace that was so savory. Tom knows how to make an incredible sauce, merging flavors and using just the right amount of salt.
For the main course I dined on the Local tuna casserole. It may not sound like much, but it was outstanding! At first I thought the serving seemed small, but it was deceiving because once I dug into it there was more than enough. And it wasn’t your ordinary tuna casserole; fresh noodles, brioche bread crumbs, English peas, Parisian carrots and porcini cream served up in an adorable orange pot.
My guest ordered the Rabbit & Pasta featuring pappardelle, spring peas and mint with rabbit jus and manchego shavings. I’m not a huge rabbit fan but this guy knows how to make an irresistible sauce, and I had no trouble helping finish off this dish with gusto.
Our dessert choices were Sour Cherry Clafouti with fruit compote and sweet cream ice cream and a to-die-for Butterscotch Pot de Creme with a cookie and chantilly cream.
I’ll be back soon. And now that this chef has planted some roots it will be easy to find him at Restaurant Bea.
Restaurant Bea 1423 34th Avenue, Seattle Open Tuesday through Sunday (dinner service starts at 5 p.m.) Happy Hour Tuesday through Thursday 5-6 p.m.