Some restaurants open with fanfare and glitzy marketing campaigns. Others open with a whisper.
A quiet opening was what chef/owner Robert Green had planned for his Green.House restaurant that opened Sept. 12 in Uptown Gig Harbor.
Then came the crush of diners. It’s slowed some, but diners still shouldn’t expect to get into the restaurant Friday or Saturday nights without a reservation.
If the people who run Green.House look familiar, they should. It’s virtually the same team who ran Sip, the short-lived wine bar that operated in the same space from March 2009 to May this year.
Green was the chef de cuisine at Sip. Before that, he ran the kitchen at Gig Harbor’s Brix 25 from 2004 to 2005. Remember Daniel Jackson? He was, for a short time anyway, the general manager and wine guru at Sip. Now, he’s the wine director and a manager at Green.House. Brendan Paul, who is now the general manager at Green.House, was assistant manager and a bartender at Sip. Others might remember Nicholas Carr, the bar manager. He also is on staff; so is Ryan Ford, the chef de cuisine.
Green’s new restaurant encompasses three hot dining trends: value, farm-to-table sustainability and organic ingredients.
The rustic Northwest menu at Green.House is smartly priced in the $15-$25 range, with most entrees settling around $16-$19. That’s several dollars below Sip’s price point per entree. And judging by the plentiful diners in Green’s seats, it’s a winning concept.
The menu features ingredients grown or made in Washington and the Northwest – all the way down to gin from the Dry Fly Distillery in Spokane. The beef, Green said, is one exception. Green, who is from Minnesota, sticks to his Midwestern roots with Nebraska beef. He said he couldn’t find any product locally that could beat Nebraska meat. Fair enough.
Green calls his concept farm-to-table, meaning he serves local ingredients. I asked Green in a phone interview which local farms are supplying his produce and was surprised to find that he didn’t know the answer. And here’s why: He said he’s purchasing his produce through Charlie’s Produce, a company that sources ingredients from Washington farms. The produce he buys, Green assured, is grown in Washington state, but the farms constantly change depending upon what’s fresh, available and well-priced. What may come from one Washington farm one day may come from another Washington farm the following.
So how do curious diners in touch with the sustainable food movement keep track of how the restaurant sources its food? Green said the staff keeps a book with an updated list of sources at the hosting station. Do diners ask to see the book? “No, not at all,” said Green. But he said diners are likely to ask questions about local ingredients as they sit at the 30-seat exhibition kitchen that now is the center showcase of the bustling dining room.
So what about that organic mission of the restaurant? Green estimates 70 percent of his restaurant’s ingredients are organic. “Every piece of produce we get in here is organic,” he said.
Will he ever achieve 100 percent organic? Don’t count on it, Green said. To do so probably would mean charging much more for his food, which might price some of his targeted diners – young families – right out of his restaurant. “I have to balance high quality with the price point here. It’s difficult, it’s a full-time job, but it seems to be working,” he said.
The standard menu has a core of six entrees that includes a flat-iron steak ($18), mahogany chicken ($16), and clam linguini ($14). But it’s the “Chalkboard Specials” that showcase Green’s use of local, seasonal ingredients. Green runs 12-16 specials at any given time, which are chalked onto a board in the front lobby, and described in much more detail on a fresh sheet that’s handed over with the menus. Green changes the chalkboard specials as needed to showcase his constantly evolving supply of fresh fish, produce and other Washington/Northwest ingredients.
On a frantically busy first visit in the restaurant’s opening weeks, our experience was dizzily delightful. A promised 90-minute wait luckily turned into 20 minutes (lesson: make reservations). We started the meal with crab cakes ($10, on the core menu) garnished with a show-stealing green tomato relish puckery with champagne and cider vinegar. My only complaint was the ratio of crab to filler was skewed in favor of filler. Cheese-filled ravioli ($7, on the specials menu) arrived draped with a silky cream sauce, and topped with a fan of caramelized pears and a sprinkle of gorgonzola.
For entrees, a grilled Alaska snapper ($16, from the specials) was meaty in texture and mild in flavor, accompanied by a wild rice spiked with dried blueberries and cranberries in a velvety chardonnay butter sauce. Perfect for chilly fall dining, spice-rubbed pork tenderloin ($17, from the specials) was drenched in an orange-molasses demi glace that pooled around roasted garlic mashed potatoes. A flat-iron steak ($18, core menu) was deliciously beefy and came with an equally beefy, rich demi glace that punctuated meaty sautéed mushrooms. Garlicky whipped potatoes offered creamy contrast to the rich dish.
All three entrees were served with sautéed broccolini on that visit.
Flash forward a few weeks and another visit on a semi-busy weeknight. Clams ($8, core menu) with a briny garlic white wine sauce made for perfect scooping with warm, crusty white and multigrain bread. An ahi poke Napolean ($11, core menu) arrived as a triple tower of crispy, fried wontons layered with lime-drenched mashed avocado, minced onions and tomatoes, and soft cubes of raw ahi in a marinade of ginger, lemongrass and soy.
Slippery black cod ($23, on special) flaked into tender, perfect chunks and was infused with a roasted red pepper sauce mustardy with Dijon and sweetened with honey. Perfectly roasted fingerling potatoes flanked the fish. Mahogany chicken ($16, core) blew my palate with meat that was incredibly flavored. Green’s trick to intense flavoring is a three-day marinade in soy, balsamic and port. Darkened skin yielded to succulent breast meat inside. Fruited wild rice, the same as with the snapper, accompanied the chicken. The vegetable for both entrees that night was broccolini – this time grill-charred, not sautéed.
For those familiar with Sip, the atmosphere at Green.House will feel much warmer. Softer tones offer an inviting atmosphere in the dining room that’s flanked by a slate fireplace. A small bar is tucked into the corner. The 30-seat exhibition kitchen bar turns Green.House into an active restaurant with flame, cling-clanging and lots of movement resonating from the center of the room. Diners wary of din beware: The restaurant becomes quite loud when at full capacity.
Here’s something families may smile about: Kids, who get their own affordble menu, are very welcome at Green.House. I spotted young diners eating pasta alongside parents sipping wine on one visit. As Green says, “I want everyone in Gig Harbor to feel welcome here.”
Where: 4793 Point Fosdick Drive N.W., Gig Harbor
Information: 253-514-6482 or www.
greenhousegigharbor.com (under construction)
Hours: Open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Call for reservations, you’ll need them.