It’s amazing what a difference people make… The first time I went to re:public in South Lake Union it was right after they opened, it must have been 5:00pm, and I was there to meet a friend for a quick glass of wine. I think that we had a small plate of something or other, but obviously it wasn’t particularly memorable. We were one of three occupied tables – noticeable in a place as big as re:public – and as a result the restaurant felt rather empty and I left feeling sort of… blah… about the place.
Such a different experience this time around! I went recently with Mom and Aran, and we had a great time. It was bustle-y and lively, the perfect vibe for the space, and our server had that unique server ability to cover a big bunch of tables while still managing to make us feel appropriately doted-upon. I confess that it’s a visit just like this that reminds me that I need to return to a place after having a substandard experience, because it’s entirely possible that one time was an aberration and not representative of food or experience. I’m glad that was the case with re:public, for sure!
Part of what made this meal so great was the careful composition of the food, something I’m so impressed by knowing the time it takes to put these dishes together. (If I served only on white plates my food would look like this too, right? Right??) Being good sharers, we chose a multitude of dishes from the bouchées, small plates, and sides sections of the menu, and had good things to report from each area.
I’ll start with one of my favorites, both for taste and composition. The house-smoked Chinook salmon was a tightly packed mound of salmon, laced with slightly bitter arugula and complemented by the cool of the spiced yogurt. The crispy pork belly on a bed of poached local rhubarb was just the opposite, full and rich though with the lovely counterpoint of the sweetly tart rhubarb. The surprisingly light house charcuterie featuring a rabbit ballantine wrapped in bacon; a creamy semolina gnocchi with fontina fonduta; and grilled asparagus with hot copa, torn croutons, and a smoked soft egg that was this lovely orange color, were all delicious, while the braised beef short rib with tomato conserva was another return to the rich and meaty.
Though not pictured, the roasted mushroom dish – this night a combination of button, shiitake, oyster, and hashimati (though now can’t locate so I think that I didn’t quite hear our server correctly on that one…) – was one of the favorites of the table. Straightforwardly “tasting of itself” with a dash of sherry and thyme, and absolutely delicious. The stack of roasted beets paired beautifully with the creamy avocado mousse and cara cara orange, and was a lovely light addition in the midst of lots of wonderfully heavy flavors. Dessert was interesting in its own right, a silky lemon semifreddo with an alternately sweet and sharp citrus salad, and toasted marshmallow gelato atop a magnificently dense round of chocolate budino.
I have nary a bad word to say about re:public, start to finish. Excellent drinks, delicious and beautifully composed food, and the sort of atmosphere that makes you want to stick around for a while. Though it was the people, the buzzing crowd all around us as well as the excellent company at the table, that really made the restaurant come alive. The context of the experience makes all the difference, and in this context re:public scored big.