Ken and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary on Tuesday evening. Ken made the dinner reservations and my request was to go to a restaurant that I had not seen previously so he chose Altura on Capital Hill. What a great find! Their menu provides the kind of reading that I didn’t want to put down with lots of unusual food items and fascinating pairings. Altura is known for the tasting menu, which on the night we were there included 19 items which were a series of small bites, snacks and tastes interspersed with five main plates each. Though the table next to us ordered the “full meal deal”, we elected to order conservatively with only 3 courses each but were surprised with a pre-dinner tiny cordial of rhubarb juice with a float of hazelnut oil and a sprig of tarragon plus a bouche amusee of truffled popcorn panna cotta and an after-dinner tiny espresso cup of Affogato, which was a Roman-style hot chocolate over a teaspoon of mascarpone gelato.
We were pleased to have waiter, James Chan, take care of our table, whom we fondly recalled previously had served us at Rover’s Restaurant. Altura is a small restaurant with around only 48 seats with a display cooking line and saute station. With the restaurant business in my background, I was impressed with some of the small touches such as how organized and clean the cooking line was with very shiny, neat stacks of stainless saute and sauce pans and copper sauce pans that were polished and glowing. There is a beautiful angel statue with outstretched wings which is a focal point in the dining room that had been recovered from a bombed church in France after World War II along with four others that are currently located at the Four Seasons in New York City.
Chef Nathan Lockwood has focused his Italian inspired menu on “wild foraged products, pristine Puget Sound seafood and locally raised heirloom meats and vegetables.” according to the website. But when I read to expect to spend two to three hours enjoying 10-15 courses, I decided to order fewer courses which was still plenty since we left with a doggie bag with most of my Potato Gnocchi leftover. For me the over the top item in flavor profile was the Sweet Corn Soup which included an artistic arrangement in the bottom of the oversize rim soup bowl with tiny amounts of chili roasted crab, smoked mussels, garlic scapes and orange nasturtium petals with a miniscule portion of velvety smooth bright yellow corn soup ladled over. It was truly a flavor masterpiece!
We both look forward to returning to Altura since there are many more fascinating menu items to taste.