DINING Fresh Start & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & ight on time to feed the hordes flocking to the Fox, SCRATCH opened last Wednesday in the historic Montvale Hotel building right across the street. Chef Jason Rex (former executive chef at Fugazzi) and partner Connie Naccarato (former co-owner of Mamma Mia's) say they're ready for the onslaught, with late-night dining after events.

"The name refers to the fact that everything is made from scratch," says Rex. "We make our own pasta, all our crackers and breads. We cure our own prosciutto and pancetta."

Naccarato's mother contributes her Italian sausage, marinara and meat sauces, and hand-formed gnocchi from family recipes. Meats come from either Misty Isle Farms or Brandt, and seafood is brought in fresh, not frozen.

In addition to making everything from scratch, Rex also makes full use of his ingredients: The dinner menu features pan-seared duck breast; the duck legs and thighs go into the crispy duck sushi roll; the fat from the duck is used to cook the hand-cut organic potato chips.

And save room for dessert -- or make a special trip. Freshly made donuts, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, come accompanied by a trio of sauces for dipping: huckleberry, chocolate ganache and the superb caramel. Or there's the homestyle ice cream: four varieties, including huckleberry and Kahlua-hazelnut when we visited.

The interior is a blend of old and new, just like the hotel, built in 1899 to house the sea of laborers flooding to Spokane. The long narrow space has original hardwood floors, along with an original black 12-light chandelier. Those historic touches blend with sleek elements in black, red and brushed stainless steel.

"I think it's time for Spokane to get into big-city dining, like in Seattle and New York," says Rex. "I'm so excited."


Scratch, 1007 W. First Ave., is open Mon-Thu 11 am-midnight, Fri 11 am-2 am, and Sat 4 pm-2 am. Call 456-5656.

DINING Thai Dazzle

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & am one of those people who views rice as the perfect vehicle for Thai peanut sauce, the silky, smooth sauce that many of us associate with Thai food. Spokane's second BANGKOK THAI is a great place for rice and peanut sauce -- and that's only the beginning.

We'll get to the rest of the menu in a minute, but the d & eacute;cor merits discussion. The owners went to unbelievable lengths to provide an authentic Thai dining experience. Shall we start with the silverware, custom made in Thailand? Or how about the 3,000-pound Thai-made statue? It stands 9 feet tall. Told you peanut sauce was just the start.

"We imported some unique items," says co-owner Jayme Cozzetto.

Cozzetto and his partner shipped in 10 tons of decorations, plates and silverware from Thailand to achieve their goal of creating a one-of-a-kind dining experience. "We want to dazzle people," says Cozzetto.


Moving on to the menu -- that may dazzle you as well. The chicken pad Thai got rave reviews from my lunch date, and the pad kee mao with basil was delicious, the wide noodles smooth and perfectly seasoned. But a word of warning: When they say Level 3 heat is hot (spice levels are rated from 0 to 5), they mean it's really hot.

The River Walk location is familiar to Thai food lovers around the area because it was previously Riverview Thai, the popular family-owned restaurant. Due to medical issues, Riverview's owners sold the assets to Bangkok Thai in October. Cozzetto says he worked with the previous owners to make a smooth transition. After closing for two weeks the restaurant reopened under its new name, ownership and look.

Lunch will cost you about $15 -- unless you get the $12 buffet. Whatever your choice, take notice of the details. Personally, I think I need some peanut sauce. Maybe I'll go back for a little more rice and find out what else made its way from Thailand to Spokane.


Bangkok Thai, 1003 E. Trent Ave., is open Sun-Thu 11 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-10 pm. Call 325-8370.

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