August 22

Wild Ginger Puts Down New Roots

This Seattle culinary institution recently opened its third location in South Lake Union’s McKenzie building.

There’s a new kid on the South Lake Union block, and it’s an expansion of one of downtown’s most iconic restaurants.

Wild Ginger is now serving its modern, Asian-inspired cuisine—paired with its celebrated wine list—in South Lake Union’s new luxury apartment building, McKenzie.

It’s the third location for owners Rick and Ann Yoder’s oft-awarded business, which also has a satellite in Bellevue. Though the South Lake Union menu is smaller than that of the other two locations, the requisite classics are here: fragrant duck, seven flavor beef, and Sichuan green beans. But McKenzie slings a few new dishes, too—Malaysian and Singaporean dishes that show off East Indian flavors. Weekend brunch will come later this year, says Serena Cho, the new location’s general manager.

The restaurant’s centerpiece is a satay bar, with chefs searing skewered meat over a 1,000-degree flame. Wild Ginger has always offered a series of satays—like chicken, kobe beef, lamb, and tofu—but McKenzie comes with a larger satay menu, plus a wide array of dipping sauces.

Former bar manager at Wild Ginger Bellevue, Robert Labuda, has moved to McKenzie to oversee the wine and beverage program.

The impressive wine list at the downtown flagship restaurant has won the Wine Spectator Grand Award 10 years in a row and continues to garner recognition from the James Beard Foundation. Labuda has developed a list for McKenzie that’s pared down to fit the smaller space—but it’s just as enticing.

“Similar to our downtown Seattle restaurant, we will offer a diverse selection of wine from around the world curated to complement our array of culinary selections,” he says. “Strengths will include mature vintages of German and Alsatian riesling, Oregon pinot noir, and Washington reds. Our initial list will consist of just under 100 selections, with intentions to grow as we develop the space.”

Despite that continuing focus on wine, Labuda didn’t skimp on the cocktail list. “Our cocktail program is focused on fresh, seasonal ingredients with flavors inspired by Southeast Asia’s abundance of exotic ingredients,” Cho says.

Happy hour kicks off August 22 with discounts on cocktails, beer, wine, and small plates like the Singapore-style satays, Thai beef jerky, Malay chicken wings, and vegetarian curry box. It will run Monday to Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. And in mid-September, the restaurant will start offering a to-go menu.

Wild Ginger brought on Kyle and Shannon Gaffney of SKB Architects to design the interior. They choose to highlight the satay bar and give the main bar menu prominence. SKB designed an open layout with floor-to-ceiling windows, an outdoor seating area, comfortable booths, custom lighting, and views into the kitchen. Warm, Indonesian wood adds a subtle South Pacific feel.

The Yoders say South Lake Union was a natural fit for their restaurant. “We had been looking for a location in this area for some time,” Rick says. It doesn’t hurt that Rick is friends with Al Clise, whose company, Clise Properties, developed this piece of land.

The McKenzie sits at the confluence of Seattle’s thriving downtown and South Lake Union business districts—and the Yoders wanted in on the action.

Story by Megan Hill and photography by Amber Fouts.

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