Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sutra, Seattle

UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.

As I was researching restaurants in Seattle while I was planning my trip, I came across Sutra.  From just what is stated on its website, one would think this was one of the top upscale vegetarian restaurants in the Seattle area. Unfortunately, though, I quickly realized it was not all I thought it would be.  The website didn't actually show pictures of the restaurant, rather just its sign. When we arrived, I thought perhaps we were at the wrong place, but sure enough, this tiny run-of-the-mill building with dumpsters next to it was the restaurant. Already, I wasn't feeling very good about this.

We had arrived a few minutes early so we took a short walk in the neighborhood. Sutra is described as a supper-club type setting with two seatings per night each Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.  Our reservation was for the first seating. At around 6:20 p.m., we went in and were promptly seated near the kitchen. It is a tiny venue that only seats 35 people, but at least there is enough room so you don't feel like you are sitting with the party next to you. The menu is described as 4-course prix fixe "vegetarian" menu.  It states that they can accommodate vegan diets so I was a little worried that this would be a cheese and milk heavy venue that would offer few vegan options. I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to discover that it was 100% vegan. When I called earlier in the day, one of the owners mentioned that they are actually all-vegan, but didn't state so online so as not to scare people away. I guess that is fine, but by stating that they accommodate vegans, one might think they don't serve vegan cuisine regularly. The Millennium in San Francisco also doesn't state that they are vegan on the website, but they don't mention they'll accommodate them. It seems silly and deceptive.

Anyway, we started off by ordering the wine pairing. We were served a Stefany Pizzolato Prosecco while we waited for the first course to be served. During this time, we did a visual scan and discussed the decor inside which was equally as unimpressive as the outside. It was nice that it was an open kitchen so you could watch the chef prepare each course, but the rest of the restaurant left much to be desired. The chairs were cheap folding chairs, the lights looked like they were from Ikea, and the silverware was Ikea-brand. Minus two.

Before they served the first course, the chef rang a gong to get everyone's attention, then spoke a bit about the dishes on the menu. I think that was a nice touch. The first course was described as "Chilled Yellow Watermelon-Lemon Basil-Fresh Cayenne Soup with an Arugula-Carrot-Pickled Fennel Salad finished Truffle Oil and Sesame Crisps."  Yeah, that really is what the dish was called. And not just this dish, but all of them were this descriptive. It was pretty silly.  It is one thing if he was trying to provide an ingredient list, but it is a whole other thing when this is actually the name of the course. Way TMI. The salad, served on a plastic plate, was pretty good. I liked the fennel and lemon taste together, but the sesame crisps just seemed random and unnecessary. The soup was incredibly watery and there was too much cayenne in it. The wine pairing was a white wine -- El Porvenir Laborvm Torrontes, which seemed appropriate.

The second course (I'll spare you the actual description) was a zucchini lasagna with roasted yellow peppers, spigariello (leaf broccoli), and cashew cheese. It was topped with arame, a sea vegetable, olives and a blue chili yuzu dressing. This dish was okay, but certainly not spectacular, and the arame and olives were unnecessary. It felt like the chef was trying to do way too much with each dish in an attempt to sound fancy.  The wine pairing was awful - a rich garnacha, monastrell, tempranillo blend. The dish should have been paired with a light white wine. The wine was overpowering the dish.

The third course was a purple potato gnocchi with capers, parsley and smoked chanterelles in a garlic hempseed sauce. It was served over a bed of kale and Black Cherokee heirloom tomatoes. Woah - there were way too many flavors in this dish! Again, way too much going on! It was very complex. The smoked mushrooms were very off-putting with the gnocchi -- if they had been sauteed in oil, it would have been a nicer flavor. The wine was a Esoterica Chavez-Leeds Vineyard Petite Syrah from "Nappa Valley." The wine was nice, but the misspelling ruined it for me. How does a restaurant misspell Napa?

The fourth and final course was a pecan-fig crusted tart with a caramel cacao coconut cream sauce. The dessert was okay, but not wonderful. I enjoyed the ice cream and thought it was the best part of the dish. The pairing was a wonderful Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth from Oregon.

While the dinner itself was only $35 per person with the wine pairings, tax, and gratuity, it cost about $170 for the two of us, which is not a cheap dinner. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with every aspect of the restaurant from the decor to the food. The service was okay, but nothing to write home about. For that kind of money, I'd expect something better. If you are looking for an okay vegan meal, you can give this place a shot, but don't expect it to be on par with Candle 79.

1605 N. 45th St.
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 547-1348

Sutra  on Urbanspoon


  1. Wow, I'm surprised and sorry that you didn't enjoy your meal at Sutra. It's one of my very favorite places!

    I've never been to Candle 79, so I can't make any comparisons there. That said, this is Seattle, not New York, and Sutra--simple decor and all--feels to me like a very Seattle place that I enjoy spending time in. I consider its low-key atmosphere a plus, but I could see needing to adjust expectations if ambiance is particularly important to you with high-end food.

    Here's a write-up I did recently after what I found to be a typically great meal at Sutra; I hope you'll give it another try sometime!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your review! I didn't have a bad experience there -- it just didn't meet my expectations and there were definitely things that were unimpressive. That said, I'm sure it is a great place for Seattle. I just think they need to more accurately represent the dining experience on their website to set realistic expectations.

  3. Hi Angela I was looking for a vegan Thanksgiving dish, and you very nicely described the one you had a Millenium. But I have to say I wish your Sutra experience was more enjoyable for you- maybe try it again. There have been a couple of dishes there that really have blown me away- and I have a very open palate being a carnivore who loves all food.