I had my first dinner at Altura last night, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a long time. I thought the conception of the dishes, the balance of flavors, and the execution of the preparations were outstanding. For instance, a small bowl of Matsutake mushroom soup with some shaved raw Matsutakes on top wondrously captured the pure essence of the mushrooms. The prosciutto-wrapped sturgeon was a study in how to perfectly cook sturgeon – which is notoriously hard to get exactly right. Chef Nathan Lockwood first cooks the sturgeon sous-vide (without the benefit of a fancy machine), and then finishes it by sautéing prior to serving. It was accompanied by toasted pumpkin seeds, a luscious, naturally sweet puree of Kabocha squash, and Brussels sprouts leaves. My desert was poached quince on amaretti crumbs topped with vanilla gelato drizzled with a 25-year-old Gold Seal Aceto Balsamico. The flavors and textures of this desert were perfectly balanced and the overall result defied criticism. Did I have some minor nits to pick? Yes. Two pastas were under-seasoned (a problem with the salt level in the pasta water), which was easily corrected by asking for some salt and adding it to the pastas after they were served. My grilled Wagu cullotte steak was slightly overcooked for my preference, particularly on the thinner, tapered ends of the steak, but it was still one of the most intensely flavorful and lusciously tender steaks I’ve had in a long, long time. The tajarin wasn’t quite as ethereal as that made at Spinasse, but it was still first-rate, and the chanterelles and shaved Alba white truffle more than compensated. So these are only very minor nits. The overall meal was absolutely marvelous. Chef Lockwood’s attention to sourcing is intense, and it shows in his dishes. The butter served at Altura is Crémerie Classique from Larsen’s Creamery in Oregon, and Chef Lockwood can discourse at length over the texture and flavor differences of different butters (e.g., Crémerie Classique vs. Plugra vs. Vermont Butter & Cheese) or American producers of Wagyu beef (Snake River Farms vs. Mishima Ranch). The meal certainly isn’t cheap, but neither is the cost of the uniformly high quality ingredients (you can purchase your own Gold Seal Aceto Balsamico for a mere $239.25 for a 3.4 ounce bottle).
My overall first impression: Chef Lockwood certainly has a place among the best chefs in the Greater Seattle Area (e.g., Holly Smith, Jason Stratton, Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi), and Altura is destined for the top tier of high-end Seattle restaurants. A big bravissimo to the chef and staff at Altura!