I’m a sucker for open kitchens, which is a good thing given that along with small plates they seem to be the trend of the moment. I like that an open kitchen seems to foster a better connection between the talented chefs who prepare the fabulous food, and we diners who consume it. Less of an us and them approach, I guess.
The one at Txori, the Belltown sibling of Madison Park’s Harvest Vine, charmed me instantly: A narrow open strip of kitchen that runs the length of the skinny entry space, just room enough for seats at the bar and three tall tables against the wall. This particular version of the open kitchen includes the kind of counter top display case you might see more usually at a sushi bar, but this one is stocked with meats and cheeses. The open concept extends into the shelves that run the length of the space, moving from big canisters of grains and spices, to dishes, to liquor, as the space transitions to match those various uses. And of course, a big rolling library ladder moves across the entire area and gives the staff access to all of those tall shelves.
The space opens up a little as you make your way toward the back, but only enough to accommodate four more tall squares and a scant eight shorter squares for dining tables. The interior is all browns and grays: weathered wood floor, big metal light fixtures overhanging the bar, metal stools that reminded both of us -- independently -- of high school chemistry lab, tabletops that blend both in a faux-grainy shiny finish. The accent color here is red, and through the red framed window-pane doors near the back I event spied a petite patio with lights strung across the top of the narrow space and heat lamps to take the edge off a chilly evening.
We started with two cocktails, the Cava de Flores (Elderflower liqueur, rose cava and orange) and the Nido Rojo (Hendricks gin, triple sec, Peychaud’s bitters and Patraxaran, a Spanish liqueur). The Cava de Flores was good but didn’t pack enough of a punch for me; the Nido Rojo was tasty enough to have a second time. A little sweet, but immensely drinkable.
The menu is divided into Pintxos Frios (small plates cold or really, room temperature), Pintxos Calientes (small plates hot) and Raciones (larger plates). The first thing we tried is pictured here and was one of the best, the Cana de Cabra: goat cheese, apple and caramelized onion on a thick slice of bread. From there on to Pa Amb Tomaquet: jamon Serrano, tomato and garlic on toasted bread. Simple and delicious. Next it was the Brandada con Huevo Frito y Setas: salt cod and potato pureed into a mousse, layered onto a slice of bread with oyster mushrooms and topped with a fried egg. Salty and perfectly stacked. Vegetables made an appearance in the Coliflor: roasted cauliflower with confited onions. (Who knew that was even a word?) Yum, and just the right amount of tender. Finally, another potato mousse in the Pato Confitatdo, a duck confit.
Everything that we tried was interesting and delicious, and clearly very thoughtfully constructed. And I love the interior and could easily see myself dropping by to meet friends for a drink and a nibble on the way home from work. It seemed a tiny bit pricey given the size of the plates, but going in with the right expectation I highly encourage a visit to Txori.
[Photo of Txori’s interior courtesy of fromtherightbank]