Although our restaurant scene has been adding some great new places and there are some exciting new developments in the offing, we’re also taking a substantial step back this month as we bid adieu to an icon of fine dining in Edmonds.
For this interview, we entered through the kitchen of Café de Paris, and I was struck by how every square inch of the space was put into effective use. This is as one might expect. Chef Firmin Berclaz has had 35 years to get his kitchen set up the way he likes it. Café de Paris at 190 Main St. has been a destination for lovers of French cuisine as long as I can remember. But alas, Chef Berclaz is retiring — hanging up his toque blanche — and soon Café de Paris will be no more.
Just after Labor Day in 1983, Berclaz set to work as chef at Café de Paris. Six years later, he bought the place. He’s been there ever since. At 74, perhaps he’s earned a little time off.
Imagine 35 years working seven days a week with the following schedule:
10:30 a.m. – arrive in prep for lunch
2 – 3 p.m. – clean up after cooking lunch
3-5 p.m – do all shopping and necessary maintenance for the business
5 – 9 p.m. – dinner
10:30 p.m. – clean up after dinner, ready for business tomorrow
OK, they don’t serve lunch on the weekends, but you get my point. If Berclaz hoped to take a vacation, he had to close the place down. Ten days off is the most he’s ever taken.
I asked him what he planned to do for an encore. With a twinkle in his eye, he quips “I’ll tell you what I tell everyone — I plan on winning the lottery and living happily ever after.“
He’s already got his first extended vacation planned — Mexico. He hopes to travel more now that he’s not tied down. Since his children and grandchildren are here, he won’t be moving away. He hopes to spend more time with them as well.
Berclaz will be finishing on a high note. This last year has been one of his best. The restaurant business has been riding a wave of prosperity lately.
Things haven’t always been so great. He remembers some pretty bleak years back around 2008. A lot of restaurants didn’t make it through that last major economic downturn.
He smiles as he remembers some of the highlights from over the years. “We had some great parties here. Private events, company and Christmas parties where they took over the entire restaurant,” Berclaz said. Ballard’s Larson’s Bakery, Fireside Homes and Split Endz all had annual events that were quite memorable.
I asked him what he would like to say as his long career in fine dining comes to an end. Becoming very earnest for a moment, he tells me, “ I want to thank everyone who has supported me over the years. I’m 74 years old. I think it’s time to be done.”
Café de Paris’ last day will be Aug. 25, so if you love French cuisine, why not have one last salmon with hollandaise sauce, or a final filet mignon in béarnaise for old time’s sake, say au revoir to Chef Berclaz and a gem of a restaurant Edmonds was lucky to have.
Don’t forget to use up any gift certificates as well.
What’s to become of the space? Michael Chambers (bartender at The Loft) and Jennifer Myatt are preparing a new restaurant and bar to replace it. Look for Calypso, which will have a strong Caribbean influence. I’ll be interviewing them soon and give you a full rundown. Berclaz is happy for the new ownership. “Chambers is a really nice guy and he knows almost everybody in town. I think they’ll do well here.
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New cocktail bar planned for Main Street
In another interesting development – A new bar, Kelnero. looks like it’s getting pretty close to opening on Main Street across from Ombu Salon. You may know Kris and Kali Kelnero from the terrific work they do at Salt and Iron. It’s exciting to hear that they are preparing to open their very own cocktail bar, which will also serve small plates. I’ll be doing a deep-dive interview with them before long.
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March was Washington State Wine Month. In celebration, Edmonds PCC did a little digging, and their complex data analysis (by tracking their wine sales over the last 12 months) reveals Edmonds’ collective “wine personality.”
The top two finishers? Prosecco came out on top — apparently sparkling whites are not just for celebrations anymore. In second place? Our very own Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon, and in third, a Cabernet Sauvignon Red Blend. Way to keep it local, people!
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Fine fare at Kuzma’s Fish Market
What’s my favorite thing about the newly opened Kuzma’s Fish Market? Is it that Ken Hewitt is a third-generation fishmonger who’s worked in the industry for more than 30 years, including 18 years for Uwajimaya? Or is it the eight varieties of oysters or five types of clams I can choose? Maybe it’s the reasonable prices or the daily specials? I like all those things, but right now I’m struggling to choose between the grade #1 ahi poke bowl, which they sell ready to eat, and the marinated black cod sold in 8-oz. portions.
I grilled some of the black cod up the other day and my guests thought they had died and gone to heaven. Dried, cured in salt and sugar, then frozen for a week in a saki marinade, it’s incredible.
“We’ve been open now for two weeks, everything is going great,” Hewitt said. “The response has been fantastic. We’ve even had a couple of restaurants make emergency runs up here when they’ve run out of something.”
Ken “Kuzma” Hewitt knows his craft. When he was growing up in West Seattle, his grandmother Margarita Andrijec became the first woman in Washington to open a fish market when she started West Hill Fish Market on California Avenue in 1972. Ken’s first job was to unfold newspaper for wrapping fish. Eventually they let him wrap the fish, and by age 12 he was cutting and filleting fish. He’s been at this for a while.
I felt like a kid in a candy store, following Hewitt’s recommendations, I went home with a dozen Miyagi oysters, a pound of poke and several black cod steaks.
The miyagi, or Pacific oysters, are medium sized but have a firm flesh and a nutty flavor. It’s native to the area and it’s pretty obvious why it’s Kuzma’s most popular oyster.
I’ve already raved about the black cod. The ahi poke was basically instantly devoured – fresh ahi is hard to beat and so is Kuzma’s price.
Well, you don’t have to take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Tucked behind Harvey’s next to Banner Bank, Kuzma’s won’t stay a hidden secret for long.
You may want to use your GPS for the first trip – but once you find it, I bet you’ll go back. I did. The very next day. I think I’m developing a black cod habit!
Menu here: kuzmasfishmarket.com/menu/
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James Spangler is guest writing the Edmonds Restaurant News column while Kathy Passage takes a break.