The French brasserie in the Bravern, Artisanal, failed to open on Monday, a victim of Bellevue's apparent indifference to New York-style fine dining. The end came after just nine months of operation.
Ironically, Crosscut had featured Artisanal's innovative cheese service just last month. Now Terrance Brennan's name is added to the list of failed out-of-town chefs (Todd English, Jeremiah Tower, Wolfgang Puck, Roy Yamaguchi). The official word: "Artisanal'ês expansion to the West Coast encountered the country'ês worst economic climate in 75 years and the level of investment capital required to weather the downturn was not available."
Other expensive-to-build national restaurants in the center of Bellevue seem to be doing fine. Maggiano's Little Italy, for example, at street level across from Bellevue Square, runs like a charm. Locally owned independents like Palomino and Bradley & Mikel's Pearl, while not immune to the economic downturn, continue to flourish. The Heavy Restaurant Group has opened Purple, Barrio and (just this week) Lot No. 3 to good reviews and steady traffic. Seastar's John Howie added a steakhouse at the Bravern, across the hall from Artisanal.
So what happened to the brasserie? The Bravern's developer, Schnitzer West, had actively recruited Brennan, who had been eying Chicago for his first venture outside Manhattan. But costly as it is to build out a new space to exacting specifications, it's costlier still to run a top-tier operation.
'êArtisanal contributed greatly to The Bravern'ês grand opening success and developed a loyal following in the past nine months,'ê according to Tom Woodworth, Schnitzer's senior investment director. 'êUnfortunately, there simply was not enough time or funding to sustain the business while it continued to build.'ê
And Brennan's PR director, Gina Kamburowsky, told me by phone from New York, "We felt we could no longer maintain the restaurant's high standards."
What out-of-town operators fail to understand is that Seattle diners aren't impressed by national reputations, and that it's going to take a year or more of plugging away to gain acceptance. Brennan's backers didn't have that kind of cash, or that kind of patience. Said Brennan, in a written statement, "Unfortunately, the economic challenges we'êre facing nationally proved too difficult to overcome and we had to close our West Coast operations so that we could devote more attention to our New York restaurants.'ê