Dining with Dumble

Iris doesn’t have any real sense of what Harry Potter is, but she’s not immune to the phenomenon, either. When _Half-Blood Prince_ came out, she pointed to the cover and demanded to know who these people were, and then she announced, “Potter! Dumble! Buddies.” Which is a pretty good book review.

Last night, Laurie and I went to a new restaurant called [Fork](http://www.forkseattle.com/), which is just down the street from us. This was exciting for two reasons: First, the chef at Fork is Scott Simpson, an old friend of ours who had been out of the kitchen for far too long. Second, we’ve lived in the same part of Seattle for ten years, and this is the first upscale restaurant in our part of the neighborhood. We’ve long wondered whether one could survive. Fork seems to be doing well so far.

Scott used to be the chef at the Blue Onion Bistro, a goofy restaurant run out of a former gas station near the University of Washington. The magic of the BOB is that while the food was simple and hearty (mac and cheese and tuna casserole were big sellers), it always exceeded expectations. One of the most agonizing things I’ve done as a restaurant critic was going back last year to review the BOB, long after Scott sold the place, and finding that the new owners were very well-meaning people serving terrible food.

Fork is nothing like the BOB. It’s in an intimate space on Capitol Hill, right across from one of Seattle’s best old movie theaters (the Harvard Exit). The location has been a restaurant since the 20s, I believe, and it has a historic mural that Scott wasn’t allowed to alter in the slightest, so he adopted it and stuck a detail from it on his website.

Enough review-speak. Let me get back to the Potter analogy. I’ve seen all four of the Potter movies, and I have a problem with the two most recent ones. The problem is named Michael Gambon, who replaced the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Gambon looks the part, and he has a good voice, but I don’t think he understands what Dumbledore is all about. You see, Dumbledore commands respect because he’s equal parts serious wizard and funny wizard. (Yes, presumably he is modeled directly on Gandalf in this respect.) A funny wizard with weak wand skills is a clown, and nobody likes a clown. A serious wizard who can’t tell a joke may command his own kind of respect, but he’s never going to connect with a room full of English boarding school pupils, or with me. Gambon understands the serious wizard part, but he can’t tell a joke.

Scott Simpson is equal parts serious chef and funny chef. He’s serious in the sense that he can really cook: every mouthful at Fork was delicious and well thought out. But he also has an irrepressible sense of humor: there are lobster corn dogs on the menu. We had a duck confit gelee with foie gras and granny smith apples on toast points; “pot au feu” of prawns with savoy cabbage and lobster-prawn broth; “fish and chips” featuring sous vide cooked striped bass over celeriac puree and duck fat-fried potatoes. For dessert Laurie had an individual pineapple upside-down cake with pineapple sorbet, and I had one of those molten chocolate cakes, but served with chocolate-chipotle ice cream.

The best restaurants recognize that going out to eat is supposed to be fun. That doesn’t mean the menu has to make jokes or the waiters should wear costumes. It means serving great food with a mix of pride, humility, and humor. I’ve wasted too many evenings in Serious Wizard restaurants where the food is good but the pomposity is stomach-churning. But Fork is poised to conquer evil, with the lobster corn dog as its lightsaber. Okay, I haven’t actually tried the lobster corn dog yet, but how could it not be good?

806 E Roy
Seattle WA 98112
(206) 325-7400

8 thoughts on “Dining with Dumble

  1. Laurel Fan

    Sounds like my kind of restaurant. Tried to go there yesterday, but when I called they were compeltely booked for the night. I’ll have to try again on a weeknight…

  2. Bill

    After reading the above restaurant critics ramblings I decided someone needs to spill the beans so to speak!
    Scott is good friends with this critic! They have been known to dine out and even go to ball games together.
    I have visited both the blue onion bistro and fork. When Scott owned the blue onion bistro and after.
    My circle of friends have been back to the onion many many times and have seen a huge improvement from the old restaurant Scott used to run. Its more traditional American than Scotts version and quite frankly we find the food outstanding and much more what we choose to eat. It makes me wonder, could their friendship have anything to do with the onions “terrible” food or is he really in a position to be a critic to pay attention to?
    The fork is good but if its American food you’re looking for without beet foam or tea sauce, its not the place to choose. Its like comparing Chineese, to Mexican.

  3. mamster Post author

    “The chef is Scott Simpson, an old friend of ours.”

    Bill, I think maybe those beans were already spilled.

  4. Bill

    You consider yourself an honest food critic when this chef is clearly someone close to you?
    I consider what you write as free advertising at the expense of others, nothing more.

    An infomercial comes to mind, shame on you!

  5. Debra

    A friend and I recently dined at the Fork. Although both of us are really not into the food served there we did have a great time. Parking was a nightmare!
    I agree with the above. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

  6. mamster Post author

    For anyone just tuning in, the story here is that I gave a negative review to a restaurant that Scott Simpson *used to* work at. Unsurprisingly, the owners of the restaurant weren’t happy with the negative review, and so now they (or perhaps their friends) are here to post baseless allegations on my blog. (For example, I’ve never been to a ballgame with Scott Simpson.)

    Folks, do you understand what a conflict of interest is? Writing a review of a restaurant where a person you know used to work is not a conflict of interest. Neither is it a conflict of interest to say on your blog, “I ate at restaurant X. The chef is a friend of ours. We liked the food.” If anyone seriously wants to argue that there’s something unethical about that, I’m all ears.

    Let’s get this back on topic. Bill and Debra, what did you eat at Fork? Any dishes you particularly liked? I’m planning to go back and would like to know what you recommend.

  7. Roy

    I’m the new owner of the BOB. Let me chime in here if I might.
    As you can see, the BOB does have a following weather you liked it or not. You have not been back to my restaurant in over a year and really have no basis for your comments. Was I taken a back by your unfair review? Yes I was. Why? Because your review was written to hurt, not to review. I’m still friends with the other previous owner who is also miffed with you and she also wonders why you have an agenda with us.
    A restaurant review should be written to inform the people what it was like. Writing something a year later that bashes us clearly shows your original review was nothing more than something meant to hurt us. Your Chef friend also tried to do the same. Check out “chefturnedbum” s review on citysearch that also did the same. Your bud has never been back since selling and yet you two cohorts seem to think this behavior is ethnical.
    Like Bill said, shame on you. Shame on both of you. If you have a problem with me please call me, I’m at the restaurant all the time. If not, please keep your unprofessional comments to yourself.
    Best Regards
    Blue Onion Bistro

  8. mamster Post author

    Roy, at your suggestion, I headed over to Citysearch. I did not find a review by chefturnedbum.

    I did, however, find a review posted by you (without identifying yourself as the owner). It said:

    *I just love what the new owners have done to the place! Its so clean! The food is the best ever, I had the Salisbury Steak, my wife the Schnitzel. Truely awesome!*

    I’m closing comments on this post now. If anyone has anything to add, especially about the food at Fork, please email me at rootsandgrubs at gmail.com.

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