When you walk into Urbane, it’s easy to get caught up in how sleek it is. With glass panels on two sides, it’s airy and open, even with niches carved out for the bar, formal seating, and the half-enclosed leather booths. With restaurant ambiance like that, and a Silver LEED certification to add to the appeal, it can be easy to let quality go to the wayside. This is not so with Urbane.
I went in around 2pm, that oh-so-exciting time of the afternoon in between lunch and happy hour when they have a small plates menu available. (It’s discounted for happy hour, but I didn’t want to wait until 4.)
The menu works to bridge the gap between comfort/bar food and upscale nibbles. Flatbreads versus cheese fries, corn dogs (with a Field Roast option), and onion rings against cured meats and even more cheese. My one request: Urbane needs salad options on this menu. Add a small salad or two, and I would absolutely bring in friends and colleagues for late lunch meetings.
The staff were also unbelievably friendly. Once I told Hicham, front of house, what I was up to, he brought a few chefs to talk to me while I was there, including the incredibly photogenic cook Bobby and sous chef Amanda. And it really stuck out how everyone was just visibly in a good mood. Hicham and I even got into a pretty in depth discussion about my giant macro lens versus the ease of cell phone photography. (I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea. There were only a few tables with people, so we had the chance to talk candidly about food photography and all that nerdy stuff. I’d still suggest talking to the staff – they’re awesome, and highly knowledgeable regarding their venue).
My drink was a custom made variation on my usual mock-mojito, with grapefruit and pineapple added for full citrus enhancement. I do think Urbane could be a good place for mocktail experimentation, given their range of fruit juices. For my meal, I chose the meat and cheese plate ($12), the corn dogs ($6), and a key lime tart ($7).
The meat and cheese plate is not a large portion, but it could be shared. The cheeses were a cheesecloth wrapped cheddar, Naughty Nellie tomme, and Quillisascut blue. The meats, all from Zoe’s, were a prosciutto, coppa, and fennel-studded salami. Served on a small wooden cutting board, it was finished off with pepper crackers, dried apple rings, and a savory spread.
Everything was superb, the richness of the prosciutto and the spicy coppa playing well with the sharpness of the cheddar. It would benefit from a mention, either in the menu or on a card, of some additional details regarding where these items were from. I’m sure those fresh, crunchy hazelnuts were from Holmquist Farms, but whether or not Urbane pickles their own cornichons remains a mystery.
The corn dogs were perfectly juicy, with a slightly spicy, fluffy batter shell giving way to the Zoe’s hot dog. They came with ketchup and mustard, but I was really content to eat them as is. (No, let’s be honest – I inhaled them.) I had one minor issue: the bamboo skewers they were on were somewhat flimsy, making them difficult to eat unless you gripped the stick very close to the corn dog. If the corn dogs were smaller, maybe a third the size of a regular hot dog instead of half, it would work great.
The key lime tart, with a butter crust tart shell, toasted coconut-graham crumble, and freshly whipped cream, was executed with the notion that the kitchen wanted to teach you what key limes actually taste like. The filling was creamy and delicate, without the immediate pucker you expect from lime zest. It was refreshing, light, and just what I needed on a sunny spring afternoon.
Urbane looks gorgeous, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are looks and no substance; this Seattle restaurant team is out to serve tasty, high quality, locally supported fare, and they’ve got the culinary chops to make it, in a city full of excellent places to eat.
You can find Urbane at 1639 8th Avenue, Seattle, Washington, 98101, or visit them on the web at urbaneseattle.com.
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