It was big news when New York chef/entrepreneur Terrance Brennan announced plans to join some big local names in the restaurant business at The Bravern in Bellevue. Like John Howie’s eponymous steakhouse and Rick and Ann Yoder’s Wild Ginger, Brennan’s Artisanal Brasserie & Wine Bar and its adjacent Artisanal Table have braved the economic recession at Bellevue’s toniest retail address since its September 2009 debut. But that brave show ended Sunday night when Brennan shuttered his West Coast ventures. Today he’s tending to the disappointing denouement of Artisanal and the closure of two restaurants that failed to live to see their first anniversary.
“It’s not good news,” Brennan said this morning by phone from Bellevue, “and I feel for my employees.” Though it was a large space to fill, “We got off to a great start,” Brennan insists. “Business was increasing, and then it plateaued.” Unlike at his Manhattan restaurants Artisanal, Bar Artisanal and Picholine (where, he said, “we ramped-up a lot quicker,” bringing in much needed cash-flow) the volume or lack thereof of a strong customer-base in Bellevue and a lack of capitol reserve in the bank led to his restaurants’ untimely demise.
According to Tom Woodworth, senior investment director for commercial properties at The Bravern — which spent “at least four years” in pursuit of Brennan — “several interested parties” are vying for the opportunity to take on his restaurant space. (At least one, I hear from other quarters, is local.) The decision is pending, and a successor may be named within the next few weeks. “It’s always a dance,” Woodworth said this morning. “One of the things we loved with Artisanal was it’s a great fit with John Howie and Wild Ginger. It’s important to find the right balance with the next operator.”
Meantime, said Brennan, “We’ll stay here for the wind-down and work with Tom and his team to have a smooth transition,” readying Artisanal for a quick turnover. At which point the chef will bid us au revoir, joining the ranks of a litany of nationally renown chefs including Wolfgang Puck (ObaChine), Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s), Jeremiah Tower (Stars) and Todd English (Fish Club) who’ve tried — and failed — to call Greater Seattle home for the duration.