January 9, 2013 10:10 PM
Posted by Rebekah Denn
Cassis is one of the restaurants Seattle never got over losing, with customers longing for another taste of its classic French bistro fare. Turns out owner Jef Fike felt the same way. And now he's bringing it back.
Plans are for a new Cassis to open by summer -- located in West Seattle this time, not Capitol Hill. Fike has been raising money from investors, many of the former diners, using the same sort of invest-$$$-and-get-more-back-in-meals model that we've seen before. He has about three-quarters of the funding in place, and is confident it's a go.
"Book my table now, please," one fan wrote Fike after hearing the news. "l'd like to request that frisee salad w/poached egg and bacon and the lamb shank please," wrote another.
Expect the restaurant to still be anchored in classic French cuisine, with about two-thirds of the menu changing seasonally. And yes, the steak frites, the frisee salad with warm bacon vinaigrette and poached egg, the fish soup in tomato-fennel broth, and other Cassis classics will all be there. The tentative starting menu, anticipating the doors will open by late spring or early summer, also features the likes of stuffed squash blossoms with house fromage, tarragon, and roasted garlic; calves liver and spring onions; and.... ah, the poulet roti. Fike can't publicly name his chef yet (though it's not Cassis's Charlie Durham, who had also collaborated with him on a brief catering business), but said it's a classically trained former colleague who "will put his own spin on things, which is what every chef should do." The opening team includes alumni from The Ruins, where Fike worked for some years, as well as Kathleen Callahan, who had a well-received turn as pastry chef at Skelly and the Bean (which had been located, ironically, in the old Cassis building), where Fike most recently worked at the front of the house.
"I'm just telling folks we've moved but it took 8 years to do it," is Fike's take on his plans. The original restaurant had closed in 2004, mainly brought down by the finances of sister eatery Bandol.
"I still run into people all the time who say 'I miss Cassis so much.' I do too, that's just the bottom line. I thought, there really still isn't anything like Cassis in Seattle. I'm excited about the idea of bringing that back for the people who remember Cassis and loved it, but also introducing it to a whole new group of people."
Why West Seattle? Partly for a fresh start, partly the changing face of Seattle -- the north end of Capitol Hill looked completely different in the restaurant's heydey -- but mostly serendipity.
Dedicated former customers happened to own a building right on Alki beach. And they pulled FIke aside one day and said, "We have plans for you," he said.
"I think Cassis does best in a neighborhood. West Seattle is growing and changing so much, I think we'll be really well supported there."
They've been doing dinners and testing menus for investors -- "I just started with people I knew, and it grew exponentially from there," he said -- and hammering plans into place. (Want info? Email Fike at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The website will be online here in a few weeks. Look for the mussels mariniere and salade verte not too long after.
Mache salad with roasted pear photo courtesy of Cassis
Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.