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February 8, 2010 at 8:49 AM

Portage chef Vuong Loc takes Cremant space in Madrona

If you’re a talented chef in search of a new restaurant, there’s no doubt that at times like these, when one door closes, another opens. The door I’m talking about today is Cremant’s: one that has seen it’s share of adoration, though it’s also been a portal for much controversy — as you may have read right here.

1423 34th Avenue, in the heart of Madrona.

[Kevin P. Casey/special to the Seattle Times]

As I mentioned last week, Donna Moodie came close to signing a lease on the old Cremant space, but decided instead to relocate Marjorie to new digs at 14th and East Union. With that deal off the table, the building’s owner and architect Roy McMakin turned to another Seattle restaurateur who had his eye on the prize. “We got a pretty good deal on it,” chef Vuong Loc told me last week. “We’ve been debating it for, like, six months.”

Loc, the owner of Queen Anne’s petite Portage bistro, doesn’t have firm plans for the new restaurant yet, but says we can expect “something along the same lines as Portage, but with more of a Vietnamese influence.” He hopes to have the place open by May.

Chef Vuong Loc, and his wife and business partner, Tricia.

Seattle Times/Greg Gilbert

“We’re definitely going to do something very low key,” Loc says, but not quite as low-key as the Greenwood bar and grill Pig ‘n Whistle, which he and Tricia bought in 2008 and sold — at a profit — this past October. “It was tough to manage,” Loc explains, noting that he got the place for a song and sold it to “a neighborhood guy” who wanted in. “The busy time was from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. and you’d be there till three in the morning.”

As for physical changes to the Cremant space, which was famously cozy and noisy, “It won’t be ridiculous. I don’t have the budget.” But he is planning to downsize the number of seats (from 60 to 48), install wooden booths and ramp-up business in the small private dining room. When it opens, “I’ll be doing double-duty” running two places, says Loc, who’s counting on Portage chef Nora Zartman, late of Place Pigalle, to free him up at the start while he’s making his mark in Madrona.

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