After working with Daniel Boulud in New York and Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York, Paris and Shanghai, Eric Johnson moved to Seattle to be near family, enjoy the outdoors and start his own restaurant. The result is Stateside, which opened in December in a former parking garage, where the chef is bringing together those culinary experiences with his travels in Asia by artfully recreating French-Vietnamese dishes.
The space captures the old colonial feel you can find in Vietnam, with palm-tree wallpaper, Edison lights and patina mirrors. The concrete floor dates from 1910, parking stripes removed.
Mr. Johnson considers Vietnamese cuisine “the natural meeting point of Chinese and French food,” but what sets his versions apart is his attention to detail and his determination to deliver complex and greatly satisfying “layers of savoriness.”
Take the classic dish bun cha Hanoi (grilled pork patties with rice vermicelli), done here with pork belly, six kinds of fresh herbs and a rich caramel fish sauce marinade. On the lunch menu, the bahn mi transcends with its succulent house-made mortadella, steamed in banana leaf, and sweet and salty pork floss (basically jerky that has been pulled apart until fluffy).
At a recent dinner, Mr. Johnson’s commitment to achieving a depth of seasoning was evident in a variety of dishes. In the cha ca la vong, delicate black cod was prepared in a turmeric-galangal marinade, with fermented sticky rice added for an extra tangy punch. The soy-glazed beef short rib, which quickly became one of Stateside’s signature dishes, was exceptionally tender and full of flavor, most notably star anise. Duck rolls contained warm pulled Peking duck — roasted whole in-house — fresh shiso, Thai basil, cilantro, mint and other herbs, all wrapped tightly in rice paper.
For dessert, your best option may be the exotic fruits. Though tempted by the cinnamon parfait and crème fraîche cheesecake, I opted for fragrant jasmine sorbet and a palette of ripe jackfruit, rambutan, lychee, longan and dragonfruit — perfect finishing tastes and textures.
And don’t overlook tropical-inspired cocktails like the Mekong Mule, which contains house-made ginger shrub, or the Versailles Spritz, with Brovo Pretty (a local white vermouth), grapefruit bitters and soda. The Coconut features rum, lime leaf and galangal presented in, yes, a fresh coconut.