— Lauren Weisberger
The dilemma: You've got only three dinners during your sojourn in Seattle. Do you test out the newest places or stick to familiar territory and dine at some of the city's best? On my last visit I chose the former strategy, but I am delighted to report that there was much overlap with the latter.
For my first dinner, I chose Restaurant Zoë, an ambitious newcomer in hip Belltown with a small, convivial bar, a minimalist room, and a stylish clientele. Chef Scott Staples has created a cuisine that combines refined and rustic touches in a way that gives the food a nice balance rather than an identity crisis. The menu changes seasonally, including dishes like fresh ricotta raviolo served with heirloom tomatoes and seared sea scallops with asparagus-herb risotto, but also pork-cheek confit, making Zoë a terrific choice for appetites both high and low. Dinner, $65. At 2137 Second Ave.; 206-256-2060; fax 206-256-9793.
Also in Belltown, in the former Dahlia Lounge's cavernous space, is Toi. The decor may be ultratrendy (red lacquered walls, Buddha projection over the bar, dramatic teak staircase, black-clad servers), but there's one trend the place has wisely avoided: the insipidly "Pacific Rim" or "pan-Asian" brand of cuisine so overdone in Seattle. Toi's Thai-inspired cooking is accomplished. Everything we sampled had the distinct flavors of Thailand's sacred culinary trinity--galangal, lime leaf, and chiles--but with an American sensibility and sophistication. Dinner, $35. At 1904 Fourth St.; 206-267-1017; fax 206-267-1019.
The reservation was for eight o'clock, but we arrived early at Six Seven, built right on Pier 67, in time to catch the last of the pink-gray light fading over the water. The enchanting view of ferries, islands, and parasailers can be enjoyed from the outdoor terrace or a window table in the cozy dining room. Though the cuisine does teeter on that pan-Asian precipice (Alaskan Halibut with pea shoots, lamb osso buco with star anise and cassia), at least here it's done very well. There's also a sushi chef and a separate sushi menu. Dinner, $90. At Pier 67, 2411 Alaskan Way; 206-269-4575; fax 206-728-4280.
— Melissa Clark
Restaurant prices reflect a three-course dinner for two, excluding beverages and gratuity.