Chef-owner Toshiyuki Kawai has a winner on his hands with two month old Iconiq. Originally from Osaka, Kawai left 15 years ago, enrolled in the culinary arts program at South Seattle Community College, and since then, has worked for a litany of Seattle restauranteurs from Thierry Rautureau to Shaun McCrain. Drawing from his experiences at Luc, Book Bindery, and Harvest Vine, Kawai has fused his Japanese heritage with French technique to provide a unique, seasonal experience that’s delighting diners. Think French techniques utilizing Japanese ingredients, with beautiful plating.
Perched atop the Mount Baker neighborhood, Iconiq inhabits a small, narrow space with windows overlooking the Seattle skyline in the distance. The open kitchen spans the left side of the restaurant, and a small bar is tucked in the back corner. One could describe the space as minimalist, with a smattering of tables.
Photos by: foodolish.com
We were offered a beet themed amuse bouche to start, with delicately fried beet croquettes, morel scramble topped with freshly shaved smoked foie gras, and a borscht shooter with yuzu sour cream. The croquettes had a nice crisp exterior, and soft creamy interior, with a hint of beets. The scramble was soft, with a nice earthy morel undertone, and accented with a sprinkle of chives and cream, while the refreshing borscht washed it all down.
For our first starter, we had the Japanese clam chowder (dashi, white miso soy, smoky bacon, daikon radish, and soy milk), which arrived accompanied by crostini slathered with seaweed butter and chives. Here, Kawai riffs on your classic clam chowder, but leaves the clams shell on, and replaces potatoes with daikon. The clams were sweet, with a hint of smoky bacon, and we found the broth to be incredibly delicate and subtle, which really allowed the fresh clams to shine. Our only issue with this dish was that it seemed misnamed. Chowder evokes creaminess, and this was much more of a broth.
The salmon crepe (wasabi cream, fennel, apple, orange buerre blanc) was nearly bursting with salmon slow-poached in leek infused oil. It was accompanied by a slaw of car acara oranges and granny smith apples, and topped with crispy salmon skin and ikura, with an orange buerre blanc. Overall, we found this to be a beautifully composed and plated dish, but we found the orange buerre blanc a bit overwhelming. A lighter drizzle would go a long way.
Next up was saikyo yaki kinki (black rice, kelp pickles, yuzu-kosho chimichurri). For the uninitiated, the kinki fish has a similar texture to halibut when cooked. Here, the fish was simply seared, with a crispy skin, and served on top a bed of Japanese black rice. The kinki was unctuous and seared perfectly, while the pickled vegetables added a nice kick of acid. The Japanese rice had a nice chew and was reminiscent of a creamy risotto. We thought this was an awesome dish.
In keeping with the French-Japanese theme, the braised beef cheek (mint & pea potato puree, dijon savoy cabbage, red wine miso sauce) arrived incredibly tender, but suffered from under-seasoning. Braised in red wine and soy, the red miso sweetened the thick sauce and the cheek was fork tender. No need for a knife here! We found the beef cheek hearty and reminiscent of a deconstructed pot roast.
We completed our meal with the berry soup (vanilla ice cream, raspberry powder) and a round of plum sake, which left us not wanting the meal to end. Packed with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, the refreshing and palate cleansing soup was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and garnished with mint and a candy nest. It was visually stunning and tasted amazing. While it was likely more visually appealing to leave the stems on the cherries, having to pull them off was an extra barrier to eating it. The dessert had just the right amount of sweetness and the vanilla ice cream gave the soup a nice cold mouth feel. We’d call this the perfect dessert for a warm summer night.
Overall, we had a wonderful experience at Iconiq. Though the team running the restaurant is small, they run a tight ship and perfectly orchestrated our meal. We left feeling well taken care of, well fed, and almost like family. We highly recommend Iconiq for any occasion. The beautifully plated dishes are unique, innovative, and left us wanting more. We’re excited to return as the seasons change.
Iconiq | 1421 31st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144 | Open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday