September 04, 2013

Fabulous, elegant dining at Sutra in Seattle

Where is Emily Post when you need her?

Our son and his girlfriend visited us for four days over Labor Day weekend. They had made Sunday night dinner reservations at Sutra before they left home, and on Saturday my husband and I decided we really wanted to go too, so we called to see if Sutra could accommodate us. Well, yes, they could, but only if we sat outside. I walk past Sutra all the time, and I'd never seen an outdoor eating area, but sure, we agreed, we'll eat outside. Sunday was a hot day in Seattle, but by evening the temperature had cooled, and the weather was perfect for al fresco dining.

Sutra, is a small gem of a vegan restaurant. Not fancy in appearance — it's understated and serene, with simple wooden tables and quiet decor. The menu, however, is where the sparks fly. From the Web site:
In the Sutra kitchen our focus is amazing vegetarian food that appeases all the senses and is served in an atmosphere where sustainable agriculture, community-style dining, and responsible business practices are of utmost importance.
All of Sutra's food is prepared fresh each day. The practice is artistic, intuitive cooking with a menu that respects the changes of season, availability of local organic ingredients, and the experience of connecting to our communities in a holistic urban environment.

Our unique "of the moment," seasonally inspired menus and dining style reflect our commitment to the environment, our gratitude for the opportunity to serve our community, while enjoying the benefits of urban living.
By changing the menu so often, our chef is able to create food that is intuitive and inspired. Creating as little waste as possible.
By offering a prix-fixe menu that respects food of the moment, we are eliminating the need to stock, and most likely waste, food that may not be ordered.

Here's what we had for dinner:
"First and Second Course (plated together): Fresh Corn-Smoked Paprika-Leek Soup served aside a Salad of Mizuna, White Melon, Goldendagger Chile, Candied Pumpkin Seed and Brandywine Tomato with a Maple-Vinegar-Lemon Balm Dressing."

Uh huh. Trust me, the soup and salad were extraordinary. They were way beyond delicious. Each mouthful contained layers of flavors that were both distinct yet perfectly blended together. The velvety soup was rich with corn and smoked paprika flavor, and the salad — kind of like fireworks.


"Third Course: Allspice Infused Black Caviar Lentil and Cashew Cheese Stuffed Ancho Chile with Quinoa and a Peach-Black Garlic Sauce."

The ancho chilies were slightly spicy, and contrasted beautifully with the black lentil filling. The peach-black garlic sauce was so delicious it was like a course in itself. The flowers that graced each plate were edible, and came from the garden in which we were dining.


"Fourth Course: Lobster Mushroom, Broccoli, Rainbow Chard and Shiso Vietnamese Crepe with Tamari-Toasted Sesame and Yuzu, finished with Ground Cherry, Daikon Sprouts, and Fried Caper Berry."

This was heavenly — maybe my favorite of the evening, although to be fair, picking a favorite is almost impossible. The crepes were made by soaking mung beans and rice overnight, then blending them into a batter. The lobster mushrooms were unbelievable — even the broccoli tasted bright and fabulous, holding its own next to the spectacular flavors of more exotic ingredients. Lest you think I'm being paid by Sutra to say only nice things (I'm not), I'll mention that I didn't like the dipping sauce, and neither did my dining companions. We all found it too salty, and kind of like dipping our pancake into straight tamari. In truth, the pancake was so flavorful it didn't need a sauce.


"Fifth Course: Pecan Brittle Crusted Wild Huckleberry-Orange Blossom Coconut Cream Tort with a Chocolate Bourbon Sauce."

I know the tort looks huge in the photo, as small objects in close-up photos often do, but it was actually the size of a large muffin. However, had it been the size of an entire cake, I'm sure I would have eaten the whole thing. What can I say? It was sensational. The pecan brittle was crazy good — I've never tasted anything quite like it — sweet but not too sweet, crunchy and rich. The huckleberries and the coconut cream were otherworldly. The intense flavor of the wild huckleberries contrasted perfectly with the pillow-soft, light, creamy coconut pouf. Best dessert ever.

Our dining-companions perusing the beverage menu.

Sutra will accommodate food allergies and preferences, and when we asked if my dinner could be gluten-free, we were told the entire menu for the evening was gluten-free. I think there were two GF diners at the table, but no one felt deprived in any way with their meal.

I mentioned earlier in the post that we had to sit outside because our reservations had been made late, but that turned out to be a good thing. Inside the restaurant it was rather warm and stuffy, but outside the weather was glorious.

The view from my seat.

We were in a charming garden setting, at a long, beautiful, communal slate table. Besides the four of us, there was a party of three and a party of two. Everyone was friendly, and the atmosphere was positive and comfortable. When the courses started arriving, we were all equally enthralled with the appearance and taste of the food. Although our foursome was vegan or vegetarian, our fellow table-mates ran the gamut from omnivore to vegan, and everyone adored the dinner.

This was my third visit to Sutra and my favorite so far, though all the visits were memorable. In case you are wondering, the prix-fixe menu changes every two weeks, and costs $40. A separate wine pairing or non-alcoholic pairing is also available.

26 comments:

  1. What a feast! Al fresco dining definitely sounds more pleasant than stuffy indoor dining. The Vietnamese Crepe looks so crispy and delicious, but that dessert! It's gorgeous! I want it in my belly right now!

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    1. Al fresco dining in Seattle can be tricky, but the weather has been so amazing this summer that it worked perfectly. I'm so glad we were outside. I'm counting on you to create a similar dessert and post about it! What I can't figure out is how they got something so ephemeral to hold a shape.

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  2. That looks like such a beautiful place - to be able to make such amazing flavours in such simple dishes is gift!

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    1. They do have a gift for creating amazing food. It's healthy food, too, never fatty or sugary.

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  3. Oh my word, that all looks delicious. I would have gotten stuck on the soup and salad!

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    1. It was so delicious it was mesmerizing. You can't really get stuck on any one course though because they keep bringing the next one. I could have made a whole meal out of any of the courses!

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  4. Such elegance! I love how the food is presented. That dessert does look like the best ever. My mouth started watering!

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    1. Not only is it presented beautifully, but even the decorative aspects of the dish are edible and fabulous.

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  5. That lobster mushroom dish sounds amazing! It looks and sounds like a lovely evening.

    Courtney

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    1. It was. The lobster mushrooms were killer — as was everything else.

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  6. Wow, that sounds like such an awesome place and such beautiful looking food!

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    1. It was a perfect dinner, and I'm so glad we decided to go.

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  7. That sounds amazing. We have something here in town with a pre-fixe menu, but it's animal-based. I went there as a kid and was intrigued with the concept. So good to see a vegan restaurant doing that. They also prove that vegan food can be decadent and beyond flavorful. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Each little part of every dish is bursting with flavor, and taken as a whole, it's a thrill for the taste buds. It's decadent in a good way — never heavy or overloaded with fat and sugar.

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  8. Wow, the food looks beautiful but dining outside overlooking flowers like that is even nicer.
    It's also very cool to see flower garnishes on food. Though I'm sure it'd all be just as delicious without. That coconut tort!

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    1. Dining outside was definitely a plus, but the food would have been amazing served in a closet. I ate all the flowers.

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  9. I love when you can taste layers of flavor. and 40 dollars for a beautiful dinner is quite impressive and a great deal.
    I think Emily Post is dead.
    I can help you out though, I used a fork once.

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    1. I agree that $40 was reasonable for the meal, but it's not something we can do too often. I tried to communicate with Emily Post's spirit, but to no avail. I should have called you!

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  10. All of the courses sound so deleicious and unique! What a great dinner.

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    1. It was a special night for us. Can't wait to return.

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  11. It was definitely a gift that you were made to sit outside- if for nothing else but the lighting! This is the kind of preparation and taste that really make non-vegans understand that being vegan isn't about raw carrot sticks and boiled lentils. And the price? Let's just say that $40 doesn't go that far in NY. In fact, we have some upper scale establishments that charge $20 an entree and think it's okay to use pre-packaged meat substitutes in extremely lazy ways.

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    1. Yes, the lighting was definitely on my mind when we were assigned the garden seating. The dinner started at 7 p.m. and by the time the fourth course was served I was barely able to get a decent photo. I had to use flash for the dessert because by then it was dark. Better flash than nothing is my motto. But the temperature was much better outside, that's for sure.

      The food is painstakingly sourced and prepared, and the price seems very reasonable for what you get. The amazing flavor is achieved with the artful use of ingredients, not an overuse of fat and salt.

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  12. That picture of all the forks - so funny! And so 'Pretty Woman'. I'd just use my hands if in that situation. :) This restaurant looks fantastic. It wasn't even on my radar when I went to Seattle in June. Too bad!

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    1. Everyone at the table thought they should use the smallest fork for the salad, but I used the biggest. :) Sutra isn't flashy, but it should be on your vegan radar next time you come. Be sure to make reservations in advance because it's small and fills up, especially on weekends.

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  13. I have been to several eateries in Seattle, but not Sutra. The dishes look delicious and refreshing including the gorgeous third course (all-spice infused black caviar lentil and cashew cheeze stuffed ancho chile with quinoa and peach-black garlic sauce - sounds divine and unique). I wish I have been introduced to this, but thank you for the mention and the wonderful review, Andrea! If you ever go to Portland, be sure to try out this restaurant, Natural Selection, it is a gluten-free vegetarian restaurant, but they have a full vegan menu. They change their menu daily.

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    1. If you visit Seattle again, you should put Sutra on your list! I've been to Portland a few times but never to Natural Selection. Next time I'm there, I'll try it. Thanks for letting me know about it.

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