After everyone got over the quirky charm of such a good chef (Matt Dillon) cooking in such an unexpected place (an Eastlake strip mall), Sitka & Spruce’s near-windowless and somewhat claustrophobic dining room became something to accept, rather than something to praise. Now, however, having relocated to Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market in late May, Sitka is an utterly brilliant showcase for the nationally renowned chef with a strange talent for making plain food spectacular and clever.
Cool, silvery light rushes in through the old auto shop’s windows, and a brick wood-burning oven anchors the open kitchen—nothing sits between diners perched at the long, wooden communal table and the band of bearded chefs busily working nearby. A breezy, laid-back air—the essence of Sitka & Spruce, really—belies some serious cooking, but devotees will notice a change in the flavor profiles. The Northwest-ingredient-driven part still holds, but Dillon’s recent travels to Spain and his blossoming interest in Persian and North African cooking result in brilliant dishes like mackerel with feta and pistachios ($16)—so weird, and yet so wonderfully right. Sticky black rice (from the Po River delta) with tender clams and salt cod ($19) is a wonder of texture and flavor.
Lunch and weekend brunch are also new. But don’t go looking for French toast; think chickpea purée with harissa and carrot salad ($13), farm-fresh salads ($8), fireplace-roasted quail ($18). It would be hard to have a meal here that’s anything less than very good.
Brunch Sat.–Sun., lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Tue.–Sat. Capitol Hill, 1531 Melrose Ave. E; 206.324.0662; sitkaandspruce.com. $$ A.A.S.