Friday, July 25, 2008

fête extraordinaire - juillet 21, 2008

The rumors I'd heard about Elemental were true....

  • "Whatever you do, don't drive there, you'll need to cab it home"
  • "The food and the wine just kept coming"
  • "Make sure you get there before it opens, it fills up quickly"
All true. I got there at 4:45, 15 minutes before they opened, and got the last table. The very tiny restaurant, very hidden from the world, probably had 5 - 6 tables, as well as the "chef's counter".

We all entered when we were given the 'ok', in the exact order we'd arrived, there's no messing around. Everyone was served an introductory 'apperatif', a very odd but delicious sherry. At this point I'm waiting for my friend to arrive, he thought it would be safe to get there at 5:30! When he finally arrived, we were asked if we wanted a went something like this.."would you like a cocktail?" I said, "sure, do you make a sidecar?" He looked at me like I was crazy. I started laughing hysterically and said, "Can you make me a sidecar?" He said, "How about I make you something better." How can one argue that. This was obviously his schtick. His name's Phred for crying out loud. My cocktail was strong, different, delicious. I detected that very distinctive taste right off the bat, I knew it quite well...Aquavit. While in Denmark, we'd been force-fed this stuff. It was herby, very anise-y, had a little cucumber float/infusion.

Time to eat...."would you like to order off the menu or would you like us to feed you?"


Feed us!!

Course 1
Corn Soup w/ Crème Fraiche Ice Cream
White wine (chardonnay) fruity/tart/delicious

Course 2
Octopus salad w/plum tomatoes and greens
White wine

Course 3
Rillete de Lapin (rabbit pate of sorts) served with pickled radishes and crostinis
White wine

At this point I'm pleasantly buzzed and the food keeps coming, quickly. The food is so delicious we can't help but eat every last morsel.

Course 4
Fig Pizza with a sweet drizzle, topped with salt and pepper
White wine (this was a sweet/tart wine, it was so well paired and delightful)

Course 5
Sliced beef set atop a red pepper stuffed with some sort of puree or mash
White and Red wines served

Course 6
Speck Wrapped Chicken Thigh w/ Spinach
White and Red wines served


Course 7
Cheese platter (Manchego, some blue cheese, and a mild creamy cheese)
White wine (I think)

Course 8
Dessert (three of them - don't remember what they were, I was now blind and dumb from all the alcohol I'd consumed)
More wine

All I remember at this point is taking one bite of one of the desserts, and realizing that I was going to explode. I asked my friend if we could pay 'right now'. I had to get some air and that I did. We cabbed it home, thank goodness for the tip. I may have (did) puked a little when I got home, don't worry, no food was wasted, only a lot of wine.

The service was EXCELLENT, Phred comes across as being a jerk/snob, what have you. But this is his life and passion, you can see that immediately. Everything that is served is well thought out and paired so masterfully with the perfect wines. I will go back, but I will certainly approach it differently. You DON'T have to drink every last sip of wine folks..lesson learned. (Although this is very tough being a wine lover, can't let good wine go to waste)

Here are a couple critic reviews and 2 diner reviews from other sites:

The Stranger: This place is a freakshow. The food is fantastic; I recommend that you not even pick anything and just tell the guy that you can't decide and make something good. You'll probably get to taste everything on the menu that night, and all of it will blow your mind. Beware: he will also pour you as many as TWENTY glasses of wine throughout the night, very small glasses, but still. And he won't tell you what most of them are, and he'll probably cackle maniacally when you ask. They will perfectly complement the food, though; as a taste master he's unsurpassed in Seattle. But be careful driving home.

Seattle Magazine: Elemental is one step above underground restaurant: a for-pay dinner party hosted by slightly obsessive culinary friends. It's daunting for most, exhilarating for a few. Co-owner Phred Westfall is exactly the wrong host for a control freak, but when he makes you taste your wine first before revealing its identity, he forces you to think about flavor in a new way. Co-owner and chef Laurie Riedeman's homespun food ranges from the inspired (beef short ribs on a savory waffle) to the head-scratching (escargot ravioli with pastis butter or bacon-crusted chocolate truffles). It's an odd show that battles against homogeneity at every step. Dinner Tue.–Sat. Full bar, late-night dining.

1 Star Rating: Not Recommended
An open letter to the proprietor: Dear Phred, (Yes, Fred actually spells his name Phred (so much more sophisticated don’t you think?) You are not Gordon Ramsey or Marco Pierre White. Get over yourself. You are quoted in Sunset Magazine as saying the following: " 'All the things people hate about restaurants, we hate too. So we don't do those things,' says Phred Westfall, who with Laurie Riedeman owns Elemental@Gasworks. 'We don't like to be rushed, we don't like to be patronized, we don't want to be treated like a wallet walking through the door.' " Phred, you are precisely what is WRONG with the restaurant business. I find it amusing after eating at many fine restaurants around the world, that I have never been treated so rudely, witnessed such a tantrum by the owner of the establishment, or been treated precisely as a wallet. In fact, I have never been so inspired to write a review of a restaurant positive OR negative as I am after visiting your place of business. I will share my experience with everyone I know, and encourage my friends, err, wallets, to phrequent restaurants that provide excellent and courteous service along with the meal. There is no need to treat people like dirt, especially potential customers. I guess you don't feel like you need to treat people well because there is a line in phront of your door every night. I predict the demise of your restaurant within the next year. It won't take long phor your despicable behavior to get out.
5 Star Rating: Highly Recommended
READ THE TITLE OF THE's the same message that greets you at the most unique dinning experience anywhere. It makes me sad to read such brazen reviews saying things like "the service was so pretentious, doesn't the staff know I'm paying the bill?" for those of you who think this let me help you out so you don't feel so snubbed... they "warn" you from the beginning that it's not a normal dining experience. Phred and Lauri are NOT the staff- they are compassionate, CREATIVE, innovative people who invite you into their place of entertainment. Think about it- the bill is SO REASONABLE (three adults, 14 drinks each, 25-30 plates of deliciousness, cheese plate, dessert, and after dinner drinks for $250. unbelievable value, i sometimes wonder how they make money) and the bill does NOT allow for TIP, which means Phred and Lauri are there to do what they love. HEY SEATTLE-OPEN YOUR MIND! It's so frustrating to read people focus on the negative. I assume these are the type of people who are constantly looking for things to criticize. Going to Elemental is like going to Phred and Lauri's house for dinner where the drinks flow like water and the food will leave you amazed and satisfied. If you let things like what the floors are made ruin your experience you are really missing out. if you look for the good you will find it. Elemental is what human contact should be. Don't forget that we are all people who love to Eat, Drink, and BE MERRY.
Pros: value, FOOD, experience
Cons: getting in.
As I've said, take it as you wish, but bottom line there's passion, innovation, creativity and devotion. This is apparent and shines through and beyond the 'attitude'. The food was phenomenal and the exposition of wines was a delight, a drunken delight, a treat. JeannetteThis place has my friend Lisa's name written all over it, I better give her a jingle.