April 10, 2009 by Erin Thomas
Amber Luton and David Hahn have created a Northwestern/Italian mongrel to be proud of
By Erin Thomas
Keep in mind, when entering Enotria in Laurelhurst that chances are high that you will see your college English prof out of his lecture hall costume. He will look like a normal person, as if he’s enjoying his company, wine and food at this Italian/Northwest crossbred restaurant. Thankfully, he might never recognize you in the low light, as you will also be in your date night attire, snuggled into someone of your liking.
Once seated, you look about the studio-esque restaurant with simple tables and chairs, dark yet with warm colors, and feel at ease. Shortly after, you learn “enotria” literally translates into “land of trained vines,” a cordial nickname from the Greeks to the Italians. The information is courtesy of the hostess, who may seem like an overzealous Guest Services Professional, but is actually co-owner Amber Luton.
Her other half, David Hahne, can be found in the covert kitchen in the back, utilizing his extensive cooking background he gained from research in Italy, France and Spain and practice in the Midwest. After falling hard for Northern Italian cooking, David and Amber ventured west to Seattle to set up shop and further their dreams.
Proud to be a wino, you first grab for the wine list. A little too humble for a restaurant that introduces itself as “Wineland” by definition; the list includes Italian classics such as Prosecco, Pinot Grigio and Chianti by the glass. You note the impressive jump in list length with the red wines by the bottle, and you sigh with relief because there are several Barbarescos and Barolos in the inventory for decent prices.
You skim the menu, printed freshly each day to be updated with the freshest and most local produce, grain and meat. With a healthy balance of new and old world, Washington welcomes Italy in this bill of fare beginning with a wide range of antipasti (appetizer), insalata (salad), primi (pasta) and secondi (entrée).
You are immediately drawn to the sweetbreads and potato gnocchi. A novice of sweetbread and a veteran of gnocchi, you are pleasantly surprised with the intensity and richness of both the gnocchi and sweetbreads, presenting the plate as a well-rounded starter. The beet and pear salad is a graceful transition that clears your palate for the primi. You can’t stop eating the far-from-textbook spaghetti in a tomato-based but olive oil-dominated sauce.
Secondi features a juicy, 12-oz New York steak, dried and aged for seventeen months to obtain full quality and richness. This fact alone arches your eyebrows. So does the plate itself, only tabbing out at $27 for more meat than you can handle and only hope you can finish.
Delicate yet lavish, the flourless and bittersweet chocolate cake might have tied the meal together with a sweet but not irrepressible finish. You assume that David Hahne might have issues with portion control and in a good way. You are full and content.
Amber Luton has something to be a zealot about at Enotria, you think as you leave and she warmly waves goodbye. She and David have created a Northwestern-Italian mongrel to be proud of.