So....part II of my epic birthday DAY! I'm done talking about myself and would like to just devote this post to share this amazing place to the rest of the world! I had one of the most memorable dinning experience at Belle Clementine for my 30th birthday!
It's a fairly new restaurant opened in Ballard just last December and lucky for us... only a 15 min walk from our house!
We didn't know that much about it besides that they do communal-style coursed dinners, with only 36 seats, one meal a night, 3.5 course meal + 1 drink for only $40 (including tip!), everyone sits next to each other even if you don't know them, and the idea is to just enjoying food with "simple ingredients, treated simply and honestly" (which reminds us of Italy in a lot of ways!)
So just knowing all that alone made us convinced to try the place....AND also invited 29 other friends to try it for the first time, too!!
....now thinking back, that was prooooobably not the smartest move for the fact that most of our friends are foodies, and none of us knew that much about it!!
But we decided to just take the leap of faith and just go with it....
and boy was I more than pleased....
The owner, David Sanford, who conceived of the idea for a restaurant that is all about building a community through people and food, and about connecting and sharing over meals. The building itself is a century-old and used to be a furniture warehouse. David designed & built the space with a perfect balance of elements: simple, clean, sophisticated, and best of all, warm and comfortable like home...
When we first got to the place, we walked through a narrow hallway that almost felt like an entryway to a house...as we reached the end of the hallway, the space opened up to an expansive space with a tall wood ceiling, an open kitchen on one side, and 3 long dinning tables on the other. There was even a wall with coat hangers, shelves & a bench for people to drop all their stuff off and get comfortable just like at a nice dinner party at someone's home...an AMAZING home that is.
As everyone settled in, two servers went around and served everyone a drink of their own choosing and served up some bread and beautiful fresh olives with orange zest as starters (orange zest was an increbily simple way to make the olives all the tastier).
The format of having this fixed dinner for only 36 people and serving one meal for one evening was surprisingly relaxing. We didn't really realize why that was at first...and were just feeling that everything simply..well, just felt nice! But as we thought about it more...we realized the fact that everyone eats at the same time, makes a huge difference in the whole experience!
This meant that we didn't have to deal with the usual stress like going to a busy place where we'd have to wait for at least an hour, if not more in Ballard on a Friday. After finally sitting down, then taking too much time debating what to get, and then dealing with grumpy impatient waiters...and then the worst is when we feel rushed after eating because the bussers keep wanting to clear the table even though there's still food on the plates....and really, they just need to clear people out so they move to the next diners....
So this was SO refreshing for a change, we didn't have to worry about what dishes to get, the servers & chef were all super accommodating and had time to actually have a conversation about what we were eating! There was none of the crazy intensity of servers pacing around with multiple dishes in one hand, breaking plates or serving up the wrong food....
It was just a pleasant low-key dinning experience minus all the stressful & chaotic elements at a typical restaurant. Doesn't that just sound so nice? I have enough white hair as it is and certainly don't need more just from eating dinner!
So finally, the best part....the food! Here's the menu served that evening!
All the dishes were made with locally sourced ingredients, so it was all seasonal and super fresh.
Beyond that, each dish had this unexpected combination of simple, yet complex flavors....where they were so simple that I could taste the actual flavors of each ingredient, but complex in how the flavors unfolded in layers with each bite....It was a perfect balance where nothing was overpowering...and instead everything complemented each other really well.
The Feta with locally forged nettles was probably the most interesting for the fact that it was so different. Most of us aren't even that familiar with the taste of nettles, or doesn't even know that they're edible! But now we know we wanna get more!
The halibut dish with russo Kale and white beans was also amazing where the lightly roasted crispy kale paired perfectly with the soft halibut in terms of their texture and taste.
I still can't believe that David and his staff were able to pull off the meal that accommodate all 29 of us! Dylan made the reservation for everyone and mentioned some dietary restrictions certain people have (50% of us in fact!), thinking most likely that someone will just have to not eat some of the dishes...but instead, David said it wasn't at all a problem and ended up creating a whole meal that everyone enjoyed.
If it was any other place to ask that many people to just go and try without knowing that much about it...it would have been a TOTAL disaster ......and worst of all, we would end up being black listed by all our friends as someone to never have dinner with, EVER! :p
Just the THOUGHT of trying to find a place that can possibly accommodate that many people between all the different complexity of various dietary restrictions/ preferences / standards just stresses me out, since usually there would be at least a few people to end up walking away not satisfied.
But I was more than impressed that David somehow managed to cater to all the different needs and STILL create dishes where no one felt like the meal was a compromise. Everyone walked away from the place feeling full and amazed by everything they tasted. Unbelievable...
So lucky for me, BC turned out to be the perfect place to have a great meal and a special birthday party! David even came out to talk to us about the place, the food, and then sang happy birthday with some surprise dessert!!
Cupcakes with sheep's milk cream frosting! UH-mazing!
David letting us check out the kitchen and let me go camera crazy!
All this talking about BC is totally making me hungry...
Check out their FB page to see all the updates, what they're serving up each day, their process on where and how they get ingredients, and all the beautiful dishes they've served in the past! But just to warn you, it'll make you super hungry...and most likely drool on your keyboard....a lot.