November 16, 2011
After hearing the hype about Revel, an urban Korean restaurant, and its cocktail bar, Quoin, I had to try it out for myself. What I found out was that Fremont’s ‘new kid on the block’ really delivers, bringing a unique brand of upscale cuisine to one of Seattle’s most loved neighborhoods.
The establishment is run by husband and wife duo, Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, who met while cooking at one of New York’s finest French restaurants. They are literally celebrity chefs who have competed on Iron Chef, but their cooking chops aren’t what makes Revel so special. It is their distinctively different backgrounds. Yang’s Korean heritage brings authenticity and her classic French training means perfect execution while Chirchi adds a New American twist, inspired by seasonal and unique ingredients.
When I arrived at 6:30 pm last Sunday, I discovered I wasn’t the only one curious to try this new spot. For a group of 5 there was an hour and a half wait so we decided to sit in the bar. While you’ll find urban and offbeat art on the venues walls, the overall atmosphere is very simple and clean. The bar has slate gray walls, a sleek black bar, candlelight, and a door leading out to a nice wooden deck with a fire pit. The dining room is brightly lit with simple tables and black chairs on one side and a large open kitchen with stainless steel light fixtures on the other. There is literally nothing but a long counter top separating the cooks from the diners.
The simple design also translates to the food, which is carried out with a deceiving simplicity that appears effortless. Here there is a lazer like focus on both simple and complex ingredients, which are brought together and balanced perfectly. The concise menu includes Korean salads, pancakes, dumplings, rice bowls, noodles, and sweets each with 3 different variations, some that change seasonally. Here you’ll see both common components of Korean cuisine like kim chi, pork belly, and sesame along with surprises like lamb, pecorino cheese, and goat yogurt.
I started my visit off with a bourbon cocktail called “Ginger’s Revenge.” While I’m not usually a bourbon fan, the preparation sold me: Jim Beam, St. Germain, Canton Ginger, Lemon, Angostura Bitters. The mix of sweet bourbon with contrasting tart, sour, and bitter flavors was delicious. The flawless execution of Quoin’s complex mixology matches that of the kitchen. At the bar you can also sample homemade infusions such as soju, a distilled liquor similar to vodka, and cherry infused bourbon whiskey. Not all the beverages hit the mark though, the barley infused iced tea for example, was, well “not exactly my cup of tea.”
While I sipped my drink, I asked for the albacore tuna rice bowl and an order of dumplings. They arrived hot and surprisingly quickly. The rice bowl was built on top of perfectly cooked, slightly sticky, white rice and featured seared tuna, kimchi, and escarole. Each component stood on its own. The tuna was perfectly cooked with a buttery, soft flesh and a crunchy, peppery crust; the kim chi was spicy yet crisp; and the cooked escarole had a smokey, roasted flavor. The dumplings were filled with cauliflower, ricotta, and black truffle sesame and topped with pickled leeks. For me this meal was a completely new experience of comfort food: warm, delicious flavors in a relatively nutritious package. I finished feeling more than satisfied but not heavy.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert and for that I chose something perfectly familiar: chocolate, pecan pie. Of course, there was a twist. This pie was cooked in a jam jar and topped with fenugreek spiced cream. It was a wonderful meal and fairly moderate priced. While certainly upscale, it was an experience I can see myself repeating every other month as opposed to similar restaurants downtown that I can only afford to visit every other year. In other words: I can’t wait to go back! And as Revel nears its first birthday, I have a feeling it will be around for years to come.