First Taste: The Corson Building


Depending on your temperament, you may be relieved or disappointed to learn that The Corson Building is not actually an underground restaurant. Oh, sure, it has all the trappings: cozy communal seating; everybody eats the same multicourse meal, family-style (menus are not posted ahead) and drinks the same wine. But this is all legal. Local star chef Matt Dillon (Sitka & Spruce) and partner Wylie Bush have had it in the works for well over a year, and The Corson Building—located in the historic Seattle residence of the same name—finally opened to the public in June.

We began with oysters and champagne in the garden, admiring the Spanish-style exterior of the 1910 house, the dove and chicken cages, the raised planting beds boasting huge radishes, lettuces, and herbs. The Corson is literally underneath a freeway ramp and adjacent to an airport, so it’s a juxtaposition of the industrial and the bucolic.

When you step inside the dining room (which is actually the house’s living room), however, the food is bucolic all the way. Dillon’s basic strategy is to make hearty fare with enough sharp and salty accents that it doesn’t feel too hearty. So, yes, there was pork belly, but it was braised and fat-skimmed until it resembled a leaner cut, then accented with roasted cherries. Fresh cilantro took a mussel-and-clam salad in an eastern direction.

Despite Dillon’s allegiance to meat (the menu included pork, rabbit, and roast beef), I’m most moved by what he does with vegetables. The pasta (house-made egg-yolk noodles, of course) featured local peas and morels. We all fought over a mound of intensely flavored roasted scallions and baby carrots, and my single favorite flavor of the evening was the pancetta-spiked fava beans accompanying the roast beef. Don’t be timid about asking your neighbor to pass you seconds of those—you’ve just met your tablemates, after all, and what do you care if they think you’re a fava glutton?

The Corson Building 5609 Corson Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98108 (206-762-3330;

Community picnic August 10; call for info.

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