1404 34th Avenue
Reviewed: 6 February 2007
UPDATE - 9 June 2007 - We have heard rumors that there has been a change of chef at Coupage. We haven't managed to get back yet, but we'll update our review when we do.
We've been following Korean food in this country for perhaps a decade. Korea is not one of those lush countries where one can pick ripe guavas from one's cottage, and until very recently it has not been a particularly rich country with a fancy imperial cuisine. If nothing else, the land is harsh with a continental climate, limiting what can be grown. Despite this, Korea has produced its own distinctive cuisine, and over the years we have been pleased to see the Korean love of beef short ribs reach towards the American mainstream. We love beef short ribs too, as well as a number of other Korean specialties.
Coupage has taken a step in the other direction, reaching out from Korean cuisine and borrowing ingredients and techniques from around the world to produce an excellent, but honest, fusion cuisine. The short rib hamburger was stupendous, and even more stupendous for its generosity with foie gras. It was wonderfully rich and completely delicious. By adding a great French ingredient to a Korean staple Coupage created a platonic version of an American perennial. We were impressed.
The restaurant itself is in a charming, and we gather, expensive, neighborhood of Seattle called Madison Park, just a block from the Wilbridge Winery. It is a large storefront space, calmly decorated, and nicely soundproofed. We could concentrate on our food and the conversation. The service was friendly and attentive, and we got the impression that everyone cared.
Of course, the true strength of Coupage is in its kitchen. We started with the squid in a fermented black bean and ginger sauce and a great rendition of the traditional Korean bi bam bop with its rice cake, wild mushrooms, cabbage and a quail egg. Then we split the beef plate for two, and only wished that there had been twice as much tongue, though we greatly enjoyed the hearty hanger steak and the short ribs. We can eat an awful lot of beef short ribs. It's a bit embarrassing. The food was clearly Korean in origin and spirit, but we could taste elements of modern American and modern European cooking in the choice of ingredients, the spicing and the techniques used.
We also tried their house cured arctic char, which had been cured in a Douglas fir liqueur. It was quite good, and, no, it did not taste of pine needles. It reminded us of the cured fish at Aquavit. We were so intrigued by this Northwestern touch, that we found a bottle of Clear Creek's Douglas fir liqueur and tried it neat. No, it did not taste of pine needles, but rather of roses, and forests, and hard alcohol. It was quite good actually. Without our visit to Coupage, we may never have tried it.
Coupage is not exactly a Korean restaurant. It's a sort of modern take on a Korean restaurant, and since Korea, at least South Korea, is a modern nation, that makes a lot of sense.