Some restaurants debut with a bang. They welcome the public with stoves blazing and knives flashing, throwing down good food and offering polished service from the moment they open their doors.
Other establishments may start out on a bumpier road. Maybe they're not so brilliant out of the gate; maybe they have kinks to work out. OK, so they don't get that rave review. But instead of taking their eyes off the sauté pan once the critics have weighed in, their owners and chefs and dining room staff continue pushing -- doing their best to deliver the greatest possible and most delicious experience to every diner. Little by little, the best of them eventually get there. While it's an awesome feat for restaurants to amaze from the start (and even more awesome if the sparkle endures), some of my favorite restaurants in town have followed the second path.
It has been a great pleasure to track the progress chef Danyele McPherson and her team have made at Remedy over the past year. It was evident from the start that the 35-year-old chef -- an alumna of Stephan Pyles and the Grape who came to national attention in 2012 as a contestant on Top Chef Seattle -- has some terrific ideas and a good deal of talent, but the level and consistency of execution weren't quite there early on. I was rooting for progress because the Lower Greenville place -- with its glammy soda fountain vibe -- has so much charm, such a sunny disposition.
If you go for dinner, by all means start with a cocktail, if you're so inclined: Beverage director Máté Hartai is one of the best barmen in town. Lately I've been loving his Mizuwari Highball and its "ritual preparation" -- a tall drink of Japanese whiskey poured on ice and stirred 13 1/2 times, followed by more soda than I imagined I'd want in a whiskey and soda, added slowly, and another 3 1/2 rounds of stirring. Is that better than stirring it 20 times? We'll never know, but this way rocked.
The starting point of McPherson's menu is Southern comfort food, which she elevates with attention to detail, using great ingredients. She blends three kinds of cheese with roasted red peppers and house-made mayo to delicious effect in her snazzy pimento cheese, spreading it on rounds of toasted country white bread and adding a sprinkle of dainty chives. It comes with a cup of terrific cream of tomato soup, which you may want to hang on to tight: Ours was whisked away just as one of my guests was about to dunk some bread into it. (Meanwhile, long-finished cocktails were left on the table. While the service was generally very good, there's still a little work to be done.)
Three classics -- egg salad, ham and eggs and deviled eggs -- meet smartly on grilled focaccia as one of the more appealing toasts in town; McPherson dresses them up with pickled mustard seeds and parsley. Even if the eggs were a wee bit overcooked, I can't get those toasts out of my head (want one now!).
A Kansas City Wagyu beef patty draped with American cheese, house-made dill pickles, tomato and more on a griddled challah bun add up to a remarkable burger, and McPherson makes her own bologna, fries it and fixes it up with a slice of American, mayo and shaved sweet onions on buttery griddled challah for a fried bologna sandwich that's weirdly good. ("This doesn't taste like any bologna I've ever had," marveled my lunch companion one day.)
Things become even more interesting as McPherson lets her fancy fly, as she does with some wonderful salads: one with lacinato kale, house-made ricotta and lightly candied hazelnuts in a lemon-yogurt dressing; another light and vibrant one with arugula, ruby grapefruit supremes, roasted baby beets, shaved fennel and more in a lovely tarragon- kissed dressing. A third of shaved Brussels sprouts, cranberries and blue cheese with toasted almonds and roasted spaghetti squash tastes just right for the season.
When it comes to the main-event part of the menu, McPherson has deliciously departed from her earlier straightforward takes on American classics. She seems to be having much more fun in the kitchen; her plates are much more expressive and presentations more appealing. Her "hobo dinner" is a case in point: An arc of tender, flavorful cubes of short rib mingled with Brussels sprouts and sweet, lightly charred petals of pearl onion face a battalion of glossy dots of horseradish cream. Nashville-style hot fried chicken is very much in vogue at the moment (they serve it across Greenville Avenue at Rapscallion); McPherson gives it a French spin by swapping confit duck for the chicken, and it's crisply, hotly delicious.
Things can get pricey in the process: A double-cut, succulent milk-fed pork chop flanked by terrific half-moon pasta dumplings filled with velvety pumpkin and goat cheese goes for $40; the grilled butcher's cut steak one night, a 32-ounce T-bone gorgeously cooked and served sliced off the bone (a la carte), was $58. It was easily enough steak for two, to be sure, but it's a bit of a surprise to see prices like this on Lowest Greenville. Otherwise, the main courses top out at $29.
Not everything sings: Beet-cured salmon in an appetizer was a little chewy, and seared branzino set on a green-harissa cioppino with Castelvetrano olives and preserved lemons suffered from an idea or two too many. The pork chop would have benefited from a sauce on the plate rather than a smear of apple purée.
And I wish I liked the desserts more; those fancy sundaes with all their frothy whipped cream are so fun and pretty. Unfortunately they're all so sweet (including the pies) that even a pair of college freshmen in our party one night couldn't manage them.
These are small details, though. The point is that Remedy is growing up into quite a lovable restaurant -- and McPherson into quite an interesting chef.
Remedy (3 stars)
Price: $$ (starters, salads and sandwiches $4 to $22; lunch dishes $9 to $24; dinner main courses $24 to $58; desserts $6 to $10)
Service: Generally thoughtful and professional; knowledgeable about the menu.
Ambience: A glammy grown-up soda fountain with high ceilings, an inviting bar and mezzanine dining upstairs
Noise level: Can be very noisy, depending on who's shouting at the next table. Request one of the booths across from the bar if you're hoping for quieter conversation.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with bar open till midnight
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar, with excellent cocktails and a decent if undistinguished, vintageless one-page list of mostly American wines
5 stars: Extraordinary
4 stars: Excellent
3 stars: Very good
2 stars: Good
1 star: Fair
No stars: Poor
Average dinner per person
$ -- $14 and under
$$ -- $15 to $30
$$$ -- $31 to $50
$$$$ -- More than $50