I ate humble pie – and it was good!

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Well here it is, the long awaited (and sober)  review of Elemental in Seattle. Silvia and I learned of this really hard to find restaurant from a local waitress (I’m not saying server! There’s nothing wrong with waitress, so save the hate mail!) at Cafe Campagne. She overheard where we were going to dinner and had to interject with her “locals” only list. Fine by us as we love this kind of intell.

Elemental was one of 6 restaurants she recommended we try and for the following reasons:

  • They have no menu.
  • You get what they feel like cooking.
  • They serve the meal all inclusive of booze, food and tip for $85/person.
  • The husband handles the front of house, including mixing you a cocktail with your favorite liquor.
  • They don’t take reservations.
  • And lastly, the food is supposed to be amazing.

Good enough reasons for us, so we got there plenty early to secure our spot as we were told it was first come-first seated. Apparently, Wednesday nights are not that crowded, so we got there way too early. Only problem with that was we (OK . . . I) got drunk pretty quick. After a mulled wine was served, just warm enough to thaw us out from the Seattle storm we were caught in, front of house guy mixes us each a cocktail per our preferred liquor. Mine was Bourbon. I usually like my Bourbon with a sour mix, but he gave it to me with some blend of other liquors instead and it dropped me on my butt in a hurry. If you saw my Facebook posts – you’ll now understand why I was rallying for a Monkeescomeback. I was jamming to Daydream Believers while my wife died laughing watching me get drunk for the first time in our 17 years of marriage! Did I mention the cool music they play here?

Front of house guy, who wouldn’t tell us his name when we inquired – telling us it was “Unnecessary,” was either rude or this was his charm. We’re still not quite sure. One thing is for sure, this guy can pair wine. Every course we had, there were 6 of them, was paired with a separate wine and every one was spot on perfect.

And now for the food review but first, it must be noted that this is not a typical restaurant, at least from Orange County health code standards. They had no hood or ventilation which means there is no flame to cook with. They solved this issue with a portable gas camping stove, but it did the trick. They are classified as a wine bar which apparently in Seattle allows for different rules. Cool for them and great for us! The restaurants decor is as basic as you can get. I’ll bet their entire tenant improvement bill totaled $1,500, but we weren’t there for the ambiance, we were there for the food.

Since there was no menu, and front of house guy (FOHG) wasn’t talking the whole night, we had to guess at some of the entrees and every wine. The first course we think was a tomatillo soup with hominy, tortilla strips, a big slice of jalapeno that threatened your spoon every time you dove in. We knew the rest of the night was going to be special. This soup was delicious and the pairing we swore was a Sauvignon Blanc. We stopped FOHG to see if we were right and he smugly answered – “No” and walked away. We finally got him to tell us it was a Italian wine called a Ribolla Gialla, or so I think he said. Remember, I was drunk already! Anyway, the wine was perfect with the soup and it did taste like a mild Sauv Blanc. This was to be the way the rest of the night  would go – we guess, FOHG smirks in denial and we beg for the answers.

The next course was a plate of poached shrimp with bok choy. The flavors the chef evoked in this dish were terrific. This course, and all the rest, were served on one plate for Silvia and I to share. Good thing as we would have been packed! Sorry, don’t recall the white wine he served, but again it was perfect.

Course #3 was a poached white fish stuffed with sauteed spinach. Amazing what they could do with a hot plate and  a camping stove. The wine pairing turned out to be a Roussanne after I swore it was a Chablis. This guy was really pissing me off!

Course #4 was my personal favorite and the subject of a drunken Facebook post mid-dinner. It was black trumpet mushrooms with gnoche. I would eat this for the rest of my life and be content with every serving. This is my new favorite mushroom. Sorry Chantrelle. The wine pairing turned out to be a Barbera from Italy. I would have bet my house I was drinking an old world Syrah, but nope, it turned out to be a beautiful Barbera. I’ll have a new appreciation for Barbera if they all taste like this.

Course #5 was a fillet of beef, cooked perfectly, which sat upon a bed of pureed parsnips. There was some other unidentified sauce as well that rocked. Confident that this courses wine pairing was a Cote du Rhone because of the heavy white pepper overtones, FOHG laughed mockingly and said – “Not even close. Wrong country.” Turns out it was a syrah from Chile. I would have sworn this was French all day long, and so would many others I’m sure. What a delight this Chilean syrah was. We’re researching it now to see if we can get any for the store. Stay tuned.

The last course was a cheese course. Nice selection of 4 cheeses, all of which we serve or have served at our wine bar, which were paired with an unidentified Sauvignon Blanc and a Four Vines Old Vine Zinfandel. Too tired, or too humiliated at my inability to correctly guess anymore, Silvia announced with confidence what the wines were to FOHG and he nodded, smirked and said “Yup.” Final score: Silvia was 2 for 2, I was 0 for 5. Normally this performance would ruin my night, but the Bourbon and The Monkees saw to it that I had a great time at Elemental. It was everything our waitress friend said it would be!

I had my humble pie and I loved every bite of it!