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1550 Hyde Wine Bar & Cafe

Foodie Haven at Neighborhood Haunt

I'm not sure which is more memorable from my visit to 1550 Hyde, the glass of Aglianico I was given to sample, or the sweetbreads with fava beans. Ultimately it's this conflict that made the whole dinner an extremely pleasurable experience, the menu and the wine list are treated as equal players in the meal.
The small, comfortable dinning room reminded me of a favorite childhood home in one of Seattle's residential neighborhoods, open rooms with white walls and simple, tailored, gray wainscoting. The minimalist décor is given a splash of color from the glowing amber bar, matching amber shadow box sconces, and the four-foot flower arrangement at the end of the bar that Chef Peter Erickson does himself. The focus is meant to be the food and company, although the amber highlights could have been brought out a bit more if the house lights were brought down.

After a quick perusal of the focused and daily changing menu, my companion and I were surprised that the veal sweetbreads caught both our attentions. Not something either of us would normally order, it was the sauce of fava beans, shallots, white wine and cream that sucked us in; we were happy it did. Like rich, tender morsels of chicken, the texture was indulgent, but not cloying. Paired with the flavors of caramelized shallots, reduced wine and spring favas, the dish far exceeded either of our expectations. The glass of Chassagne Montrachet Burgundy became a cleansing, acidic burst of chocolate and pomegranates when chasing the sweetbreads. Our other starter of ricotta and stinging nettle gnocchi with pinenuts and French butter was beautifully light in texture and full of the earthy, nutty flavor of nettles. The French butter had just enough salt and richness to bring everything together.

We moved on to Grimaud Farms duck breast and Sonoma rabbit for our entrees. Lured by descriptions hinting at rich, succulent dishes, we were a bit bewildered by the actual product. The duck breast was tender, juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare, but a bit fatter than I liked. However, the sauce, listed simply as a red wine sauce, had a distinct soy flavor and the farro side had a bit of heat that gave the whole dish an oriental flair that was completely unexpected. Our glass of A to Z Pinot Noir did a wonderful job of enhancing the bright, zippy flavors of the dish. The rabbit Modenese with aged balsamico, tomato and rosemary was a twin of coq au vin and I didn't detect any balsamic on my tongue. The rabbit, a more rustic dish, was rounded out by the Monsanto Chianti to make a perfect cool weather comfort food. Both entrees were extremely tasty with nicely balanced flavors, textures, and sides; the dishes simply weren't what either of us anticipated from the descriptions.

To highlight the cuisine, Kent Ligget originally constructed a list of 40 wines under $40, now expanded to 120 wines with a handful of offerings in the $60 to $90 range. Most of the list still resides between $30 and $50. Ligget's enthusiasm for wine shows in his balance of domestic, French and Italian bottlings, the exciting and frequently changing flight program, and even his choice of lead-free crystal in five different shapes. His knowledge is gladly shared tableside whether you're looking for something new and exciting or the perfect match for the entrees.

1550 Hyde is a great combination of neighborhood restaurant and serious food haven. The menu is rustic and ingredient-driven, the space comfortable and warm, and the wine list an attraction in itself. I'll certainly be back for the sweetbreads and a taste of whatever Pinot Noir Ligget is pouring that week.