...it might make it harder for my wife and I to get a table.
Thanks to Nancy Leson of the Seattle Times for pointing out an amazing pick right in my own backyard. Owners Phred Westfall and Laura Riedeman have turned a hidden storefront in a North Seattle condo complex into a haven for excellent euro-american food, coupled with equally excellent (even extraordinary) wine pairings.
I read about them Friday, walked over on Saturday, and am writing them up Saturday night (yes, they are that good). They may not want me to suggest this, but I'm convinced that part of my great experience is due to the fact that I told Phred I was in his hands - I wanted to see what they were all about, and I asked him to select both food and wines to show me the way.
Two half-course starters, one entree, one dessert, five wines and one liqueur later, I'm prepared to anoint Elemental the best overall dining experience in North Seattle. Not every dish was a slam-dunk - all were very good, and two (the goat cheese salsa and the banana-rum bread pudding) were exceptional. But the overall experience was what I think all restaurants should be about -- a highly personalized passion for food and wine, made plain in both execution and presentation.
Among the many charms of this restaurant is its intimacy (I counted five tables, two pairings of cocktail chairs and two counter stools as the total available seating) and its open kitchen. Reservations are not taken, so be prepared to wait. But if you choose to wait, you can count on personal service from Phred, including unannounced wine selections that reflect both his mood, and his assessment of yours. And if you eat at the counter (as I did), you can see the entire operation in action - from Laura manning the gas burners, to her assistant plating the composed meals, to the dishwasher scrubbing up the completed rounds.
If you're looking for something to complain about, the only thing I can offer is this: Phred and Laura are clearly pouring their hearts into this restaurant - which is why you should go as soon as possible. I don't think anyone can maintain their combination of a high-quality dining experience, great hospitality and very fair prices without being forced to make changes out of sheer exhaustion. So go soon (just not when I want a table...)