The new dining room at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar. Photo courtesy of Seastar Restaurant

Bellevue’s Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar reopens after top-to-bottom remodel

After a brief four-week closure, Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar has been reopened. Seastar, which celebrated its 15th anniversary last spring, underwent a complete rebuilding of the interior, from the studs up. The new space showcases a rich, warm color palette throughout to create an overall aesthetic that feels comfortable and more casual with a sophisticated, contemporary edge. Dramatic new features include a new and immersive Raw Bar dining area, stunning temperature-controlled floor-to- ceiling glass enclosed wine storage and the addition of intimate dining spaces.

With the redesigned interior, guests will notice a revitalized menu to include all-time favorite Seastar classic entrees with a greatly expanded menu that includes smaller ‘tastes’, a more diverse raw bar offering and substantial wine selections added to Seastar’s award-winning program.

“A tremendous amount of planning went into the creation of our beautiful and comfortable new environment. We also had fun developing the new tastes menu that will allow guests to mix and match a variety of dishes to customize their dining experience,” Chef John Howie said. “The final result is a source of great pride for us and I’m excited to see our guests’ reactions.”

Reinvention of the space

During the month of July, Seastar was completely transformed, a feat that required four years of careful planning and preparation by Chef Howie, his Seastar team and BOX, a commercial interior design firm from Vancouver, Canada specializing in hospitality interiors.

The new color palette includes different hues of light and dark blue with grey, and a striking use of black and white granite throughout the new bar. The iconic Raw Bar was re-constructed to provide a more immersive dining area and interactive experience between chef and guest. The Raw Bar’s sushi display case lines the interior perimeter of the seated area to visually tempt diners with the freshest seafood available.

The custom reception area was reconfigured to include a comfortable sitting area with a marble and shark-skinned leather host desk and accented with a collection of vintage brass crabs. The dining room interior walls are lined with steel blue and grey metal “fish scales”, and two temperature controlled floor-to- ceiling wine jewel boxes that create a stunning visual statement.

Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, which encompasses 7,800 total square feet, successfully retained its original number of seats – and actually added one additional seat– for a capacity of 225 guests. New intimate dining spaces will accommodate larger parties, including a community table with beautiful white granite inserts situated between the glass-enclosed wine storage and the restaurant’s floor-to- ceiling windows.

New tastes, entrees and Raw Bar menu expansion

Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, recognized as the Pacific Northwest’s premier destination for seafood, is relentless about continuous improvement, so it’s no surprise to see new additions and changes to the menu. The inclusion of smaller, shareable plates allows guests to embark on a uniquely communal tasting tour of items from the sea and from the land representing various culinary styles and geographies. Some of the new ‘tastes’ include:

• Shrimp Shumai with shiitake mushroom, scallion, ginger and soy

• Abalone with white wine, clam juice, lemon butter, capers

• Escolar with citrus Ponzu, garlic crisps, yuzu tobikko, scallion

• Wagyu Meatballs with mushroom and foie gras infused veal demi

• Grilled Kalbi Sirloin with green papaya salad, macadamia nuts

Guests preferring a traditional fine dining experience will appreciate the large selection of Seastar classic entrees, including Cedar Plank King Salmon and Ancho-Chili Smoked Steelhead, along with new dishes, including:

• Tempura Lobster with fingerling potato salad and saffron-caper- tarragon sauce

• Daily handmade pasta selection, offered in both a taste and an entrée

The Raw Bar menu features a greatly expanded selection of seasonal sashimi and sushi including new specialty maki and nigiri styles. The Raw Bar chefs will showcase a variety of seasonal fish each day, along with unique preparations, like the seared Japanese “A5” Wagyu beef served nigiri style, and vegetarian options such as ‘Abokado’ nigiri with yuzu-citrus zest and unagi sauce or the ‘Poruchini’ mushroom nigiri. As before, the Raw Bar will serve the region’s best oysters and shellfish, as well as several new seasonal crudo, ceviche and poke offerings to choose from. Additionally, Seastar has added house baked breads and rolls to the menu.

Expanded wine program includes 275 new selections

The addition of new wine rooms and varietal specific temperature storage has changed the cellar from a purely functional component in the restaurant to one that guests can truly experience. Two environmentally controlled wine rooms were constructed in the heart of the dining room to showcase the restaurant’s award- winning wine selection, and to allow the sommelier team to serve guests more efficiently and serve wine at the optimal temperature.

The additional wine capacity allowed the expansion of the wine program to include 275 new wine selections for a total of approximately 750 wines, including verticals from the following producers: Aubert, Peter Michael, Williams-Selyem, Rochioli, Kosta Brown, Kongsgaard, Marcassin, Comtes de Georges Vogues and Bruno Clair. Seastar offers unmatched selections in terms of diversity, depth and breadth, and is one of the most respected wine programs on the West Coast.

Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar hours remain the same as before the renovation:

• Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

• Happy Hour: 3:30-6 p.m. Monday through Friday

• Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday

• Bar: 11:30 a.m. to closing Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to closing Saturday through Sunday

The John Howie Restaurant Group includes Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar (Bellevue, 2002); SPORT Restaurant & Bar (Seattle, 2005); John Howie Steak (Bellevue, 2009); In.gredients (Microsoft Redmond campus, 2014), Beardslee Public House (Bothell, 2015); and Wildwood Spirits Co. (Bothell, 2015).

Along with being the chef/owner of the John Howie Restaurant Group, John Howie is also author of the cookbook Passion & Palate: Recipes for a Generous Table. Chef Howie has been honored with an invitation to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City on five separate occasions, represents Washington state annually at the Super Bowl in The Taste of the NFL, and is a sought-after culinary expert featured in local and national media, including Martha Stewart Living, The Today Show, The CBS Early Morning Show, Cooking Channel, Food Network, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Chef Howie and his restaurants are as recognized for philanthropic generosity as they are for culinary achievements. Since 2002, the John Howie Restaurant Group has received numerous awards for philanthropy and community involvement, and has given more than $6 million to hundreds of charitable organizations.