It’s autumn in the Pacific Northwest—the weather has turned, and the air is starting to bite. Cue a hankering for not only a meal that captures the feel and flavors of the season but also an ambiance to match. A quick trip over the bridge to Samara has got you covered. Chef Eric Anderson has created and crafted a "wood-fueled neighborhood bistro" concept that serves seasonal wood-fired fare amidst a timeless and intimate setting.
Samara takes its name from the winged fruit of maple trees that twirls like a helicopter. From its meaning, the design of the restaurant finds harmony and symmetry by pulling from nature. Inside, rich earth tones dominate, bringing to mind a tranquil wooded understory. Mutuus Studio, the architect responsible for bringing the interior design of the restaurant to life, saught to create a small, sophisticated and intimate neighborhood corner bistro, with a material palette taking cues from charred wood and copper cookware at various stages of patina. Mutuus also made custom lighting throughout.
With only 38 seats, it’s the perfect setting to cozy up in, with the dining area opening directly to the wood-fired grill, ensuring a front-and-center seat to the preparation of your delicious food. The intimate size also helps maintain the feeling of a neighborhood bistro.
“The design team sought to integrate the restaurant into the fabric of the neighborhood by creating a place that evokes a rich sense of timelessness and comfort,” notes Kristen Becker, a partner at Mutuus Studio.
“I liken the atmosphere to a Dutch still-life painting. It’s rich and moody with an elemental simplicity," notes Saul Becker, a partner at Mutuus Studio. “The simple, ubiquitous copper pot was an inspiration to us. It’s something utilitarian that only gets better with age. We carried this theme throughout the restaurant with custom patinated copper panels and pendants, handmade Danish bricks, a soapstone chef’s counter and bar, and richly stained wood—simple materials that will get better over time and through use.”
Aside from the ideal moody design and ambiance, the food itself is intriguing and delectable. Eric Anderson is a professional chef who strives to create food that is accessible and intriguing. He’s achieved amazing accomplishments in the local food scene by understanding the effort, focus, quality of ingredients and the thoughtful palate it takes to produce delicious food. Eric has worked at Brunswick & Hunt and Palace Kitchen in Seattle; Pramil in Paris; spent a life-changing five years working for Greg Higgins of Higgins’ in Portland, Oregon; ran Besaw’s Cafe in Portland, Oregon; and has also staged at Michelin starred restaurants: Le Bernardin, Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s.
For Samara, Eric was inspired by the American Craftsman movement, with its focus on simplicity, originality and natural materials. The menu is focused on locally sourced and environmentally friendly heritage breed animals and produce.
“I am happy to be working with people who are as excited about their jobs as I am about mine; the artists and craftspeople, the farmers, all putting their efforts into something useful, beautiful and delicious,” he says.
Among these incredible people/products are Steel Wheel Farm, The Sheepish Pig, Sonoma County Poultry, Akiko’s Potter, Jono Pandolfi and Jars Ceramistes.
Central to the restaurant is the multi-level, wood-fueled grill and oven.
“The design and the menu are inextricably linked. Each ingredient and each element of the restaurant's design are given full weight. It was paramount that the mission of Samara was to give the restaurant patrons a heightened sense of the ritual of enjoying a meal and their presence in the space. Keeping the elements, ingredients and materials clear allows the patrons to be present and focused on their experience,” Saul says.
A place that creates a sense of intimacy with the space and the food, mixed with a neighborhood feel of friendliness, familiarity and relaxation, Samara encompasses the quintessential PNW fall dining experience.