The intense aroma of wood smoke is evident upon opening the door to the new Valencian restaurant on Leary Way. Behind a counter sits the expansive, 11-foot grill upon which cast-iron pans bubble and steam. Above the open kitchen, the name of the restaurant reflects the man-and-woman team harnessing the Pacific Northwest’s wild ingredients into composed plates: Tarsan i Jane.
Noted Los Angeles chef Perfecte Rocher and his fiancée Alia Zaine moved to Seattle and attempted to ease into the dining scene with a series of pop-ups, but soon found themselves opening a full-fledged restaurant. In their search for pop-up spaces, they approached Heong Soon Park of Tray Kitchen and he shocked them by offering to sell them his restaurant.
Just a month into their Seattle experience, the partners in life and in cooking accepted the challenge, opening Tarsan i Jane in the Fremont neighborhood in May. The couple serves dinner and brunch that reflect Rocher’s Valencian and Catalonian heritage and world travels. Zaine, an LA native, is also a masterful butcher and runs the front-of-house.
The restaurant offers three dining options. First, there’s dinner, a multi-course, prix fixe affair. Diners can choose to partake of five or seven courses, with the seasonally-rotating menu announced upon arrival. Recent plates included Calm Cove oysters with citron sauce, sea urchin flan with a bourbon buttermilk granite and chili oil, and butterfish with salted cod pate, celeriac purée, and mint oil. The restaurant offers wine pairings and can accommodate vegan and vegetarian preferences when requested.
Then there’s brunch, also a prix-fixe, multi-course event, with a flurry of colorful dishes revolving around the meal’s centerpiece: paella. Every table is presented with a single paella pan, hot and sooty from the fire, sized for the number of people who will be eating from it.
The restaurant also just opened its patio for the summer, serving more casual food and beverages on a first come, first served basis. That translates to house-made pork sausages, raw oysters and small plates like almonds, anchovies, and jamon. Same as with the food served indoors, everything is cooked on a wood-fired grill. There are also small-batch cocktails served by the glass and in a porró, a traditional glass wine pitcher holding three-quarters of a liter and bearing slight resemblance to a watering can. Options include Kalimotxo, made with red wine and Coca-Cola, and Clareta, a Spanish take on a shandy crafted with Fanta Limón and lager.
For now, the restaurant seems surprisingly under-the-radar, with plenty of spots available. Given the chefs’ history (Rocher has wowed the likes of LA Times critic Jonathan Gold with his paella), the quiet likely won’t last long.