Most restaurants give you fairly obvious visual clues about what to expect from their food. Picnic tables, paper napkins, and a cooler full of self-serve tap water mean you’re probably about to experience some barbecue. White tablecloths, quiet piano music, and champagne buckets on standby mean you’re in for something classier.
Copine, a new restaurant in a quiet part of Ballard, sends mixed signals. The space may briefly make you think you’ve stepped into a design firm’s Powerpoint slide for the word “minimalist.” But while the exposed wood and lack of white tablecloths make it feel somewhat low-key, you’re actually in for a pretty serious fine dining experience here.
Copine serves fancy food that just plain tastes great, with a twist or two in every dish to keep things interesting. There’s some old-fashioned roasted chicken served with vanilla-scented parsnip puree, salsify chips, and crispy spaetzle on the side, and the risotto with black truffles has a parmesan mousse on top. Our favorite thing here is the pork belly, which, paired with maple bourbon sauce, apricot compote, and shaved celery, tastes surprisingly refreshing.
It’s not just the flavors and the cooking techniques that are impressive. Every dish also looks like it’s part of an art student’s final thesis installation: colorful and very precisely put together. The homemade English pea agnolotti we tried was arranged like a miniature sculpture garden with peas and mushrooms placed carefully among the pieces of pasta. The steak comes with artistic swirls of bordelaise sauce, and a chocolate cherry bombe dessert looks like it’s been garnished with tweezers. (In a good way.)
You can’t go wrong with your order here, as long as you don’t forget to order an Old Fashioned garnished with house-smoked cherries, too. Service is unpretentious as well as generous - you can expect at least one amuse bouche, and you’ll even get a smooth white stone to place underneath your steak knife, contributing to the overall impression that this place has put a lot of thought into everything.
The only drawback here is that you really are paying for the whole surprisingly upscale experience. So think of Copine as a spot for a nice date, or maybe dinner with your parents. It’s not the kind of place where your waiter will be wearing a tux or you’ll be sitting in a velvet booth, but it’s still one of the best meals you can have in Seattle right now.
If these complimentary fried salmon bites topped with roe and creme fraiche were sold like chicken nuggets, we’d buy a ten-piece combo meal, thank you very much.
Shortly after the salmon tempura hits the table, you’ll also get this warm, thyme-infused challah roll with housemade butter. It counts as a course in itself because it tastes so good.
Carbonara with swagger: some A+ fresh tagliatelle served in a perfectly-salted parmesan broth and topped with crispy shreds of cured ham, chervil, and a creamy soft poached egg. This is a nice, surprisingly light starter.
Rich, silky, not too truffle-y, and overall a mandatory small plate to have at your table.
This is the single greatest piece of pork belly currently being served in Seattle, and also the single greatest item on Copine’s menu. It has a campfirey smokiness, and the meat itself is meltingly tender. The apricot compote/shaved celery/maple bourbon jus accompaniments are also excellent.
The homemade agnolotti here rotates seasonally, but it’s typically vegetarian, artistic-looking, and pretty delicious. The version we had was made with fresh peas, wild mushrooms, and a brown butter emulsion.
These people know how to roast a chicken - the meat here is incredibly moist and goes perfectly with the crispy spaetzle, vanilla-parsnip puree, salsify chips, and honey-poached cranberries that are also on the plate. We would have liked it to be a bit saltier, since the sides are mostly on the sweet side, but still, we’d order this again.
This is grilled to a spot-on medium rare, and proves that pillowy gnocchi are just as good as mashed potatoes when it comes to sides. The onion puree and bordelaise sauce tie it all together, though we could have used a bit more of both.
A classed-up log of homemade cherry ice cream on top of a perfect rectangle of chocolate shortbread, accompanied by some fresh cherries and a chocolate drizzle. Lots of Black Forest goodness going on here.