Altura: Best New Restaurant 2012

This year’s batch of Best New Restaurants adds new depth to our lively, layered restaurant scene.

It’s hardly a surprise that the high-end dining market has struggled these past few years. Not only have diners’ budgets taken a hit, their tastes have shifted ever more toward casual, neighborhood restaurants with come-as-you-are appeal and a “no reservations necessary” policy. But when the time comes to dust off the heels and skirt—when the occasion calls for wine glass clinking and across-the-table hand-holding—Altura, which bravely opened its refined doors in the midst of the recession, fits the bill quite nicely.

Chef Nathan Lockwood last cooked at The Ruins, the private event space on Lower Queen Anne, before he and his wife, Rebeccah, opened on the north end of Capitol Hill last October. He heads an orderly open kitchen; the chefs prepare soulful, precise three-, four- or five-course menus ($53, $61, $69; wine pairings available), which may include house-made cavatelli (a short, ribbed pasta enrobed in a plush duck liver sauce) or the city’s best Waygu beef carpaccio, melting onto the tongue in fat-studded sheets, accented with Parmesan and shaved fennel. Engage the sommelier, the ever-charming Guy Kugel, and you’ll likely get to try several wines to find a good fit. There are amuse-bouches, there is candlelight, there is soft music, and there is the overall comfort of being very well taken care of. Fine dining, indeed.

You should know: Good for date nights and special occasions; expect to break the bank a bit; great bar dining if you’re flying solo (but a limited liquor selection); a la carte menu available; reservations recommended. Get directions.