Despite the always surly, sometimes downright rude service, I miss Elemental. I miss their blind tasting menu, their generous wine pours, legendary stories of patrons' over-the-top intoxication, and the intimacy of eating at one of the smallest restaurants in Seattle.
On a side note, in either a courageous or callous naming of an unrelated business, pizza joint recently opened in the University Village.
Blind tasting menu: We didn't have to decide what to eat when Elemental had done all of the thinking ahead of time. Co-owner Phred Westfall told me they switched from a traditional a la carte menu to their blind tasting menu a few years back because customers kept ordering the wrong things.
In order to understand the talent of co-owner and chef Laurie Riedman, you could take a peek over the counter and notice that she was cranking out multi-course meals on four portable propane burners.
And she switched the menu every week from smoked trout served with oats one week and then rabbit mole tacos the next. The two constants were the rice pudding (I have yet to find a rice pudding that tops Laurie's) with a seasonal compote and the cheese plate.
Phred's legendary, well-thought out and generous pours served many purposes: To help enhance the taste of the food and to keep the cab business alive in Seattle.
Stories: Everyone has heard a restaurant or bar story begin with "you should have seen this one time." But Elemental had a special knack for attracting (or attacking) the uninitiated who often left a trail of biohazard as they crawled out the front door, dignity lost. For more stories, check out my Phuck me article.
Intimacy: The no-reservations policy for the six table and four counter seats, plus Phred's no-tolerance policy of pretentious jerks helped keep this place primarily a haven for genuine food enthusiasts.
And it really was the best deal in town. For $150, two people could eat like royalty.
I asked Laurie what she missed most about the restaurant, she did not hesitate, "Definitely the customers."'
The good news for other lost Elemental worshipers: Phred and Laurie are plotting their next culinary feat. In the meantime, if you are in withdrawal, Phred is still fixing up mighty fine cocktails at Marche from Sundays through Tuesdays. Laurie splits her time between Cicchetti, Lecosho, and hosting private dinners.