Russell Lowell’s restaurant is a destination. And when you dine with him, he is going to do everything within his power to make sure you love your meal.
He also wants you to have something to look forward to next time.
“I’ve spent 40 years in this industry,” Lowell said. “We have this ability now to get things year round. Heck, I can get raspberries in December. Well, you know what? Raspberries don’t grow here in December.”
“And for me, I think one of the most important things is being a naturalist. You get to know what’s going on out there in the natural world, whether it’s on the tidal flats or in the rivers. You know what’s going on during certain times of year. For instance, oysters here go into spawning mode in the summer. So you need to be careful. But during the winter months, oysters and clams are coming from the colder waters. So that’s a more optimal time.”
“I wish we could get back to a holiday kind of mentality. Whatever you believe in – Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever you believe in – I think we need to have those moments of feeling like, ‘I can’t wait for that time to come.’ People want butternut squash soup in April. They don’t want to wait for fall. So many of us have lost sight of seasonality, basically because we can. You don’t really have to know what grows around here or when. So that does bothers me. You’re left with nothing to look forward to.”
When you come in for lunch or dinner, or head to the bar for happy hour, you’ll notice the warm ambiance and the beautiful surroundings. Some of the things that make Russell’s distinctively Russell’s are just a result of how he works. He has a way of doing things.
“We have our fresh sheet but people do notice that a lot of our menu stays the same. Well, it’s true. We’re never going to stop serving rack of lamb. We’re never going to stop serving the filet. If someone comes in for a special occasion and they’re looking forward to that pan-seared rack of lamb and the risotto, I never want to tell them they can’t have that. I’ll never do that.”
“By the way,” Lowell continued,“reducing that stock down to a demi-glace – that’s 40 hours of roasting. Hardly anyone does that, but we do. We always will.”
It’s abundantly clear that he loves what he’s doing. Each day, he’s in the kitchen prepping for that day’s service.
“We don’t cut for tomorrow – we cut for tonight. That’s how we do it. I’ll invite guests to come back into the kitchen and watch that happen. Maybe it’s a big 50 pound halibut. Or I’ll be in the kitchen and I’ll say to a young staff member, hey, take a break. Stay here to watch me cut this lamb rack. I want them to see it. I want them to learn. I’ll take someone aside and just talk to them about what goes into this. And looking back, they’ll realize how much they learned. It’s a great moment when you hear from a former staff person, hey, I’m getting married and I really want you to do our food. That’s really a moment.”
“For a lot of people, maybe 70 to 90 percent, working here is a moment in time. They’re young, they’re going to move on and go to college, and that’s great. But while they’re here, they see how we do things.”
Lowell says that first and foremost, he is simply grateful that each guest has chosen to come to his restaurant. His staff know not to hesitate to send something back to the kitchen if it’s not just right. And he not only circulates through the dining room – he’s been known to open a bottle of wine and offer sample pours to a table, just because it’s one he particularly likes and he wants people to experience that flavor with their meal.
Russell’s is also well known for the five-course winemaker dinners they host in the upstairs loft space. The featured winemakers read like a who’s who in Washington wines. The choices are made by a panel of tasters.
“The people we feature deserve to be here,” said Lowell. “The wine has to be great and it is. Long Shadows, for example – they have some flawless wines. Betz, Lantz Cellars…the care level is so high. We’re not just inviting someone in because they’re local.”
And of course, the food that is served for each course is selected just as carefully.
Because that’s the way it’s done at Russell’s.
Russell’s | 3305 Monte Villa Parkway, Bothell 425-892-8492 | russelllowell.com