In Season takes over Armatage Room on Penn

Chef Don Saunders makes his comeback

Saunders is a coffee aficionado, so you might as well pair that espresso semifreddo with its steaming-hot counterpoint. Cappuccino overflows with so much pristine milk foam that it seems suited to a movie scene—all it's missing is a handsome Italian stranger to whisk you off on his Vespa. Just don't look up from your mug or you'll break out of the reverie by catching sight of the dirty vent above the espresso machine. Dust bunnies cling precariously to the vent's slats, as if lying in wait to fall from the sky and contaminate the barista's masterpiece.

Sure, that's nitpicking, but a meal at In Season is so close to perfectly executing what it has set out to do that it seems worth tackling the last few percent. To that end, a microgreen salad with sherry vinegar and Parmesan shards has an expressive volume, but it needs to be meticulously cleaned to succeed. One gritty bite or tiny root clump can sully the appetite. If a nourishing lentil soup (good things happen when a haute chef tackles a dish so humble) is served in a shallow, un-warmed bowl, its impact will be as lukewarm as its temperature.

Service is knowledgeable, efficient, and warm with one critical exception. When the hostess is occupied in the back of the room, greeting guests can become a tragedy of the commons, with no one else taking responsibility. A diner might spend five to 10 minutes standing in the entryway as multiple servers pass by, attending to their tables, without so much as a head nod or a glance in the newcomers' direction. For guests, this replicates the awkward feeling of having arrived at a party of strangers, desperately scanning the room hoping to lock eyes with someone friendly. A simple "Someone will be right with you" would ease all the discomfort.

Don Saunders's great food (like Quilcene oysters) now comes with something new: Ambiance
Sasha Landskov for City Pages
Don Saunders's great food (like Quilcene oysters) now comes with something new: Ambiance

Saunders says he'd love to see In Season be able to support itself on neighborhood business alone—and if foodies want to treat it as a destination spot, so much the better. (For those in the southern and western suburbs, especially, it's easily accessible from the Penn Avenue exit off Highway 62.) And splurging at In Season is still possible, especially for wine lovers, as Saunders maintains an off-menu reserve list of 13 French bottles from Burgundy, Bordeaux, and the Rhône River Valley that range in price from $75 to $300.

Saunders's second restaurant hits all the marks the first one missed. With a few small tweaks, In Season should become an evergreen.

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