We're no Andrew Knowlton. But Laurelhurst Market/Simpatica butcher-in-chief Benjamin Dyer (who admitted to knowing about — and keeping secret — LM's recent Bon Appetit accolade for two freakin' months), was still gracious enough to chat with Eater about his highly anticipated 40-seat Hawaiian spot Ate-Oh-Ate, now scheduled to make its grand opening on September 11.
"One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this project is I wanted a plate lunch place in the city that was really good," says Dyer, who used to call Hawaii is his old stomping ground. "So I am trying to keep it fairly true to the classic plate lunch place. [I'm not making it] unnecessarily groovy or put too much of a spin on it at all, I'm just trying to make each dish as good as it can be."
On how to design a Hawaiian restaurant without making it look too Epcot-Hawaiian-y:
"We're trying to keep it very simple, of course. One of the issues I have with most plate lunch places, they're usually very antiseptic — a lot of linoleum, plastic tabletops. It's hard to make it warm and casual. We've got 25-foot ceilings in there, which gives a lot of opportunities, and we're bringing in [a look] similar to Laurelhurst Market in some ways — but with earth tones, warm woods, softer colors on the paint. As far as decor goes, we're painting a huge, very simple, one-color mural on the big wall, 50-feet long; otherwise, I've just kinda picked up a few things here and there from Hawaii."
On giving a sneak peek at the menu (between the plate lunches and entrees, Dyer's eying 15 to 16 menu items, with about eight sides and four to five sandwiches options): "[We're doing] all the classic stuff — Kal-bi short ribs, beef and chicken teriyaki, Korean-style chicken wings, chicken and pork katsu, Loco Moco (rice topped with a burger patty, egg, and gravy), saimin (noodle soup), Kalua pig, a fish of some kind, and then a fried rice omelet. And then sandwiches — a burger or two, one more simple and that one might be an island-style burger — Shoyu chicken, and a mahi mahi sandwich. Spam, cucumber kimchee, picked daikon for sides."