Shota Nakajima puts a Japanese spin on Detroit-style pizza.
Image: Courtesy Shota Nakajima
Imminent restaurant openings are as much a harbinger of fall as nippy air, sweaters, and the noxious ubiquity of all things pumpkin spice. This past week brought a few waves of excitement on the dining front. This season brings us a popular local chef moving in a new direction (spoiler: it’s pizza, and it’s happening this weekend), plus the year’s most astonishing popup going brick-and-mortar, and a pre-pandemic sensation, resurrected as a bar.
Here are three new projects to obsess about in the coming weeks.
Top Chef fan favorite and Taku chef Shota Nakajima is getting into…pizza? The James Beard Award semifinalist is taking over the food situation inside Redhook Brewlab, next door to his karaage bar on Pike Street. His plan: pizza, roughly inspired by Detroit-style pies. Nakajima’s finding a way to work his Osaka culinary training into these deep-dish pan pizzas, both in the toppings and the dough.
Redhook’s owners were open to something more in his Japanese canon, like okonomiyaki. “But that would be such a change for everyone who comes here already,” says Nakajima. “This is Redhook Brewery. It needs pizza.” For his take on Detroit’s very au courant style of pizza, he turned to mochiko flour, aka the sweet rice flour that gives mochi its sweet, chewy texture. “Not a big percentage,” he promises. A little bit, plus some buttermilk koji brine, delivers a sweet flavor almost like milk bread, per Nakajima, with a little of that mochi chew. “Plus, the edges crunch a lot better with rice flour.”
Nakajima laid in a supply of steel pans to ensure that crunch, plus the all-important lattice of crisped up cheese. Kōbo (the Japanese word for “yeast”) does a classic cheese and a pepperoni with garlic honey, but other toppings draw firmly from Shota-ville—like cabbage and spiced ground chicken, even fried chicken from Taku.
A companion lineup of bar snacks includes pretzel bites, umami tots, and salt and pepper broccoli. The counter inside Redhook’s Brewlab at 714 East Pike opens (whoa) this weekend.
Hamdi’s fire-powered test runs look awfully appealing.
Image: Courtesy Hamdi
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard this level of excitement around a newly arrived chef. More specifically, people can’t stop raving about the whole spit-roasted lamb that chef Berk Güldal and partner Katrina Schult produce at their Fair Isle Brewing popups. The couple met at SingleThread, Kyle Connaughton’s farm and restaurant in Healdsburg that currently possesses three Michelin stars. But when they open a proper brick-and-mortar (hopefully) later this month, Hamdi’s owners promise a relaxed restaurant, one that explores cuisine from Güldal’s native Turkey, plus broader Ottoman influences.
Hamdi’s signature kebab—deceptively simple; deeply juicy—anchors the menu, but other dishes will rotate monthly. J. Kenji López-Alt’s Insta photos from a recent practice-run lunch are so appealing, you basically want to stagger into your screen.
Güldal and Schult took over the former Tarsan i Jane space at 4012 Leary Way, a worthy predecessor for a kitchen that runs on fire, with no gas or electric range. Right now they’re waiting for a few key items to arrive via the pandemic supply chain. “It’s all up to the tables and chairs,” says Güldal. They’re hoping to be open for dinner by the end of September. I’m especially excited about the couple’s longer-term plans for Turkish-style brunch.
Incredibly, the couple first came to Seattle to do a three-day guest chef stint on the sidewalk in front of Hitchcock in 2021 (they came at the invitation of Grant Rico, another SingleThread alum). Owner Brendan McGill helped fabricate a spit so they could roast lamb; McGill later gifted them the custom rig when they decided soon after to move to this heretofore unfamiliar city. The spit won’t be gathering dust once Hamdi opens; Güldal still plans to do a whole lamb roast on occasion, perhaps monthly.
Dreams do come true. When Sun and Erin Hong closed their lunch counter, By Tae, in early 2021, there was talk of moving on “to find our new home.” This can be the restaurant version of telling an acquaintance, “we should really hang out”—even noblest intentions seldom materialize into reality. But the Hongs have made good on their promise. They’ve taken over the former Tippe and Drague spot on Beacon Hill. I love this funky little freestanding building, with a roofline that’s almost crenellated. But not as much as I love Sun Hong’s food.
Back in the Chophouse Row days, Hong served hand rolls from an eight-seat counter, hidden in the heart of the building. The former Bar Ferdinand chef would usually freestyle a few bites in between rolls, each one as impeccably fresh as the main event. Suddenly it made perfect sense to rearrange your entire schedule so you could write your name on each morning’s reservation clipboard.
The new By Tae is far too big for everyone to eat out of Hong’s hand (and, hopefully, for clipboards). It’s more of a bar, with the proper name By Tae Sohn Mat (the latter part Korean for “hand taste”). The website promises grilled meats and vegetables, a bar, a yard.
That crenelated brick building at 3315 Beacon Avenue is now a glorious, unapologetic shade of turquoise. The inside now boasts booths and an L-shaped bar. The Hongs are still raising funds (dig the merch) to wrap everything up, so the opening timeline is still very TBD.