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21 Commerce
Restaurant Review
By Don and Peg Doman

21 Commerce view from the bar.


21 Commerce Business Manager Jordan Snyder.Until Peg and I stopped in to sample some appetizers from 21 Commerce (restaurant + martini bar) I had only been inside the restaurant once and that was to drop off a plaque recognizing the restaurant for participating in Zoobilee for 2004 (four years in a row for sponsorship). At that time I was not only impressed by the worn-warehouse-high-tech-modern look and feel, but also the friendly and energetic staff . . . and in particular Jordan Snyder.


Open spaces and conversation areas.For Johanna's birthday, our daughter-in-law, we treated her and our son, Del, to dinner at 21 Commerce. They loved it. 21 Commerce is located at 21st and Commerce in the very chic university and museum district of downtown Tacoma. The restaurant is located directly above The Loft (THE place to go dancing in Tacoma). Peg explained that Johanna's sister Rachel met her husband Dione there. "Ahhhhh," I said filling in a piece of family history.


Walls are kept to a minimum throughout the restaurant and bar offering wide-open spaces AND conversation areas. Inside the decor is simple and looks like all of those Hollywood films where the struggling secretary, artist, out-of-work student lives in what the producers would have you believe is an affordable alternative to a high-rise apartment. As Dolly Parton once said, "You wouldn't believe how much it costs to dress this cheaply."


Chef Dan Cool of 21 Commerce.I dropped off Peg at the door and parked our car (parking is always at a premium). By the time I joined her she was already sitting with Jordan and Chef Dan Cool. Each had a glass of water or a soda. I ordered a lemonade (Excellent!) and we began to talk. Jordan is the business manager and has been with 21 Commerce since the beginning . . . well, actually before the beginning. She started as personal assistant to the principal (Emerging Market Development) owner and then landed this position in the planning stages (over five years ago). She seems a perfect fit. She's young, friendly and knows everything that is going on. I'm guessing she loves this job and is having the time of her life. Success can do that.


Chef Dan Cool has been with 21 Commerce for only eight months, but is already part of the hardworking team. Dan started cooking at his parents' restaurant when he was fifteen. The previous chef recommended Dan. Dan asked around about 21 Commerce and liked their positive work environment. He accepted the position. Dan brings Northwest dining experience from the Gateway Cottage in Parkland and the Green Turtle in Gig Harbor.


The Asian Beef Satay was tasty.Dan has made his mark with the Asian Fusion cuisine, which is ideal for our Pacific Northwest. The menu features an innovative blending of ingredients and cooking techniques from local Northwest and Asian traditions.


Peg loves the tempura asparagus.Our first tasty tidbit was the Asian Beef Satay, which is similar to what we will be sampling at Zoobilee 2005. The skewered medallions of beef marinated in a flavorful mixture of Hoisin Sauce, ginger and garlic were great by themselves and excellent with the snow peas and mushrooms. Topping off this wonderful entree were spears of lightly coated tempura asparagus served over a mountain of sticky rice. I really liked the medallions and Peg really liked the asparagus . . . or was it the other way around?


Excited Chef Dan Cool.When asked what she likes to do when not working at 21 Commerce Jordan mentioned visiting The Loft as well as two other fine restaurants: Il Fiasco, and Europa Bistro. There are more restaurants coming to the same downtown area, and Jordan is confident that the more restaurants there are the better business will be . . . and it's already really good 21 Commerce. So good in fact that the parent company has purchased the now dark Jillian's and 7 Cities. Dan is busily working on concepts and menus. Jillian's will be a homestyle restaurant which will seat 270 people in its 25,000 square feet. Dan can hardly contain himself when speaking of the future involving the three restaurants.


Excellent shrimp fritters.Jordan offered us an appetizer menu. We chose Shrimp Fritters and Raspberry Fire Chicken, we could have had them all and the scallops looked good, but in sampling you need to pace yourself . . . and have limits.


The shrimp fritters were ground up shrimp meat, coated and deep fried. They were served with a mango chutney. Although for refined dining you should cut each fritter into halves or thirds, they pop into the mouth so nicely whole. The chutney was good, but I prefer a little more spice, which is why I chose the Raspberry Fire Chicken, which was served next.


Prosciutta wrapped prawns.I really enjoyed the Raspberry Fire Chicken. I knew it was going to be spicey and it was. It was slightly sweet with the raspberry sauce and was hot, but not too hot. Later I had a snack of the sticky rice from the satay and the chicken. It was good, although I wished I had ordered some fried rice to accompany it.


21 Commerce is well known for both their dining experience and their martini bar. Much of their Pierce County billboard ads reflect the "specialty" martini aspect of their restaurant with comments like "unwind and dine." Their signature martinis are carefully created with a variety of flavors and imagination. I think next time I go there I'll have the Key Lime Pie Martini or the Mango A Go-Go. In addition to their food booth at Zoobilee, they also have a spirit booth where they serve martinis. This year they are serving their Black Martini (revelers can keep the martini stemware) which contains Finlandia Vodka, Chambord, and Blue Curacoa with a splash of sour and finished with a cherry. When you hold the wonderful liquid up to the light it contains the deep blue/purple of the Peacock tail, which is why it was chosen for the 2005 Zoobilee.


The Black Martini.Although I cautioned Peg that the chicken was too spicey for her, she wanted to sample. Dan warned her, "You'll like it at first and then a few seconds later you'll want something to cool off with." Peg chose the Black Martini, which worked perfectly.


21 Commerce has been an excellent sponsor for both Zoobilee and the American Heart Association. For the month of July 2005 at 21 Commerce they will donate a dollar to the zoo for each Black Martini sold (something they've done for the Heart Association as well, in addition to their samples at Zoobilee. Jordan assured Peg and I that when they have the other two restaurants up and running they will have four to five booths at Zoobilee featuring their martinis and food from all three restaurants.


Painting on the wall.What's really nice about the decor and layout of 21 Commerce is the cozyness of it. You wouldn't think so with the openess of the spaces, but it's true. There are small intimate areas for gathering, talking, and laughing. Many local groups meet there. It's a great gathering place, which offers art, video (did we mention the plasma monitors built into the stainless steel bar . . . there just so much to offer here) . . . fine spirits and excellent food for both snacking and dining . . . and if you love dancing, you're only forty steps away from The Loft. Another martini and I may have slipped away for a dance or two.


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