The Old Sage is the newest venture from Brian McCracken and Dana Tough, the chefs behind Seattle’s acclaimed Spur, Tavern Law, and The Coterie Room. The restaurant’s mission is smoking meats (and serving malts) with artistic sense and scents, like rosemary, lavender, mesquite, and pine. Along with a current selection of eight smoked meat dishes, there are eight accompanying salads, vegetables, and breads, along with seasonal ice creams and sorbets.
While Spur made its mark with a modernist approach, The Old Sage revisits older cooking techniques. In addition to smoked meats, expect sprouted grains, pickled vegetables, and even the use of some foraged foods. “We want to mix traditional techniques with our own modern style to stay progressive and move with the times.” says Tough. They’re out for innovation in smoking techniques, flavor combinations, and plating presentations.
According to Tough, “We want diners to enjoy their food without necessarily knowing that we’ve been sweating for three days in the kitchen to prepare it for them,” but he’s happy to wax poetic about their various techniques and processes if guests are interested. Check the slideshow above for a look inside The Old Sage, including a half-dozen of the dishes on the menu.
Torchon of Foie Gras ($19) is a play on the letter P— it comes with donut peaches, pistachios, pine buds, and pumpernickel bread. The foie is smoked with pine, the plate contains peach gel, and the dish is finished with a drizzle of pine bud syrup.
Puffed Sour Bread ($8) contains fennel pollen and caraway seeds, along with a sprinkling of Jacobsen sea salt flakes, and is finished with a drizzle of Matiz olive oil.
Roasted & Raw Gourds ($12) is a study of contrasts. Baby sunburst squash, cucumbers, and zucchini come both raw and roasted, while cool yogurt counters the heat of Calabrian chiles. There’s also mint, compressed melon, and olive oil.
Pork Cheeks ($24) are smoked with lavender and plated on a purée of Yukon Gold and Russet potatoes with caraway and charred onion. Pickled beet slices cut the hearty flavors, and there’s an herbal addition from lavender mint.
A three-day sprout is the key to the soft texture of the Malted Emmer ($12), breaking the hull and eliminating the waxy feel of the grain. The malted emmer is then smoked and prepared risotto-style with vegetable stock, butter, parsley, and chives. Mountain cheese (Comté) is melted on top, along with thinly sliced apple.
The menu describes the Pickled Vegetables ($10) as “inspired by past seasons.” Showcasing various pickling techniques, this bowl contains traditionally vinegared Thumbelina carrots, koji cucumbers (koji is a mold for fermentation, used to make things like sake, miso, and soy sauce), and fermented baby turnips with green garlic and black pepper.
Chef Dana Tough tames the fires in the kitchen of The Old Sage.
A look at the “lounge area” of The Old Sage.
(Originally published here at Serious Eats on August 13. First Looks are arranged with the restaurant, and therefore I do not make critical evaluations or recommendations in this article.)