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May 20, 2008 4:54 PM

Critics carped: TASTE gets "warm" re-do

Posted by Nancy Leson

When Providence Cicero reviewed TASTE at SAM, her opening salvo read:

"`Expect to be Amazed,'" trumpets the ad copy for the fabulously redone Seattle Art Museum. Yet what's most amazing about its ambitious new ground-floor restaurant, Taste, is its lack of visual excitement. The Queen of Narnia might feel at home dining in this chilly, white space. But this daughter of Eve finds it stark. The fully exposed, stainless-steel kitchen eclipses the dining room's virtues -- clean lines, big windows, a sleek bar -- and creates the unfortunate effect of making the restaurant seem like the institutional cafeteria it is trying so hard not to be."

The P.I.'s Leslie Kelly had this to say in her review:

"People, this food is interesting/delicious/not ridiculously expensive. I expected big crowds at Taste. What's holding back the city's dining-istas? Hate to say it, but it might be the room. . . Some might describe the design as sleek and elegant, but the room -- especially when it's devoid of diners -- comes across as cold and cavernous, its hard surfaces and lofty ceilings giving it an almost -- gasp! -- cafeterialike feel."

Seattle Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman opines:

"And yet, with the museum closed and night falling, all this accomplished food was failed by its surroundings. Everything that made the room so great in the sunlight hours -- the slick surfaces, quasi-monochromatic palette, Design Within Reach chairs -- turned cold, and the votives on the tables didn't have enough magic in them to soften the room's austerity. The cooks who'd bustled away out front during the lunch hour retreated into the enclosed kitchen, and their display stations looked more and more like a deserted cafeteria line. It's a shame. Nighttime TASTE feels so institutional that I worry customers won't want to return, leaving the kitchen without the regular clientele it deserves. . ."

Just in case you weren't keeping track, allow me to say: That's one "chilly," two "colds" and three critics kvetching that the new Seattle Art Museum's temple of TASTE resembled a cafeteria. And that's just the press.

Surely the patrons must have agreed, because the word's just in from the museum's PR-folks, offered under the header, "Warm Improvements in Store for TASTE Restaurant." Here's the dope, straight from the release: "Taste Restaurant at Seattle Art Museum will be taking four weeks to make interior improvements, starting May 19. The restaurant will operate temporarily according to SAM hours, except on June 2-8 when the doors will be closed for construction. Starting June 19, TASTE will have new hours, a fresh seasonal menu and a warmer look and feel."

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