“I like the fact that we’re going all the way.”
Aging beef is a difficult science but you have to be an artist to persevere. Air flow, temperature, humidity, all conspire to ruin the meat, take a prized, grass-fed cow’s life in vain.
A troubled meat artist is now hard at work on E Jefferson where bandsaws have joined the kitchen knives. Eric Banh and sister Sophie, the creators of upscale and downscale Vietnamese projects Monsoon and Ba Bar, have finally opened Seven Beef, their huge, year-delayed, steak-focused, “whole animal” restaurant. Aging is, indeed, difficult.
“This is a young person’s game,” Eric Banh tells CHS. “You have to lug big portions of a cow. Very physical. I like the fact that we’re going all the way.”
Seven Beef is a “steak shop” featuring classic, “familiar” cuts like the “porterhouse, T-bone, New York Strip” and the “unfamiliar” including “oyster, belly, Teres Major.” Banh and crew — the young, buff people he was talking about above — receive quartered cows from Rochester, Washington’s Heritage Meats which they break down into steaks — and much, much more — in the 4,000 square foot restaurant that needs nearly as much work space as room for diners.
The logistics of such an undertaking are nearly insane, the losses when things go wrong like sorting out the proclivities of a new walk-in cooler, exorbitantly expensive and utterly depressing — but the triumph of a nearly one-of-a-kind chunk of WA State cow for dinner?
“We are trying to open something that very few corporate restaurants will ever try to do,” Banh said. The cows that grew up on grass at Brady, Washington’s Gleason Ranch don’t produce a soft, squishy, corn-fed beef — this is meat that needs to be worked.
Even turning the meat into hamburger for Sophie’s version of the restaurant’s signature Bò 7 Món traditional Vietnamese seven-course beef dinner (there’s also Seven Course Beet for the veggie friend you drag to the steak restaurant) is effort, not salvage.
Fortunately, Eric says the Banhs have an experienced, steady hand to help Seven Beef guide the knife.
“He’s very slow, methodical, soft spoken,” Banh says of Scott Emerick, the man who created Madrona’s Cremant, then disappeared to Washington D.C. Banh said he first met Seven Beef’s executive chef back in the early days of Monsoon when he noticed Emerick’s love for good champagne.
“He’s the most passionate about French cooking,” Banh said. “Scott really takes a finer taste to it.”
Emerick’s patience is also a good balance to Banh’s impulsive drive. As the two suffered through a year of waiting on a longer-than-expected buildout, Emerick set about helping to update offerings at Monsoon and Ba Bar. At Seven Beef, the duo are finding the right mix of ambition and patience.
“We’re both older now,” Banh said. “I think chemistry is everything. We don’t compromise very much.”
CHS first reported on the plans for the former E Jefferson office building way back in July of 2014 as Monsoon Seattle expanded on 19th Ave E. Later that summer, Eric and Sophie were hoping for a fall 2014 opening.
The enormous creation has seating for 90, including 16 at the bar and 10 at a communal table, plus room for 16 in “a sunken dining room at the back of the restaurant.” “Glowing bistro lights” and a low ceiling “with exposed beams lends a cozy atmosphere” separate the space from the chaos of the open kitchen.
The buildout of the 4,000 square-foot restaurant was plagued by contractor and permit delays familiar to many Seattle businesses in recent months thanks to the area’s booming economy. Eric says Seven Beef is clearly the most expensive restaurant he has ever built and that its siblings Monsoon Seattle, Monsoon East, and Ba Bar will have to prop up the venture for years.
For Banh, steak is a longterm investment.
“People will freak out for the flavor, the texture they never tried before,” Banh said. “At the end of the day, financially it will pay off.”
Seven Beef is located at 1305 E Jefferson St. Hours are 5 PM to 11 PM Sunday through Thursday, and 5 PM to midnight on Friday and Saturday. You can learn more at sevenbeef.com.