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Sneak Peek: John Tesar’s Spoon Bar and Kitchen Opens Today

Spoons given to Tesar from his chef friends (left); the amuse bouche: monkfish pate with caviar, tofu, and tomato (right) photos by Desiree Espada

John Tesar is having the best week of his life. Wednesday, he rocked Tom Colicchio’s kitchen on the first episode of Top Chef: Seattle; and yesterday, he softly opened his new seafood concept, Spoon Kitchen + Bar in Preston Center. It’s right across Westchester Drive from Hopdoddy and Texas Family Fitness, which makes dinner more fun if you’re sitting at the table closest by the door. Staring at people exercising as you dig into the uni appetizer feels so wrong, but so good at the same time. While Desiree and I sat down as Tesar’s guests last night, he was busy sweating in his shiny new open kitchen. Guess who was back there with him?  Only our favorite tweet-every-hour baker, Joe the Baker, in the pastry weeds. No wonder he’s been so relatively silent on Twitter recently. Only three tweets on November 7. That day, I almost sent Joe a DM asking if he was still alive.

Jump for more of Desiree’s photos.

Bread (left); salted butter and sweet butter (right)

Spoon Bar and Kitchen opens today with a bang. Here’s what you can look forward to during your visit:

The Apple Program: People have been stopping by the restaurant all week, curious to see what lies inside this little spot. The bravest have actually walked in, inquired, and received Granny Smith apples in exchange for their curiosity. This explains why there’s a bowl of 30 to 40 apples sitting right next to the entrance. It’s all so very Snow White.

The Very Nice Interior: Spoon is decorated in muted whites, silvers, and pastel blues. Tables line the left side of the room, while a full-sized bar takes up a chunk of the floor space to the right. Towards the back, where there’s an open kitchen, is also a separate living room area where a party of diners can feel special sitting at long table. There’s also a heavy underwater theme (i.e. the light on our table was decorated with fish) that gives the restaurant an aquatic feel. (Get it? You’re eating seafood.) Desiree warned me against writing this, but I’m a journalist. I’m sworn to truth. And the truth is, five minutes after sitting down, the interior reminded me of an upscale bathroom. A really, really nice one. Honestly, the combination of beautiful tile flooring, whitish walls, aquatic table decor, and the evening mood lighting gives off that vibe. Don’t get me wrong, I love bathrooms, so this is really a compliment to Spoon. And I’m pretty sure the restaurant looks completely different in the daylight.

Uni with squid ink, chili oil, and shiso

The Bread Program: I’m a sucker for breadbaskets. It warms my heart. A bread man comes by with carbs and doles out whichever bread your heart desires. A little dish of sweet and salted butter arrives with it.

Le Menu: Tesar beasted Top Chef: Seattle‘s first episode with his ability to cook a mean halibut, so you can bet that Tesar is in his element at Spoon. The menu is full of creative appetizers like the raw uni with squid ink, chili oil, and shiso. Our waiter told us that the oyster and black truffle stew would be a solid choice, but we ended up choosing the diver scallop sofrito. Seared to a brown perfection, the scallop lies in a bed of leek purée hiding moist leek pieces inside. As for pastas, there are two: a squid ink pasta with little neck clams and baby squid, and a red wine poached octopus, trofie pasta with seafood marinara and bone marrow. Our bowl of squid ink pasta was outshone by the Kobe beef and yellowtail dish.That Kobe beef was, by far, the most  tender piece I’ve ever had, and it came with scallion kimchee that had all the flavors, without the same kind of heat, as traditional Korean kimchee. (For my next visit, the roasted monkfish with turnips and carrots or the olive oil poached swordfish is on my to-order list.)

Joe Baker (or “Joe_theBaker,” as I refer to him) is the consulting pastry chef, and he has designed a black magic chocolate cardamom cake with feuillitine, cocoa nibs, and white chocolate ice cream that I was dying to try, but I went with our waiter’s suggestion, instead. He turned out to be right about the caramel pudding pavé that came with peanut butter streusel and bananas brûlée. The gingerbread roulade cake with vanilla goat cheese mousse was neither gingerbread nor goat cheese-heavy. Both elements balanced each other out, and certainly remind your taste buds of the upcoming holiday season.

Squid ink pasta with little neck clams, baby squid, lemon garlic and olive oil (left); table setting (right)
Diver scallop sofrito

John Tesar Taking Off His Glasses: If you tell Tesar that his glasses are amazing, he’ll take them off and let you hold them. They’re from indienation.com, in case anyone out there is wondering.

The After-Dinner Coffee: A waiter brings a French press to your table filled with Hawaiian Kona coffee, brown and white sugar cubes, a glass, and some cream. Stirring your coffee might actually be the first time you use a spoon during the entire meal. Oh, the irony. Little does your waiter know that he just made you want to stay at Spoon, sipping on that coffee, forever.

Hawaiian Kona coffee (left); gingerbread roulade with vanilla goat cheese mousse (right)
Caramel pudding pave with peanut butter streusel and bananas brulee. Finished with micro basil and sea salt.
Tesar in his kitchen (left); a room with a view (right)