Eating at Mbar, the young Mamnoon sibling restaurant atop the 400 Fairview building in South Lake Union, is an all-encompassing experience. From the moment you enter the waiting room/bar off the ground floor lobby to check in for dinner, through the end of your meal, you will feel utterly transported.
If you’re visiting Mbar without a reservation and a table isn’t immediately available, you’ll be offered a seat at the anteroom bar, a dimly lit space with a speakeasy vibe. Here, you can order from a small menu of snacks and drinks while you wait.
When your table is ready, you’ll be whisked to the building’s 14th floor via a private elevator that runs only between the ground floor and rooftop Mbar. There are no buttons inside and no other stops along the way. Once at the top, the elevator deposits you at the end of a long hallway with windows looking out toward Capitol Hill.
Once at the dining room, it’s clear that owners Racha and Wassef Haroun wanted to maximize the scenery. The only solid walls are the ones separating the 65-seat dining room from the kitchen; otherwise, there’s nothing but floor-to-ceiling glass to give you the feeling of hovering above the city. With around 180-degrees of views, you’ll gaze upon the Space Needle, Queen Anne, Lake Union and Capitol Hill, with lanky cranes and in-progress buildings rising all around.
Around two-thirds of the restaurant’s space is outside, with half under the cover of a solar paneled roof, and the rest completely open air, with fire pits and the offer of blankets to keep you comfortable.
The food and drink are worth putting your head down for. The Harouns have hired Jason Stratton, formerly of Spinasse and Artusi, to head the kitchen. Stratton’s star continues to rise, and his work at Mbar may be his best yet.
Stratton deftly combines his Spanish and Italian influences with the flavors of the Harouns’ Middle East. A seasonally-influenced menu offers small plates, entrees and pasta dishes like cauliflower hummus, charcuterie, strozzapretti pasta with rabbit and grilled trout with avocado, sumac, labneh and fenugreek brown butter.
Signature cocktails wash things down. There’s the Stratton Manhattan, with whiskey, amaro, pink bitters and a cherry and the Mbar Negroni, with Campari, gin and Spanish vermouth. The bar also crafts large format drinks for sharing: a sangria and a rum and absinthe concoction called Pineapple. Non-alcoholic beverages impress, too, with two tropical creations that appear just as thoughtful as the boozy options.
The Harouns have an eye for art. They’ve added subtle touches like mixed media art pieces and tables with handmade tops. Even the blankets are special — each one is a unique creation from local artist Joey Veltkamp.
It’s these surroundings that make Mbar feel like the complete embodiment of Seattle at this very moment, with its exponential growth and rapid construction of new buildings. If you want to feel like you’re smack in the middle of it all, with your finger on the thrumming pulse of Seattle in 2017, Mbar is where you should dine.