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November 17, 2011 at 1:54 PM

Pearl guys to open Koral: a “New American Tavern” in Bellevue

Chef Bradley Dickinson called this week with news that he and his business partner Mikel Rogers, co-owners of downtown Bellevue’s popular Pearl Bar & Dining, are at it again. Their second venture, Koral, a casual “New American Tavern,” will soon be setting up shop where the Twisted Cork stands in the Hyatt Regency — a short walk from Pearl.

According to Dickinson, landlord Kemper Development flirted with “a couple national chains” before settling on a couple local guys. And those fellas are set to fill the restaurant-void left after the ever-revolving Twisted Cork was shuttered early last year. (More recently, the Hyatt has been using the space to provide breakfast to hotel guests, as well as drinks and appetizers come evening.)

Taking on the nearly 8000-square-foot slot at 900 Bellevue Way N.E. is a big deal: one Dickinson and Rogers have been considering for more than a year. Before nailing the lease, “We’ve remodeled the restaurant several times and we haven’t even opened it yet!” the chef said. “Trust me. That saved us money.” A major makeover will begin after Thanksgiving, with an opening date expected in February. Koral is slated to seat 100 in the bar and 170 in the dining room.

Separated at birth? The bar at Pearl (left), and at the original Twisted Cork (as seen in 2007, right) soon to be reincarnated as Koral. [Seattle Times/Mark Harrison]

“Where Pearl is kind of sleek and sexy, this place should feel like it’s been there a while,” Dickinson said of the tavern’s design, set to feature a full exhibition kitchen as focal point and make good use of the vast existing bar space.

His menu prototype includes a charcuterie platter with homemade pickles ($12), oyster shooters with pepper vodka ($2 each), rustic renderings of gnocchi with oxtail ($18) and roasted pork shank ($17) and a Kitchen Burger “with serious goo-factor” (in addition to rosemary sea-salt fries, $12). Dinner will be offered nightly, and weekend brunch is part of the opening plan, with lunch in the distant offing, Dickinson said.

As for opening a second venture in such close proximity to his first, “With respect to Tom Douglas, we like his model — owning restaurants we can walk to.”

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