Key words to my S&F experience:

Lackluster, anti-climatic, lack of depth, disappointing, underwhelming, unconvincing, no detectable levels of Umami, lack of savor, absence of “melt-in-your-mouth” gastro euphoria. And for nearly 30 bucks a plate, we better have some goddamn inkling of a food-gasm.

Huge diss: Where was the house-made goodness other than the ricotta which is not brain surgery to make, if anyone knows knows that Ri-Cotta is Italian for re-cooked, and what is re-cooked is the leftover whey from having made mozzarella. Essentially a by-product, product. The Coppa salumi was great,spicy and explosive but from Zoey’s meats.  No claim to fame should S&F reap.

Service: nice, but not making for a notable dining experience. The waitstaff made no mention of specials, offer for menu’ clarification (not that it was needed but it maybe could have been), no mention of recommendations, suggested pairings with the dinky 3 ounce over priced (underwhelming) glasses of wine, etc. Not that staff should be this overzealous or that I have no experience in the service industry, but I assume that people working in such a postulated food/gastro passion oriented establishment, that the staff would hold some sort of interest in the products at hand.  In this case, I had no sense of their enthusiasm other than a warm smile and general friendliness. This sterile, non-food interested but rather just doing the job approach service reminded me of other chain-like, name brand dining like Via Tribunali.

Another starter, besides the Coppa w/ Ricotta:

Breaded oysters: Soggy. lukewarm, like stale breadcrumbs attempted to be baked in oil but got dropped in an ice bath instead. and the bed of salt was a little over ambitious. Only one oyster had a great texture and complexity, the others seemed like poor picks being on the less meaty side and more on the rubbery side.

My Main:  Mackerel with fried cauliflower and ham hock : way over salted, burnt as if trying to imitate an outer layer of crispy pan friage, it was as if a bouillion cube were dissolved in a smidgen of butter in a cast iron and the fillet was cooked in this makeshift seasoning bath. Nothing penetrated my taste buds besides the salt just penetrating my cellulite stores. (Ladies, ever heard that cellulite are pockets of water retention caused by over-salting?Urban Legend? perhaps. But i’ll roll with it.)

The main had barely any cauliflower, which also seemed to have been “pan-fried” in the same bouillion pan with no culinary creative flavor effort and the ham hock chunks tasted as if someone invented “pork jerky”, from low quality meaty bacon, and over salted it.

In Italy, I’ve observed people react to dishes saying “non mi convince proprio” and smack their lips together with eyeballs rolled back as if trying to search for some redeeminging quality that they never end up discovering. And that is what I felt like saying, that is, I wasn’t convinced.

Others ordered pasta (le conchiglie, reminded me of school lunch pasta shells and “secret sauce”)  and rapini (seemingly plain and overcooked), gnocchi (rubbery alla bland pasty dry ragu), and a whole (super bony, and not melt of the bone kinda..) perch which came with a side that was not listed on the original menu (white beans w/ fennel vs. a seemingly random salad mix of garden weeds….hmmm which both totally have so so much in common)

The only nice thing about this place was the “ambiance”, being able to say I was at Staple and Fancy, and more proof that this chain of eateries challenge what rustic (real, not american-elitcism-ized) Italian cooking really tastes like.

I did take pictures, but this place isn’t worth the time uploading them. They would just be an empty skeleton of what good food would have been if soulful cooking had been involved. I won’t tease your senses with such mirages.

The group next to us seemed to really enjoy their meal, but I don’t think they had a well-trained palate or ability to distinguish true craft from haphazardness. They kept saying everything was impressive but couldn’t quite use very convincing descriptor adjectives such as “poignant” “savory”, “delicate”, “tasty”, or “complex.”

1st of all, one of them was a vegetarian. Not that vegetarians don’t eat well, I’ll let you think that one out. Perhaps our Seattle food culture is usually satisfied with little boutiquey plates with celebrity affiliation whose menu look nice on paper and probably excited their taste buds more than the ready-made foods from Trader Joe’s.

I vow, to seek out the hole-in-the-walls that don’t need to hype themselves up with a name or an off-site freshly made pasta company (I’m sure Trader Joe’s sells fresh pasta too, and I’m sure it came from an industrial kitchen too.)

No swoon, for you, Ethan.

1 Comment on Staple and Fancy Mercantile

  1. Denise
    April 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm (13 years ago)

    (from Ballard Home Comforts)

    Loved this review! Well written. Thank you.

    I wish I could send you to a restaurant that I used to love in SF called Cafe Jacqueline. I would like to know how you would review it these days, for it’s been a decade or more since I’ve had a meal there.

    I Met her when we were involved in a magazine project years ago. She is delightful. Makes the souffles to die for. The restaurant space is laid out in a classic European fashion which is extremely pleasing to me. Ambience= perfection- at least in my book.


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