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Fearless Critic restaurant review

Tue–Thu 5:30pm–midnight
Fri–Sat 5:30pm–2:00am

Features Good wines, live music, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted


425 NW Market St.
Seattle, WA
(206) 781-4883
Flights of fancy in cocktail and interior-decorating form, annexed to Le Gourmand

Sambar is one of the coolest bars in Seattle. Much is made of its tiny size, and yes, you couldn’t fit more than four or five hundred hamsters in here without it feeling a little tight. Come to think of it, a giant candy-colored Habitrail to accommodate said hamsters would fit right in with Sambar’s, “eclectic” decor. With its uncomfortable minimalist furniture, panels of mirrors, and abstract murals, it looks like the brain of a ‘90s French club kid exploded. Yet somehow all of this feels totally natural and unerringly hip—you walk in and think: but of course.

Sambar serves good, seasonally inspired French bistro food: croque monsieur, soups, light salads, and soufflés, for instance, a nettle version with lemon-shallot béchamel and Comté cheese. There are also more substantial mains, like roast half-chicken with morels. The menu is short but necessary, as sampling masterful—and very potent—cocktails like the “Satiné” (rye whiskey, nocino, thyme syrup, cherry bitters) is a must. The employment of fresh fruits, local produce, and even flowers for color and flavor, is outstanding.

By the way, Sambar is attached to the pricey French restaurant Le Gourmand. If you have to use the bathroom, you’ll get a good enough glimpse to conduct an interesting sociological inquiry. Who’s having more fun: the finely dressed Francophiles at Le Gourmand, or the frite-snarfing hamsters at Sambar?

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