As mentioned in my previous post about the moving and shaking going on at Kirkland’s Carillon Point, Heavy Restaurant Group announced last week the ascension of former bin vivant wine director Dawn Smith, recently named wine manager for their trio of as-yet-unopened Bellevue restaurants.
Smith will be in good company when Heavy’s Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, Barrio and Bliss open in the Bellevue Towers mid-summer: turns out chef Mike Davis, late of 26brix in Walla Walla, will be overseeing the action in those kitchens.
Davis won local and national recognition after opening his fine-dining restaurant and bar in the historic Dacres Building in 2004, later closing and re-envisioning it as a more casual bistro. In January, a combination of finances and circumstances warranted its permanent closure. “Running a small, family-owned restaurant in this day and age — not to mention the current economy — is a challenge to say the least,” Davis said then. “My only regret was that we weren’t able to move forward with our plans to bring the Dacres Building back to its former glory, developing a boutique hotel with the property.”
“It was a great four and a half years in Walla Walla, but I’m excited to get back to the west side,” he told me today. “As a chef, I could not ask for a better scenario than what I have now.” What he has now is a part-time job with Heavy Restaurant Group. And as Heavy gears-up to open Purple, Barrio and Bliss under the same roof, Davis continues to commute to his new job from his home in Walla Walla three or four days a week. He and his wife, Krista, expect to settle down with their 3-year-old daughter in Bellevue or Sammamish before work goes full-throttle this summer.
Overseeing three disparate restaurants — a wine bar, upscale Mexican joint and dessert cafe — might be a challenge for some, but Davis, who built his reputation as chef-exec at the Salish Lodge, believes he’s got the mettle Heavy was looking for when they hired him. “I’m built for that. It’s going to be about management, organization, efficiency and control,” and he’s got plenty help on that level. Giving the nod to company chef-exec Robb Kirby, culinary director Harry Mills and director of restaurant operations Dan Kezner — he says, “I’ve been so impressed with how they operate on a day-to-day basis. To have a group like that backing me up, that’s a recipe for success.”