October 11, 2010

Fine dining at Sutra

New England and red kuri pumpkin-leek soup with a garlic and marjoram gremolata served with a pickled treviso radicchio-roasted yellow beet and shaved fennel salad.

Sutra is now closed. We celebrated our anniversary Sunday night because the restaurant where we wanted to dine is closed on Mondays, our real anniversary. The restaurant, Sutra, creates gorgeous vegan food from organic, in-season, and, whenever feasible, local ingredients. The service is low-key but elegant, and the food, memorable.
The last time we were there, every bite of food produced a small murmur of appreciative delight. This time, while the food was beautiful, delicious, and perfectly prepared and plated, I wasn't quite as overwhelmed, as the dishes seemed more like something I might be able to approximate. On our last visit I felt completely outclassed in the kitchen. The biggest standout (and potentially unattainable kitchen challenge) for me were the amazing gnocchi — perfectly light little pillows of heavenly half-potato half-celery-root deliciousness in an equally wonderful spicy sauce.

Lemon basil-cashew cheese stuffed pimento pepper served with a beluga lentil-white chanterelle and porcini ragu.

The real problem I had was my hunger. I was quite hungry when we went to the restaurant (yes, I'd had breakfast and lunch) and the portions were so tiny, I was still a little hungry when we left. This may or may not have had something to do with the size of my second course compared to my husband's. My cashew cheese-stuffed pimento was like the little cousin to the one my husband had (his was perhaps about 2-1/2 inches in diameter, and is the one I photographed). My husband snarkily commented that perhaps the peppers were distributed by guest's size, and I only warranted a tiny one. Also, I had requested no shaved fennel on my salad, so my salad was smaller, too. But, really, I could have done with a bit more of everything except dessert, which was so rich and satisfying, more would have been excess.
Celery root gnocchi with an ambrosia apple-heirloom tomato-peach and limon habenero caponata served with fresh arugula finished with a balsamic reduction and truffle oil.

I don't mean to sound greedy, or unappreciative of elegant dining, but I did think the portions last night were awfully small. You can't tell from the close-up photos how small each item actually was; for example, the tiny cup of pear cider in the dessert photo was like a teacup in a child's tea set. There might be more syllables in each description than bites in each serving.
Ginger Asian pear cider with a raw cacao dusted Madagascar chocolate cardamom truffle.

So how much does this amazing food cost, you may be wondering. (Unless you're too polite to ask about cost.) The set price for the four course meal is $35 per person with all alcoholic or other beverages costing extra. Everyone is served the same meal at the same time.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, and in the Seattle area, don't miss a very special night out at the incredible Sutra, where vegetables are the stars, and no attempt is made to reproduce meat-like facsimiles. You will enjoy beautiful, delicious gourmet cuisine.


  1. happy anniversary! those portions do look tiny, how frustrating. it seems like you're so often posting these elegant, multi-course vegan meals--i'm jealous. seattle must really (literally) cater to vegans. boise has just a smattering of small veggie restaurants, none entirely vegan.

  2. The fancier the restaurant, the smaller the portions and the bigger the price?! I've had similar experiences at places here in the UK and while the food is invariably lovely, there's no way you should leave feeling anything less than full!

  3. You know, I just can't deal with those serving sizes. Can kind of 'get' the concept behind small tasting, but that won't feed my stomach-or my soul.

    Gimme a good family run restaurant with different world cuisines and a nice, hearty portion.

    Hmm...I'm thinking Indian buffet for tomorrow (and it's 12:30 am...mine is a one track, incorrigibly and unapologetically food-focused mind)!!

    Love your blog! Suzy

  4. Sutra is a spectacular jewel. My partner and I actually like their smaller portion sizes. Americans are obsessed with quantity over quality and we're paying for it with a nationwide obesity epidemic affecting both young and old. We've come away from Sutra satisfied, but not stuffed. Perfect!

  5. Emily,
    Thank you. Yes, Seattle is a good place to enjoy a vegan diet.

    I agree.

    Thanks for your comment! I think it's wonderful to be able to experience excellent, lovingly created food, and I don't usually like to feel "stuffed." But I was still hungry, which seemed unfair.

    I was expecting at least one reply such as this, and almost addressed it in the post. I agree with everything you've said, though I might not be as quick to categorize everyone. I just want to mention that I'm not so obsessed. I totally appreciate Sutra's emphasis on quality over quantity or I wouldn't go there, and I think I made clear that the food is excellent. I rarely overeat, and am not overweight. In fact, I hate feeling "stuffed." However, even though I'm a small adult and a light eater, I left Sunday night feeling hungry, which was NOT perfect.

  6. Congratulations, Andrea:) The meal must have been amazing and very inspiring!

  7. Happy Anniversary to you both. Sutra sounds wonderful. I'll have to try it soon...

    the dishes at least sound like a lot of food when you list them. I know what you mean about the portion sizes...I guess it's considered fancier to serve things in small amounts.

    It all sounds and looks wonderful...but especially the gnocchi.

  8. Aimee,
    Thank you! I'm thinking a lot about making gnocchi.

    Thank you. Sutra is particularly special in that they don't try to make vegan versions of animal foods; instead, they use vegetables creatively. The portions are smaller than what most restaurants offer, which I don't object to — I usually end up bringing home leftovers. But, I did leave a little hungry Sunday night.

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  10. All I can say is that I'm very impressed with the names of the dishes! I have an image of my (somewhat idealized) self dressed in an elegant black sheath sipping a tall, very thin, glass of champagne while I consume my tiny portions in micro-bites so as not to smear my lipstick. My dining partner is equally sophisticated and neither of us spills anything. We have a lot of fun, then go home, change into jeans and T-shirts, wipe off the lipstick, and treat ourselves to big sloppy tomato-and-avocado sandwiches washed down with a beer. What a perfect date! Happy anniversary!

  11. Happy Anniversary! The food and presentation looks beautiful, sorry to hear it wasn't enough to fill you up. It seems strange that the portion size were so unequal compared to the one your hubby got. Actually $35 is not bad for fancy fine dining food, although expensive if you're still hungry at the end.

  12. Anon,
    Thanks for your comment.

    HA! I like your fantasy. While Sutra's food is elegant and upscale, the small room and its occupants are less so. "Understated" might be the right descriptive term. You might even find yourself and your partner sharing a table with another couple. Most diners appear in "regular" clothing — a large number in jeans — and lip balm rather than lipstick, is probably the norm. (I wore a nice pair of brown jeans and a sweater, and I only spilled one very small something on the table.)

    Chow vegan,
    Thank you. After reading glowing reviews about Sutra elsewhere, I'm starting to feel a little guilty about not being full after my dinner, as if it were somehow my fault. I'm "sure" it must have been an unusual occurrence. I agree that $35 is a reasonable amount to pay for a wonderful dinner, when you leave happy and satisfied.

  13. The food LOOKS amazing, but I hate it when the portion sizes are so small I have to go home and eat again right away. Frustrating. The Celery root gnocchi sounds spectacular, though--wow. I hope you two had a wonderful anniversary and that you celebrated again on your actual anniversary!


  14. Happy anniversary! How nice that you were able to treat yourselves to a fancy din-din! The gnocchi looks so good. Tiny, tiny servings! I have a small appetite, but I do like my meals to last more than a few bites.

    About the praying mantis - I'm glad Dwight didn't jump on my head! Your experience sounds traumatic! :D

  15. Courtney,
    The food was pretty great, and I didn't eat when I got home; I kept thinking about making popcorn but I was too sleepy. We celebrated again the night after our anniversary by going to a Manu Chao concert!

    Thank you! My appetite is also small, but me, too.

    The praying mantis attacked my face in a menacing way. We were just hanging out talking to friends, and I kept telling my husband the praying mantis was looking at me funny, but he said I was crazy, until WHAM. It was pretty creepy, and I needed help getting it off my head. I'm still in recovery as far as praying mantises go.

  16. Happy anniversary!!!

    When I go to a restaurant, I also hope for enough food to fill me up without going overboard, and would be disappointed too if it weren't the case. Wait, who am I kidding? I always secretly hope for a doggie bag!

  17. Claire,
    I usually have a doggy bag to take home from most places, but I'd be pretty surprised to see anyone walk out of Sutra with one. And that's OK. I don't want TOO MUCH food, just enough.


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