Encased in floor-to-ceiling windows with views facing one of downtown Bellevue’s busiest intersections and the valet entrance to the Hyatt Regency, JOEY Bellevue is a place to see and be seen. Most of the seating is in the bar sections, where guests comfortably sit in low-profile black leather booths. The clever lighting displays guests like jewels in a ring box. A globally inspired menu means broad appeal for groups with a variety of diners.
The spaghetti and meatballs, for example, is served with a Calabrian chili tomato sauce and topped with whipped ricotta laced with lime zest — an unexpected flavor combination that elevates it from what could have been a routine pasta dish.
It’s easy to assume that upscale chic has been the JOEY modus operandi from the beginning, but its origins and commitment to culinary education are surprising. In 1992, Jeff Fuller opened a small neighborhood pasta joint in Calgary called JOEY Tomato’s Italian Kitchen. Fast forward 25 years, and the concept has morphed into urban dining spaces with dishes representing cuisines from around the world, and 27 locations across Canada, California, and Washington.
Every few years, JOEY gathers all its chefs for a culinary research field trip. In 2017, JOEY chefs visited Portugal and Morocco. In Portugal, Executive Chef Chris Mills arranged for consultations with locals in search of recipes and cooking techniques to bring to the JOEY menus.
Sebastio’s octopus salad with cilantro, white onion, and lime and Basque cake with saffron poached quince, pear, and pistachio were chef-favorites. On their final evening, the JOEY chefs hosted a feast for the town, tables lining the streets, as a thank you and farewell.
Then the chefs flew to Morocco, where they scoured the Marrakech souk (market) for spices and flavor inspiration before attending cooking school at La Maison Arabe. The experience inspired several new JOEY dish ideas for the test kitchen, including grilled leg of lamb with dried fruit mustard and rosemary, Peri Peri chicken with grilled lemon, and couscous with onion raisin jam. A chickpea hummus with marinated olives already made the cut.
“We are inspired by our travels. This year, we took our chefs to Portugal and Morocco, two countries with a culinary history rich with stories and spice. Our training came from fishermen, farmers, and internationally acclaimed chefs who shared their traditions with us, and now we get to share them with our guests. It doesn’t get much better than that,” Mills said.