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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