by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop
“Have you ever heard of Redmond’s Red Martini, Bar & Grill?” my friend Jill asked me.
The establishment is so new it doesn’t even have a website. But one look at the Facebook page and the menu, and I knew this was my kind of place. That feeling was reinforced the second my friends and I walked into the lovely Art Deco-style lounge with its 15-foot ceilings, original pillars that date back to 1928, vintage movie posters, dark wood bar and old Hollywood feel. We settled into opposing red velvet banquettes and quickly made our selections from the 16 signature martinis. “I don’t feel like I’m in Redmond anymore,” one of my friends said as our cocktails were presented with a couple of amuses, in this case tiny dishes of mixed olives and house-brined vegetables.
We start off with three appetizers. The Artisan Charcuterie plate offered top-notch local cured meats—salami, prosciutto and capicola—served with toasted baguette slices, tasty stone-ground mustard and cornichons. Our second choice, the marinated mozzarella cheese and walnut salad, would have been more successful had the heirloom tomato been ripe. Still, we all liked the contrast of the sweet rosemary balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnut with the salt in the fresh mozzarella and the acid in the tomato. Our third appetizer took things to a whole new level.
The Smoked Salmon Rillette melded both smoked and steamed salmon into a silky and yet slightly chunky spread. A sealing layer of clarified butter added an element of creamy decadence to each bite, with the accompanying fried capers and diced shallots providing contrasting sharp, salty notes. The dish reinforced my sense that I’d found a new home. My friend Viv echoed that sentiment. “Bottom line, I can’t wait to come back,” she announced. And that was before we’d tried the small plates.
Our five selections ran the length of the table. We started with the five-ounce beef tenderloin medallion served with a wild mushroom Merlot sauce on a bed of roasted root vegetable puree. “Rich, delicious comfort food” we all agreed. The Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin served with a lavender pomegranate glaze and sweet potato hash was a pig on pig delight—tender with a hint of salt and sweet. Crispy Dungeness crab cakes—actually a mixture of crab meat, scallops, white fish and fresh herbs with minimal filler—were lightly breaded and moist. The accompanying tomato jam and Cajun aioli worked just as well as the seafood cakes themselves.
Owner and general manager Suzanne Tarbet checked in on us right about then. “Have you tried the duck yet?” she asked, her voice tinged with anticipation. We hadn’t, but we immediately rectified that oversight. The duck breast, cooked a perfect pink, was served on a chive blini and topped with braised fennel, fig compote and rosemary balsamic syrup. By then we had talked with Suzanne enough to know that she had come from a television marketing background before opening Red Martini.
“How the hell did she do this without ever being in the restaurant business?” exclaimed my friend Jill. The answer, in part, is Suzanne’s talented chef Robert Helwig, who worked at House on Metolius in Sisters and Napa Valley’s Brix before that.
Our festival of small plates concluded with a baked gratin of wild mushroom and brioche with Asiago, Mozzarella and Gruyere on a bed of crispy prosciutto and roasted pimento coulis. My friend Leah made a small sound at the back of her throat after her first bite.
“I’m coming back for that,” she announced.
“Did you just mew?” I asked.
“I did,” she happily admitted. “Like a kitten over warm milk.”
We ended with four desserts that were all over the top without being overly sweet: a dark chocolate pot de crème tinged with coffee, a white chocolate mousse kiwi and berry parfait, a banana brioche pudding with craisins and rum-maple syrup and a roasted pear crème brulée.
Red Martini, Bar & Grill brings a fine dining approach to what is basically a cocktail lounge that feels like an upscale living room. “This whole experience is like drinking a martini,” one of my friends announced after we had all commented on the beautiful presentation of both food and cocktails. “It takes you away because it all works.”
Red Martini, Bar & Grill
509 SW Sixth Street, Redmond
Owner: Suzanne Tarbet
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 4–10pm