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April 8, 2010 at 12:32 PM

Bisato? Besotted.

I’m besotted. Because I’ve been to Bisato, the wonderfully reinvented version of Scott Carsberg’s Belltown temple of gastronmy, Lampreia, open two weeks. And when I left, here’s what I’d slipped into my purse:

Check, please!

When I walked through the door at 2400 First Avenue late Tuesday night, I was no stranger. I’ve been eating here — though never frequently enough — for 16 years. Which is why, when I arrived, I received a warm embrace from Carsberg. It’s an amuse regularly bestowed upon Lampreia’s longtime patrons, a descriptor that included the couple at the opposite end of the new counter that curves around the refashioned dining room.

That counter and the bold colors accenting the newly open kitchen both alleviate and ameliorate the sense of being in a “food museum” — a not entirely inaccurate complaint bestowed upon the restaurant’s former incarnation. What’s more, the sense of playfulness that Bisato’s new, drop-in-casual environment allows, extends not only to the Venetian-inspired small-plates menu, but to the chef himself, a famously intense and polarizing figure whose talent has not gone unnoticed locally or nationally.

Is that a knife in your hand, Scott, or are you just glad to see me?

I couldn’t help but wonder if the couple seated under the new sound-dampening canopy were reveling, as I was, in the shock of being someplace so familiar yet so very different. Is that soft jazz on the sound system? Were those waiters smiling in their dashing pressed shirts as they changed-out my fancy fish-knife (old habits die hard)? — the one I used to knife into a fresh marinated sardine with shaved fennel and blood orange.

Scotty should be packing them in like sardines soon enough if this sardine preparation was any indication.

And dear lord: Is that Scott’s wife and business partner Hyun-Joo wearing — get a load of this, Toto! — jeans? I imagine the regulars down the counter were as surprised as I was by the scenery, but as I watched them eat their celeriac soup, I’m certain they weren’t shocked by the subtle sensation of spooning into a classic Carsberg creation. That velvety veloute was poured hot from a glass pitcher, melting the ricotta salata waiting in the depths of their shared bowl. The soup did not come, as it had the last time I marveled over it at Lampreia, with a blini and black truffles. Nor, at $6, should it have. But after ordering a bowl for myself, I can assure you that as before, it tasted like a million bucks. So did this:

Mediterranean mussels with egg- and squid-ink pasta ($10.50).

For “dessert” I opted for cheese. As before, the selection was varied and on display. After a lengthy educational discourse by my waiter (what was it I said about old habits?), I chose this oil-marinated goat cheese, garnished with a candied kumquat. Cheese is $5 per ounce. And because they know me, or because someone had a heavy hand with the knife, I got an extra half-ounce on the house.

Say cheese.

By the time I was ready to go, the tables had emptied, the boys were taking a load off, the crew had cleaned up — and I was already plotting my return. The menu’s available from 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays (drinks till midnight) and till 10 p.m. Sundays. Leave the kids home though: Bisato is 21-and-over only.

Tables — hold the linen — line the perimeter of the room; the counter sits center-stage.

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