WHERE: Harvest Vine | 2701 E Madison, Seattle | (206) 320-9771
THE BUZZ: An authentic foreign food experience is always enhanced by equally appropriate ambience, and Harvest Vine, Madison Valley’s little sliver of Basque cuisine, mixes the two qualities perhaps as well as any local restaurant. The bulk of the action is upstairs where a handful of coveted kitchen seats overlook the raucous preparation of small plates. However, diners seeking a mellower atmosphere retreat to the rustic and cozy lower level, whose stone-lined walls and floor-to-ceiling wine racks open a portal to the north coast of Spain; far away from the hustle and bustle at street level.
Start with Ensalada de Boquerones, a colorful anchovie salad with stuffed olives, hard boiled egg and vibrant red piquillo peppers and follow with Tortilla Espanola con Jamon, a cube-shaped potato and onion omelette wrapped in thick Serrano ham, and perfectly salted. The rotating specials menu is full of traditional surprises, as evidenced by the baby octopus plate. They were served skewered (heads and all) with red potatoes and made for a great deviation from anyone’s comfort zone.
The remainder of the regular menu is a combination of seafood and meats, highlighted by Vieras, tender, juicy sea scallops with grilled acorn squash and red onion-bacon jam. Two meat dishes I tried — braised young chicken with almond and hard boiled eggs, pork belly with roasted shallots — were rich with flavor and served with a block of flavorful spinach on the side. Cap the night off with a Tarta Vasca, a perfectly crusted almond-butter pastry topped with chilled, tart cherries.
FUN FACT:Harvest Vine offers a hearty weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and space fills up quickly. Want in on an even tougher seat? Sign up for the weekly Paella Dinner on Tuesday night. It’s reservation only, and the list closes by Sunday night.