While spending a weekend on San Juan Island, I had the pleasure of dining at 120 Nichols in Friday Harbor. The restaurant occupies the spot that was formerly Felicitations Bakery, I believe, and opened July 11th of last year. Currently chef/owner John Peakes, who apparently trained under Scott Staples of Seattle's Restaurant Zoe, is relying solely on word-of-mouth to promote his restaurant while he "works out the kinks." We went on a Sunday evening during the off-season and John was working both the front and the back of the house. (Very well, I might add -- as a server he was attentive and thorough and the timing of the appetizer and meal was all that could be desired.)
The space reminds me of a restaurant one might find in Vancouver, BC. John's taken a turn-of-the-century bungalow and converted what would be the living room into the dining area of the restaurant. The interior is simple -- soft robin's-egg-blue walls with white trim, about eight tables, and lovely old pine floors. The menu is Northwest comfort food but done creatively with attention to detail. My companion and I shared a smoked mussel ravioli appetizer with a truffle-scented reduction -- the truffle flavor was somewhat lost but the fresh pasta was delicate and flavorful and the sauce was otherwise lovely. For dinner, my companion had halibut served in a thinly-sliced potato "papillote" and I had a roasted boneless cornish game hen stuffed with quinoa and prosciutto served with a black cherry demi-glace and accompanied by fennel and carrots.
Dessert was a fluffy chocolate mousse served in a white and dark chocolate ribbon. As we were the last people in the restaurant (we lingered and it was the off-season) John poured us each a glass of the (excellent) merlot he was drinking. And because it was my companion's birthday, and to thank us for doing him the courtesy of making a reservation, our appetizer and dessert were complimentary.
John has made a commitment to serve local, organic ingredients -- a challenge, he confesses, on San Juan Island during the off-season. He's looking forward to the spring when a certain producer will again start delivering on the island. During the tourist season John also has a sous-chef of whom he spoke warmly who has been "on call" until business picks up.
120 Nichols is a much-needed addition to an otherwise-meagre offering of restaurants in Friday Harbor. We wish John the best of luck and recommend the restaurant to any hounds who might find themselves on San Juan Island.
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