New Eatery Tarsan I Jane Brings Valencian and Catalan Flair to Seattle

The Spanish Revolution comes to Fremont
Jessica Yadegaran  |   September 2016   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Tasting plates inspired by seasonal ingredients: peas in various textures; escolar, cod paté and mussels; and a molecular take on morels and celery root puree

COOKING IS IN PERFECTE ROCHER’S
bones. The self-taught Spanish chef, who
has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants
in London and San Francisco, grew up
among the orange trees and rice fields of
Villalonga, a mountain town in Valencia,
where his grandfather ran a popular paella
restaurant called Tarsan. Rocher
practically lived in that
kitchen, playing soccer
there, washing dishes
and absorbing the
secrets of Valencia’s
traditional rice,
seafood and meat
dishes.
In April, Rocher
and his partner in
business and in life,
co-owner and manager
Alia Zaine, opened Tarsan
I Jane, a prix fixe restaurant
dedicated to Valencian and
Catalan specialties and Spanish
wines. The name is a playful
shout-out to his grandfather’s
restaurant; Zaine is the “Jane.”
It’s located in the Fremont/
Ballard space that once held Heong Soon
Park’s Tray Kitchen, with seating for 36 people,
a chic gray accent wall and an 11-foot,
wood-fired grill that brings to life Rocher’s
exceptional cuisine. Rocher visited Seattle
five years ago and fell in love with the city.
When it was time to take the plunge and
open his first restaurant free of investor
influence, he decided to do it here.
Rocher came from the renowned
Smoke.Oil.Salt in Los Angeles, where he
developed a reputation for masterful paella,
each perfectly chewy kernel of rice imbued
with notes of saffron and paprika. His stews,
too, are almost ethereal, the smoky arros
caldos, a revelation of charred artichokes,
marinated short ribs and blistered fava beans
swimming in a bold and tangy red broth.
Rocher takes risks, particularly with
temperature. For the peix mantega, fresh
butterfish is cooked over a wood fire for
seconds and served on room-temp
salt cod pâté that’s drizzled
with mint oil. I expected
hot, cooked fish, but
the dish, he later explained,
is intentionally
served at room
temperature. It’s a
hybrid homage to
raw Japanese escolar
and the whipped
cod Valencians commonly
eat with bread.
Had I known this before
diving into it (a cue from the
server would have been nice),
I would have better appreciated
the chef’s intention
rather than being surprised
at the uncooked dish. I think
that’s especially important
since Tarsan I Jane is strictly chef’s choice,
meaning you choose a five- or seven-course
($59/$79) menu that Rocher has created
using what is freshest that day.
Not ready to commit to a prix fixe menu?
Partake in Rocher’s all-natural llangonissa,
or handmade sausages ($10), on traditional
Valencian flatbread served only on the
patio with Spanish cocktails. As Northwestinspired
fine dining restaurants continue to
multiply in Seattle, it’s nice to tuck into a
place like Tarsan I Jane, a rare opportunity
to dive deep into a unique and singular culinary
tradition. I’m so pleased it’s here.

Cooking is in Perfecte Rocher’s bones. The self-taught Spanish chef, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in London and San Francisco, grew up among the orange trees and rice fields of Villalonga, a mountain town in Valencia, where his grandfather ran a popular paella restaurant called Tarsan. Rocher practically lived in that kitchen, playing soccer there, washing dishes and absorbing the secrets of Valencia’s traditional rice, seafood and meat dishes. 

In April, Rocher and his partner in business and in life, cook and butcher Alia Zaine, opened Tarsan I Jane, a prix fixe restaurant dedicated to Valencian and Catalan specialties and Spanish wines. The name is a playful shout-out to his grandfather’s restaurant; Zaine is the “Jane.” It’s located in the Fremont/Ballard space that once held Heong Soon Park’s Tray Kitchen, with seating for 36 people, a chic gray accent wall and an 11-foot, wood-fired grill that brings to life Rocher’s exceptional cuisine. Rocher visited Seattle five years ago and fell in love with the city. When it was time to take the plunge and open his first restaurant free of investor influence, he decided to do it here. 

Rocher came from the renowned Smoke.Oil.Salt in Los Angeles, where he developed a reputation for masterful paella, each perfectly chewy kernel of rice imbued with notes of saffron and paprika. His stews, too, are almost ethereal, the smoky arros caldos, a revelation of charred artichokes, marinated short ribs and blistered fava beans swimming in a bold and tangy red broth.  

Rocher takes risks, particularly with temperature. For the peix mantega, fresh butterfish is cooked over a wood fire  for seconds and served on room-temp salt cod pâté that’s drizzled with mint oil. I expected hot, cooked fish, but the dish, he later explained, is intentionally served at room temperature. It’s a hybrid homage to raw Japanese escolar and the whipped cod Valencians commonly eat with bread. Had I known this before diving into it (a cue from the server would have been nice), I would have better appreciated the chef’s intention rather than being surprised at the uncooked dish. I think that’s especially important since Tarsan I Jane is strictly chef’s choice, meaning you choose a five- or seven-course ($59/$79) menu that Rocher has created using what is freshest that day.

Not ready to commit to a prix fixe menu? Partake in Rocher’s all-natural llangonissa, or handmade sausages ($10), on traditional Valencian flatbread served only on the patio with Spanish cocktails. As Northwest-inspired fine dining restaurants continue to multiply in Seattle, it’s nice to tuck into a place like Tarsan I Jane, a rare opportunity to dive deep into a unique and singular culinary tradition. I’m so pleased it’s here. Fremont, 4012 Leary Way NW; 206.557.7059; tarsanijane.com