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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

May 28, 2010 at 4:17 PM

Flying Fish’s Keff says “Fish on!” in South Lake Union

What a month for Seattle’s restaurants on-the-move. Last week, Marjorie, late of Belltown, opened in the shadow of the Chloe complex on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, Matt Dillon introduced the ravishingly reincarnated Sitka & Spruce in the nearby Melrose Project. And today marks the debut of Chris Keff’s Flying Fish, whose flight from First and Bell (discussed in detail here) has it playing “Go, Fish!” at the corner of Westlake Avenue North and Thomas Street in the South Lake Union neighborhood.

Chef Chris Keff’s Flying Fish has dropped anchor at 300 Westlake Avenue North.

It’s been 15 years since Keff opened the original Flying Fish at First and Bell: back before Belltown saw its boom (and subsequent bust) and long before South Lake Union was defined by the words “burgeoning,” “medical research,” and “Vulcanization.”

I was sitting in the original Fish the night it opened, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Tonight I’ll be home for dinner — though you might consider stopping in to see what’s on the menu. They’re opening at 5 p.m. (as ever, happy hour starts at 4 p.m.) and will serve weekday lunch beginning Monday, in the event you were on your way to Folklife and in need of a Fish-ified fix.

The new dinner menu at Flying Fish includes many of my longtime favorites, like sister-in-law mussels and whole fried rockfish. In a bow to the lunch-bunch — monkey and otherwise — Keff is offering a list of inexpensively priced dishes ($4-$7) for a mix-and-match combo.

Keff and her crew, including her right-hand man in the kitchen, Zack Foster, are anticipating a crowd, seeing as the neighborhood is buzzing with office-wonks and the Fish has a fan-base 15 years in the making. “There’s already 10,000 worker bees in the area, and when Amazon moves in there will be 20,000,” she told me when I paid a visit Wednesday.

I caught Keff between lunch and dinner during day-two of her “soft opening”: the one where invited guests eat for free while the crew gets its sea legs. Tuesday’s dry-run brought 130 hungry family and friends in for lunch and another 100 at dinner, Keff said. “They’ll do fine,” Keff said of her tenured staff, noting there was much to get used to in the new space.

“I looked at the waiters faces today at lunch and they were intent — on trying to remember `Now, where the hell is table 35?'” During my visit the service staff were in the private dining area, intent on tasting their way through the new wine list.

“Owen Roe Sharecropper’s cabernet or K Vintners the Velvet Devil? You decide.”

As for Keff, “I was a mess a week ago, trying to get all the little things to not fall through the cracks,” she admitted. But this week she’s the picture of calm.

Chef Chris Keff, taking a break between lunch and dinner during her “soft opening” Wednesday.

I didn’t eat (but as one of the bees who works in the neighborhood, I plan to be back soon), but I did I inspect the not-yet-open cafe and take-out shop On the Fly, slated to open in early August. And I got a big taste of the new digs, complete with a behind-the-scenes tour. Check it out:

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