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“Truly unique - go with an open mind”
Review of Elemental@Gasworks - CLOSED

Elemental@Gasworks
Price range: US$31 - US$40
Neighbourhood: Lake Union
Restaurant details
Neighbourhood: Lake Union
Reviewed 28 March 2012

As the sign inside said, "There are 2000 normal restaurants in Seattle - this is not one of them."

elemental is one of my very favorite places, and you have to accept it on its own terms. If you want traditional "the customer is always right" service, to be treated deferentially, you may hate it; it's a polarizing place. But if you're up for an adventure and a fun evening with lots of wines and a variety of creative small plates, you may fall in love with it and join the ranks queuing for one of the fewer than 20 seats. The newspaper review that best captured the experience here likened it to "a demented dinner party."

No reservations are accepted, so on weekends you'd best get there before it opens or go later in hopes of catching one of the tables turning. Doors open at 5, the tables fill up, and you get truffled popcorn and an aperetif, and cocktails or wine spritzers, before dinner service officially starts at 6. There are a couple of four-tops and a few two-tops, and three seats at the counter. Don't even think about bringing a group larger than four here, except maybe midweek.

There's no menu - used to be, but now Phred will simply ask if there are any allergies or food issues, and serve you accordingly. (The first time I encountered this, I noted that I'm picky and always like to look at the menu, to which he replied, "Oh, you're not getting a menu.") I am picky, but I've enjoyed most of what has been served to me here, and tried a few things I never would have otherwise (like lamb tartare). There will be three small plates per person, but he brings them out one per couple at a time to share, so it's like a 6-course meal (plus dessert, if you choose). And he will bring unidentified glasses of wine to pair with each dish; we've turned it into a guessing game and then he'll eventually tell us what we're drinking, but not upfront. Think about a designated driver or call a cab, because you will be getting a lot of wine over the course of the evening :-).

If you are looking for a lighter meal, something less time-consuming, or if you can't get a table in the main dining room, there's E.N.D. (Elemental Next Door), a wine bar with the same food available ala carte and an awesome selection of very reasonably priced wines by the bottle (just peruse the shelves lining the wall and pick one out), or by the glass. It's not the same experience without Phred, but as the host told us, "it's a democracy here, a benign dictatorship next door." You can see what's cooking by checking out the menu listed on a roll of butcher paper.

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Thank Seattle98101
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviews (23)
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4 - 8 of 23 reviews

Reviewed 8 January 2012

This is one restaurant where both the good and bad reviews are right. Actually it's two restaurants, which makes it even harder to rate.

This will cover both "Elemental" and "Elemental Next Door" (END) because I can't find a separate entry for the latter. The food and wine on both sides of the restaurant are the same, and brilliant. Dishes are relatively simple, but always well-conceived and exquisitely made.

The END side (on the right) has excellent, relaxed, helpful service. It takes a minute to get the hang of how the place works, but the servers have been just great every time I've been there. It's how restaurants would work in a better world. No tipping. Servers are there to help rather than fawn, and they do.

The Elemental side has Phred Riedman. I don't know if his rudeness is genuine or an act, but it goes beyond cute gruffness to unprovoked nastiness. One story: a friend was on her way there to meet me and called for directions; the person who picked up the phone told her that if she couldn't find the place they didn't want her business, and hung up.

The Elemental side is prix fixe. You get a series of food and wine pairings -- or perhaps more accurately, a series of wines with food pairings. Unless you have a heroic tolerance for alcohol, don't finish all the wines -- you're gonna get 6-8 glasses (I lost count). Aside from that, as long as Riedman is behaving well it's a lot of fun: amazing food and wine turn up at your table, and then you roll into a cab and go home.

As long as you stick to the END side, and don't make the mistake of calling the restaurant on the phone, it's an unqualified five stars. On the other side, Riedman's boorishness prevents me from recommending it: it might turn out well, it might not.

1  Thank chienandalou
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 July 2011

Don't go to this place expecting a warm welcome or a comfortable experience... If you can tolerate rude you will love to eat here. The dinner is amazing... I stopped counting all of the courses and my friend loved the wine pairings. Unique dishes and very flavorful... dispite the service. Owner takes soup nazi to a whole new level... at one point I thought it was a joke--- nope this is how he really is.

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Thank Berkley09
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 July 2011

The experience is anything but "typical". This place stimulates all five senses like nothing else can--ok, almost nothing else ;-)

Don't even think about making choices. The menu (there is none) is what you are served by the chef and her partner, the attentive, spartan host Phred. It starts with a generous aperitif and a cocktail that matches your DNA. Then, all eight courses, with fresh daily ingredients. Wines pairings (I lost track at number 10) are masterfully paired and generously poured--over and over and over again. There were more flights than arrivals at SeaTac!

To describe the specific courses would be futile, because each was better than the last and your non-menu will be different--but equally spectacular as ours. But just for the record, the roasted beet and pineapple stack salad, the BLT soup, the roasted halibut, the lamb, peas and cheese grits stack and the sweet corn and clam ravioli were all just , well, "elementally extraordinary". The desserts are equally promiscuous. All part of the experience.

This is an unusual gig. These folks do this (as my friend said) " for the love of the game". Because anyone that can serve this quality of food and wine for a fixed price meal at this price and not accept a gratuity (yup, that's right, they will find it offensive) is in it for seeing the pleasure of their craft create a pleasurable experience for their "guests".

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1  Thank Mike_Adventure
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 December 2009

Second time there and just as good as the first. They hit on every cylinder... food outstanding, wine selections excellent, great hosting, delightful service. And you'll want to hug chef Laurie to thank for the experience.

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1  Thank NYorkAl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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