Austin is proud of their tacos. Nashville does hot chicken. Los Angeles is the capital of $15 juice. Seattle’s claim to fame? Coffee, obviously. Oysters too. But there’s another category that Seattle is very serious about: foraged food. There’s always some new leaf popping up, there’s no such thing as an unfamiliar type of edible fungus, and restaurants here are extraordinarily proud of their seasonal ingredients. Which brings us to Sitka & Spruce, the Seattle restaurant that flies its foraged food flag higher than just about anyone else.
But just like your friend who knits their own clothing with artisanal yarn, Sitka & Spruce ends up being too Seattle-y for its own good. Your friend’s clothes don’t fit her, and also she spent three times more making the artisanal yarn clothes than she would have buying them in a store. Sitka & Spruce’s obsession with rare ingredients is so intense that it gets in the way of the food actually tasting good.
At first we thought that maybe we hadn’t been able to figure out the right combination of dishes here. But even the recommendations from the servers were disappointing, and none of the crazy ingredients - like pineapple weed and yolk emulsion - really taste like much. Most things on the menu feel less like a meal and more like a plate of composting materials.
Portions are small, the food is pricey, and the atmosphere is strange: the place is inside Melrose Market, squeezed in next to flower and cheese shops. Moreover, if you don’t get a spot at the spacious chef’s table, you’re stuck shoved against a concrete wall in the corner.
Provided you can get a spot at that communal table, Sitka & Spruce is fine for sitting down with a date, sharing cocktails and charcuterie, and watching the cooks hurry around the stove - but a full meal isn’t worth the price tag. Our advice? Get some wine to-go from Sitka & Spruce’s awesome bottle shop (in the same market), Bar Ferdinand, and drink it at home. The only thing you’ll have to worry about foraging is some delivery pizza and something actually-good to watch on Netflix.
We’ll just take six plates of this, thanks.
This salad has hazelnuts and an ash-roasted shallot vinaigrette. We have no idea what ash-roasted means, but it tastes like a normal vinaigrette. It’s a nice set of greens, but if we get promised ash-roasted shallot, it’d be nice if it tasted like a campfire. And if we’re paying so much for it, please make it rain with hazelnuts.
Parsnips, spicy crumbled sausage, a fermented lime sauce, and fennel seed. When we had a bite that happened to be tender and with a mouthful of nduja, this was excellent. But if your menu lists the parsnips as braised, they probably shouldn’t still be mostly raw in the middle. Also, the fermented lime reminds us of a sour warhead.
Close, but still not quite there. We’ve got a couple thick slices of porchetta where just right by the skin, there’s a couple millimeters-worth of the most delicious pink cured meat, and the rest is plain brown cooked pork and doesn’t have that same salty preserved flavor (and thus exponentially not as tasty). Plus, the side of mustard greens and squash puree needed more flavor just as badly as you needed more of that sourdough bread.