Casually styled and run humbly by a husband and wife team, Revel seems an unlikely candidate for the town's hottest table. But the elevated execution of the food has created an atmosphere of see-and-be-seen while you wait in line with the beautiful people. On Friday night, prospective diners, dressed like they might have missed the memo on Seattle's North Face and denim dress code, pack into the stylish side bar, Quoin. Mondays bring an early-week change in the atmosphere. Revel could easily be mistaken for that of any of the myriad nondescript Thai restaurants that litter this stretch of Fremont. The minimal, modern décor, with its hard corners and dark surfaces, remain, but the total tonnage of make-up worn by patrons is reduced by at least half--as is the wait time, when it exists at all.
The food stays unchanged from the usual path of steady excellence. Dress down a Monday night meal by sticking with the short rib rice bowl, a menu stalwart that exemplifies the power of a one-bowl meal. Sweet pickled daikon cuts the richness of tender short ribs; the vegetables, meat, and rice all brought together with silky egg yolk. Hearty without heaviness, a person of willpower, capable of resisting the many temptations of menu, could make this a simple, satisfying meal.
But doing that would mean ignoring the many other treasures that flood the menu, missing out on entire categories offered: salads, pancakes, dumplings, and noodles. So bringing friends and making Monday the new Friday is also an option. Despite the Asian bent to the menu, each section, each dish, draws in flavors from all over the world. Padrón peppers--loaning spice and sour, in pickled form--may hail from Spain, where chickpeas are also prevalent, yet both ingredients fit right in with the base of a traditional Korean squid pancake. Similarly, those expecting traditional dumplings such as Korean mandu, Chinese jao zi, or even Japanese gyoza, will be in for a surprise from those dishes. Appearing to draw from an almost pierogi-like recipe, with thick, but not chewy dough, the fillings can sound odd, but come together with flavor accuracy and harmony. An early version included Earl Grey tea and ricotta cheese, a current incarnation pairs black truffle sesame with cauliflower. The dumplings, like much of the menu change seasonally, with only originality the only constant.
Seattle has a tendency to flock to the latest and greatest restaurant, and then flee when the next one arrives. So someday Revel's weekend crowds will die down and you'll fit in with your flannel as you're seated right away on a Saturday night. Until then, if you want to enjoy their innovative cuisine without feeling like you need an innovative hairstyle or line-cutting strategy, just stop by on a Monday.