Mark Fuller of West Seattle’s newish and dramatically acclaimed Spring Hill Restaurant is going to cost me close to $200, never mind the bill from dinner the other night. In fact it’s a damn good thing this place is not around the corner from me, because if I were eating there weekly, my kitchen could not handle the amount of sheer gadgetry this hot new chef would unwittingly inspire me to go out and buy. I have been just fine for the last 30something years without a pasta sheet maker or ravioli former. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my pasta; I prefer hand-rolled, stretched and cut, and until now saw no reason to change that. I’ve never been a big fan of buying extraneous kitchen junk because all the “things” in the world do not a chef make.
In college, when I had left behind my father’s Henckels and before I could afford decent knives of my own, I took my cue from Uncle Pauly of GoodFellas and sliced my garlic with plain old razor blades. Fast, effective and no-frills has always served me well in the kitchen, but after one night at Spring Hill, that’s all gone out the window. You see, I’ve acquired a new obsession with making the perfect raviolo, and I don’t think any amount of hand-rolling and finger-crimping is going to cut it this time.
My life was much simpler in Torino when I first discovered Agnolotti dal Plin, lovely little mini-ravioli that I could easily make by pinching the pasta around the stuffing- tutto al mano, all by hand. A giant, gleaming perfect raviolo is much less forgiving. So much of the dish is presentation, and when you can’t hide the wonky bits by tucking them under the pretty ones à la a big dish of agnolotti, you’ve got to make sure the entire raviolo is a topnotch beauty. Add to that the difficulty of getting a duck egg inside the raviolo without wounding the yoke and experiencing seepage and you’ve got yourself a grade A quandary, folks. Add to that some house-cured duck prosciutto, garlic chips and (elusive!) green sauce, and you’ve got Spring Hill’s duck egg yolk raviolo dish off the bread/pasta/egg quadrant of the menu. You’ve also got an utterly indescribable piatto del paradiso for a mere $10. Taste one bite- it’s worth battling rush hour traffic across a single-file bridge full of minivan moms in no particular hurry- IT’S THAT GOOD!
So good I must try to duplicate. I fear I’m losing all my moral fiber, but I’ve broken down and ordered the pasta attachment for the trusty Kitchenaid, hence the nearly 200 smackers I’ll be shelling out due to Mark Fuller’s genius. It’s no wonder this bright young chef used to sell cars (something we have in common, but that’s another story) before getting his Seattle start with Tom Douglas- he’s a whiz at getting folks to take out their pocketbooks! I’m now in the process of researching the perfect raviolo mold for my undertaking- guess I should have asked him if I could take a peek.
I have gone on at length about one particular dish so much you are probably wondering if that’s all I ate- of course not! Everything was beyond-words brilliant, especially the Wagyu sirloin from Snake River Farms. Served with a cheddar/thyme popover, herbs with garlic and olive oil, and wild arugula and priced very reasonably at $30, this dish is also not-to-be-missed. I think it is wonderful to see more and more restaurants sourcing from artisanal farms and ranches, and I love that Spring Hill has chosen Snake River Farms as their beef purveyor since SRF has such thoughtfully produced meats and an interesting back story. I also love-loved the way Mark filleted the sirloin into several medallions before plating the dish- that way the meat stops cooking beyond a perfect medium rare and the final diner who can be a bit knife-clumsy after a couple glasses of wine has a bit less work to do.
I guess with that said, you’ll want to hear about the wine? Good, because it was excellent (though could have been served 5 degrees cooler, my only complaint of the night). In fact I’m placing a call to Esquin today to see if they can source a case of it for a good price. I’ve recently been very intrigued by the burgeoning AVA known as the Horse Heaven Hills in Central Washington. I was pretty excited to see a wine from there, Robert Karl Cellars’ ’06 Claret (a great Cab-based blend), on the list at Spring Hill so I (wo)manned-up and got a bottle. Mellow oak, an even hand with the blend, and smooth drinkability made this wine disappear in time to need a glass of port once dessert rolled around. And what a steal that glass was- Kopke 20 year tawny for $10- thank you sir, may I have another? The standout of my dessert course was the unlikely savorability of popcorn ice cream; paired with the tawny I was virtually rendered speechless, and that is no small task.
I cannot leave you without paying small lip service to the atmosphere. I’ve never been a huge fan of mixing steel with natural wood, but Spring Hill succeeds like Taylor Swift at the VMA’s in this department. The calm, orderly, and well-executed open kitchen is all gleaming steel and boggle-eyed lighting out of a Ray Bradbury novel; then there is a seamed transition out to the adjacent dining room that is all about Danish modern paneling which has the added benefit of being sound-dampening. It’s a good thing, too, since every table at this ample-sized restaurant is destined to be filled for a long time to come.
As you may have ascertained, I am not native to West Seattle and I feel that getting there can be quite the journey to another world not unlike Narnia. Spring Hill finally gives me a reason to make the trek and suspend my disbelief for a few moments in time. You probably wouldn’t consider me a true West Seattle convert just yet; no lazy afternoons spent on the yoga mat on Alki beach decked out in Lululemon with two Golden Retrievers for me! When the sun starts to wane in the sky, though, I will definitely find occasion to cross the bridge into the world of serenity that is Spring Hill.