Ascending the Lincoln Square South tower, 31 floors race past like even the elevator can’t wait to get Bellevue’s most ambitious restaurant project in recent history. As the doors open into Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi, eyes widen, jaws drop, and stunned silence quickly gives way to a rainbow of superlatives.
Owners Paul and Elaina Herber, along with business partner Jeffrey Frederick of Elite Brand Hospitality Group, spent two years fashioning their vision specifically for this space, executed by DezMotif Studios.
“Paul and I are locals,” said Elaina. “We didn’t just choose to land Ascend [in Bellevue]; we chose to anchor our business here.” She describes the lease opportunities in Bellevue as sparse despite the prolific construction boom over the last decade, and landing both the Ascend and Lincoln South Food Hall spaces as “purely serendipitous.”
Everything about Ascend is meant to embody the concept of “elevate,” from the literal location atop a tower; 22,000 square feet of hospitality space; 360-degree views of our region’s mountains, forests, lake, and urban architecture from windows throughout and patios on all four corners of the tower; to the cuisine featuring the very finest meat and seafood. But the elevation continues beyond the customer experience into the way they approach the staff and culinary community.
The Herbers took the concept of “servant leadership” and developed the 31 Lives initiative, dedicated to investing in 31 lives each year within the broader restaurant industry by providing scholarships, internships, professional expertise, and culinary tools to its recipients. Elaina points out that everyone wants amazing services, but communities rarely build up those who serve.
“We believe culinarians and hospitality leaders are underserved by the community. In leading the charge to enable those who are passionate about pursuing culinary and hospitality careers, we aim to transform the … industry within the Puget Sound,” said Elaina, who references her own educational opportunities and seeks to bring that good fortune full circle in the lives of their employees.
Though most of the staff is local, the Herbers looked beyond the Pacific Northwest when they hired a culinary director and the executive chefs, who hail from world-class restaurants in places like Las Vegas. They wanted professionals used to dealing with a high level of execution and stamina that is unmatched in the Puget Sound. Executive chef Sean Mayhew, most recently chef de cuisine for Gordon Ramsay in Las Vegas, first served as the advising chef for the Lincoln South Food Hall, but fell in love with the area and made the move permanent. Culinary director Kevin Hee has both Michael Mina restaurants and Gordon Ramsay Steak on his résumé.
The restaurant is divided into several spaces, opening up first into the lounge from the elevator lobby. Muted metallic tones and wood elements underscore the main event — floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing southern views of Mount Rainier (when the mountain deigns to show itself through the region’s incessant marine layer), Lake Washington, and the Cascades to the east from the south eastern patio. Heading west, the sushi bar glitters in front of a monumental quartz wall cut to resemble the rings on cross-cut sections of tree trunks. The backdrop’s elegance is somewhat upstaged by the adjacent bright gold-tiled exhibition grill. Light from the flickering flames bounces off the metallic tiles, animating the kitchen in a glowing dance. Around the corner in the main dining room, cast replicas of tree roots (of the same varieties used in the wood on the grill) hover in suspension over tables like arbor crowns, though no one is likely to be looking up when they could be looking out. Thoughtfully designed tables make the most of the expansive views to the west of Lake Washington, Seattle, and the Olympic Mountains. It’s a sunset-lover’s nirvana dining destination.
On the steak side of the menu, Ascend offers six choices of premium hand-selected beef, including wet- and dry-aged American cuts like New York strip, Porterhouse, the “Seahawk” Chop, Japanese Wagyu from Kuroge Breed A5 and Miyazaki Prefecture A5, and the Tajima Cross Breed Wagyu from Australia. All Wagyu is priced per ounce, with a 3-ounce minimum.
Though sushi is a main culinary tenet at Ascend, culinary director Hee said it’s not a Japanese restaurant. “While we do have an Asian-inspired style … we are definitely more contemporary.” Chef Mayhew even promised to elevate the region’s vegan game by offering options not yet conceived in the Puget Sound culinary scene.
Elaina expects the restaurant’s unique size, stature, unmatched views, and elevated culinary format to launch Ascend into the stratosphere of elite dining destinations in the Pacific Northwest.
Ascend Prime is located on the 31st floor of Lincoln South Tower in Bellevue at 10400 N.E. Fourth Street. ascendprime.com