Sexy Food: Fine Dining At Copperleaf Restaurant

Chef Mark Bodinet brings a wealth of experience (and personal touches) to the table.

With all the buzz surrounding the new restaurants opening on Capitol Hill or downtown every other week, we tend to neglect the perimeters of our city in terms of dining choices. This is probably why many of you have never heard of a little place called Copperleaf Restaurant inside the Cedarbrook Lodge hotel, located moments — yet, a world — away from Seatac Airport.

If you have heard but haven’t been, clearly you’re not an early adaptor of extremely special things. You probably didn’t have a Facebook account until 2010. Get off your arse, you Luddite, and get thee to Copperleaf. If you haven’t heard of it, allow me the pleasure of enlightening you.

The Cedarbrook Lodge sits on 18 acres of verdant wetlands, including an on-site farm, which provides produce to the restaurant. The property effectively serves as a sound buffer for the nearby airport — and yet, a free shuttle gets guests there in a matter of moments.

Copperleaf is nestled inside the lodge. Chef Mark Bodinet, not yet 30, is one of the youngest executive chefs around to have achieved high honors such as Best in Show at the Seattle Lamb Jam 2010, and it’s no wonder — he spent five years at a little place in Napa Valley called The French Laundry. During his brief tenure at Cedarbrook, Copperleaf was named a 2011 Top Ten New Restaurant by Gayot, among other distinctions.

However, awards on paper mean very little if the cooking chops aren’t there to back it up. Copperleaf is hosting two upcoming outstanding dinners (one on Christmas Day and one on New Year’s Day) that will showcase what it means to be locally-focused, farm-to-table establishment with serious chef’s cred. I recently slipped one evening to sample some of the dishes from both menus, and hot damn if every Copperleaf patron isn’t getting a mint’s worth of food for a mere 75 bones.

The caramelized sea scallop served with Brussels sprout leaves, Full Circle Farm beets and naval orange crème fraiche is one of the most well-balanced dishes I’ve had in recent memory. Each component — the protein, acidity and cream, to name a few — supported every other element in the way that members of an orchestra plays off each other. There was no diva — just a perfectly-played composition.

I have an inherent soft spot for venison, and Bodinet’s venison with vanilla salsify, yams, preserved blackberries and young chestnuts browned in butter leapt off the plate and into my heart. The dish is redolent with French Laundry influence, yet retains Northwest charm and the subtle touch of Bodinet’s own calculated creativity. Bodinet sure loves his cryovac; if you’ve prepared anything found in his cookbook, “Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide,” you’ll recognize elements of his dishes at Copperleaf.

Bodinet’s food is technically perfect according to the precise standards of industry professionals, but each dish has an edge that comes with well-seasoned personal style. It’s apparent that he didn’t let his time under Thomas Keller pass without voraciously lapping up information and technique; however, it seems that Bodinet is coming into his own as a chef, executing his visions with signature touches.

A complete list of Copperleaf’s Christmas and New Year’s menus ($75 without wine pairings) is available online. For more details, please call (206) 214-4282.

While you’re at Cedarbrook Lodge, consider making a night of it by staying in a room or suite. Another option is to leave the car at home and take the light rail. Complimentary shuttle service will bring you to and from the airport — so you can add wine pairings to the menu without worrying about how you’ll get home. Trust me, you want to either get the room or take the train — Copperleaf has a very generous hand when it comes to their selection of expertly-paired wines.

Copperleaf Restaurant at Cedarbrook Lodge |  18525 36th Ave. S., Seattle  |  (206) 901-9268