Person Behind The Place:
A visionary in the cocktail world, Lead Mixologist Chaz Lee offers a fully catered and customized experience to anyone at Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi whose taste embraces the bold and daring. For the first 10 years of his culinary career, he worked at his family's restaurant washing dishes and honing skilled techniques from great chefs around him. The lessons he learned shaped him into a creative, hardworking and resourceful mind in the industry, eventually catching the attention of Ascend co-owner Jeffery Frederick, who pulled Lee straight into the fine-dining business. In the past three years, Lee has grown into his career, adapting to restaurant demands and nailing down what the Bellevue community craves. Ultimately, with dedicated time and energy, Lee finally developed his first ever original cocktail, the Knight Rider, which still lives on the menu today. We caught up with Lee to hear his thoughts on what makes Ascend cocktails unique and his favorite spots around the Heart of Bellevue neighborhood.
What is unique about the food and drinks served at Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi?
We’re upscale dining that likes to do things differently. We have the capability to offer an array of options through our unique kitchens scattered throughout the restaurant including wood fire grills, a sushi bar and the main kitchen using exotic Asian flavors. Ascend can offer a collection of fresh seafood, freshly grilled Japanese steaks, as well as other land and sea options. Our cocktails are whimsical, bright and beautifully colored paired with aesthetically pleasing dishes. It’s amazing to be able to pair my cocktails with our head chef and give guests the full fine dining experience. Our ultimate goal is to cater to anything the guests want, whether it be nightlight happy hour to catered events to seven-course meals, we can do it all.
How do you elevate the typical cocktail experience?
The cocktail experience isn’t just about the cocktail, it's showing guests new flavors that they haven’t experienced or showing them new spirits they’ve never heard of. It’s being able to customize things to what the guest wants. For example, if someone wants a gin cocktail that’s fruit-forward, that’s something we can hone down and do our best to get the flavor and taste they’re looking for. We pride ourselves in using fresh ingredients, making our syrups in-house and only sourcing from the best.
What are your most popular drinks?
Of course, our Washingtonian is our most popular. It's our house version of a Manhattan-Old Fashioned hybrid. We use Woodinville port cask whiskey distilled right in our backyard and pair it with a cherry bourbon syrup. The finishing touches include a beautiful il reposo vermouth, nice craft vermouth from Italy and then we smoke it with applewood. My favorite to make is the Knight Rider. It's near and dear to my heart, we make it with Espolon tequila, yuzu liqueur and incredibly balanced Asian citrus, which is all complemented by a ginger liqueur from France.
What is your main inspiration when it comes to creating and making cocktails?
My inspiration is just my daily life. When I go to the grocery store, I smell every fruit, every flower and gather ideas from it. Even just looking at our dinner and dessert menu, I always ask myself 'how can I make this into a cocktail?’ Just paying attention to those everyday moments can help me create something amazing.
What do you love about working downtown?
I love the beautiful infrastructure surrounded by the lush green area. No matter what the weather is, Bellevue is always beautiful. When summer arrives, you get the breeze from the Puget Sound and the gorgeous sun peaking through all the skyscrapers. In the winter, the city is beautifully lit up for the holiday season. I also love the hustle of the city. You have your businessmen and financial advisors walking down the street, but then you got the mom with her three poodles. It’s very busy but at the same time incredibly comforting.
What are you favorite places to dine?
Right now, as the weather gets colder, I venture to Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, a very cute and traditional Japanese spot. It’s the most authentic ramen place around. Barrio Luchador in Lincoln Square South Food Hall is delicious. You got this amazing cuisine hidden in the middle of nowhere serving beautiful tacos. Something unique about them is they have a flavorful adobada meat roasting slowly all day.
Any hidden gems you'd like to share?
I would say Civility & Unrest is my favorite spot. The bartender Joe is amazing and it’s great to have other creative minds in the city to be able to bounce ideas off each other and see the amazing things he does there.
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Person Behind the Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi
10400 NE 4th St
Bellevue, WA 98004