Saturday, September 13, 2008

Elemental, My Dear Watson

This is a completely non-technical post, but since I know that quite a few people who read my blog also live in the Seattle area, so there is no way I could not post it. You see, I had the most amazing dinner last night...

My friends Ken and Susan had each independently recommended the restaurant, Elemental@Gasworks[1] to me and I'd been wanting to check it out for some months now. And since I was in Seattle and free last night, I had my chance. And let me tell you, my expectations were sky-high, and I was not disappointed.

I arrived around 4:15. I'd heard that the place was hard to find so I wanted to give myself some extra time, but between my GPS and the verbal instructions I'd received from Ken I did ok. I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Gasworks Park which is just south of the restaurant, and took my seat around 5:00 when the doors opened[2] for business. There was a cocktail hour from 5:00 to 6:00, but since I was driving I couldn't partake in the hard stuff, and instead sipped some iced wine and cucumber water[3] while snacking on my truffle popcorn.

Instead of ordering from the menu I took the prix fixe option. I'd heard enough good things about the chef to trust her judgment, and what followed was an exercise in culinary delight. Let's see...

  • We started with stuffed calamari (the body of the squid was stuffed with rice and other goodness, and the tentacles were on the side) cooked in red wine,
  • Which was followed by a blue cheese and pear bread pudding, which was savory and sweet at the same time,
  • And then a dish of lamb tartare with a quail egg yolk on top, served with crispy salty cheese cracker triangles,
  • Followed by a green salad with a truffle vinaigrette dressing,
  • And a salmon filet cooked with bacon and served on some sort of wilted greens and pear tomatoes,
  • And finished up with a roast quail stuffed with something delicious - by that point it was too dark for me to tell just what it was.
  • Of course "finished up" is something of a misnomer, because I opted to get the cheese course as well, which included four types of amazing cheese, three varieties of wine, some bread, slices of apple, and a date stuffed with nuts and other goodness.
  • And by then there was no way I could say no to the "sweets," which included three different desserts and a pair of dessert wines.

Oh my goodness - was the best meal I've had in months, and perhaps the best meal I've ever had in the US. Yes, it was that good.

I just wish I had a designated driver, so I could have done more than sip my wine. The wines were generous and paired perfectly with the courses, but since I was driving I had to limit my intake to just a taste here and a taste there.

And the last thing that blows my mind - the meal cost $87 in total. Now I know this is not a cheap meal, but this includes the prix fixe menu ($40) plus the wine pairings ($20) plus the cheese course ($12) plus desserts ($15) and includes taxes. And they don't accept tips, so when I say "total" that's exactly what I mean. I honestly don't know how they do it. I've paid twice as much for meals that were far inferior.

If you're in the Seattle area, definitely check out this restaurant. You need to show up early (doors open at 5:00 and every table was full by 5:15 or so, and at 9:00 I was the first one to leave) or show up late (to get a table when the first round of diners is done) but definitely show up. I know that I'll be back...

[1] As I write this the restaurant web site is down, so I'm linking to a Seattle Times review instead. Normally you can find them online here

[2] Figuratively - the doors were physically open the whole time.

[3] That's right - there was a little slice of cucumber in the carafe of ice water on the table, and it gave the water a very subtle cucumber flavor. It was a little weird, but it worked.

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