If you need proof that this city has outgrown its fleece-and-flannel image, consider Kerry Sear's Cascadia Restaurant, opened in mid-1999 in a historic brick building in trendy Belltown. Rich cherry woodwork, a 23-foot ceiling, a murmuring water wall separating the dining area from the exhibition kitchen, and a bartop made of solid sheets of onyx give it a stunning look. "It's Seattle's most expensive restaurant," bragged a local. The $7.50 valet-parking charge and the fact that cellular communications billionaire Bruce McCaw is authoritatively rumored to be the silent partner do little to dispel this image. Sear, former executive chef at the Four Seasons across town, goes for a Northwestern cuisine, with all ingredients coming from the region and many of the preparations borrowed from Native American ones. Slow-cooking salmon over cedar fronds makes it sweet with smokiness. Freshly shucked creamy local oysters come with a rack of eight flavored vinegars in test tubes, hinting at Sear's English upbringing. "Kerry's designer soup in a can" is chilled white-truffle-and-potato soup you dump into a bowl, gimmicky but good. There are four seven-course tasting menus, one of them vegetarian (any of the menu items can be ordered à la carte). However, everybody at the table must have a tasting menu if anyone does—a bit inflexible, perhaps, for such a loosey-goosey town. $60-$95 per person. 2328 First Avenue, Seattle; 206-448-8884.
A Northwestern cuisine