I love wordplay, not wisely but too well. So it follows that I am going to be intrigued by a gastropub that calls itself Gastropod.

Gastropods are, of course, those scourge of the Northwest gardener. The slugs and snails that destroy our carefully planned planters. And yet the similarity of the words is worth thinking about. I have to admit that the first time I heard the term ‘gastropub‘ I was a bit put off precisely because it sounded so much like the vermin that decimated my garden on a regular basis.

This Gastropod, however, might just make me change my mind.

A  wonderful hole-in-the-wall spot in the SODO area of Seattle, Gastropod is the sort of place you go with a group of friends on a cold and rainy night. Which is exactly what I did.

It was Mitch’s birthday. That in and of itself is an occasion. Seriously. Sharon and I once assembled barbecue in freezing temperatures for a Mitch birthday. Because, well, Mitch.  That meant that ordinary just wasn’t in the cards. And so, Gastropod.

First off, this is a postage stamp of a place. A handful of communal tables are scattered around this tiny space. A bar lines a kitchen that can be charitably described as small. Being the food geeks that we are, we chose the bar seats because in a place like this the food can both be a meal and a floor show.

Gastropod doesn’t disappoint on either side. The chef works with a pair of portable two burner gas cookers, a chiller and a commercial convection oven. Watching three people operate in this small space was like watching a superbly choreographed ballet. I can only imagine what it would be like on a busy weekend night. And that vision gives me a headache.

Everything is small plates, meant to be shared among friends. The buzz in the place is testament to the success of that notion. Shared plates invite conversation. We as humans I believe are hardwired to share food in uniquely social rituals, and I think this growing wave of small plates feeds that.

The food was interesting, complex, unusual. There was hamachi, seared yellowtail on what can only be described as a pancake of onion and other root vegetables. A plate of Japanese sweet potato roasted with maple syrup and hazelnuts. King salmon grilled and topped with a salmon skin chip. A steel cut oatmeal risotto that would be a perfect brunch dish.

It felt like everything here was tilted just a bit to the side, making me look at it a little differently. The food was excellent, just unexpected in a really good way.

All of the ingredients for a good evening came together that night – good friends, good food, an intimate place. I want to go back, even if that is against Sharon’s cardinal rule of eating out. (She has a point, Seattle has an abundance of wonderful places). I want to go back with a cadre of friends to eat, laugh, argue, eat some more, compare, contrast and just flat out enjoy.