Lisa Nakamura, the talented chef de cuisine at The Herbfarm, is taking over Christina Orchid's eponymous restaurant on Orcas Island. The new name for Christina's will be Allium, and Nakamura is looking toward opening by Memorial Day.
After a quarter-century of restaurant cooking, Orchid thought she'd retired, two years ago, when she sold the place to Maureen Mullen, a Seattle chef who'd worked for Tom Douglas. But things didn't work out; Mullen closed the restaurant at the end of March and gave back the keys.
Nakamura heard through the grapevine that Christina's was available, took a trip to Orcas, and fell in love with the place. Her new husband, industrial engineer Andrew Shiosaki, will continue to work in Redmond but fully supports her decision. (Andrew's cousin, Gregg Shiosaki, is on the faculty at the Seattle Culinary Academy, but the two hadn't met until just before the wedding.) Nakamura has impeccable culinary credentials, including a stint at the French Laundry in the late 1990s. Seattle diners first met her when she created the menu at the short-lived Qube in Belltown, then at binVivant in Kirkland. She's been chef de cuisine at The Herbfarm for the past year.
Allium will be a casual restaurant, without the trappings of fine dining. No tablecloths, for example. A small menu will showcase seasonal products from local farmers in the San Juans. Allium is, you might recall, the botanical name for onions. "The unsung heros of cooking," says Nakamura, whose degree is in botany. "It's my favorite vegetable."
"We found somebody wonderful," Orchid says of Nakamura. "Someone who understands how much work in involved in running a restaurant."