Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Elemental@Gasworks


Recommended Posts

After reading a good review of Elemental@Gasworks, I gathered up 2 foodie friends and we made our way to the mysterious restaurant without a phone number nor sign. We arrived around 7pm and all of the 4 or so tables were full. The place is tiny. The owner came up to us and shouted "the wait is 2 hours" and quickly turned around and left before we could even respond. Since they don't take reservations, have no phone, and are rude to their guests, how on earth do they ever expect to survive once the newness wears off? I doubt any of us will return since the way we were treated left such a sour taste in our mouth. Anyone had a good experience?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After reading a good review of Elemental@Gasworks, I gathered up 2 foodie friends and we made our way to the mysterious restaurant without a phone number nor sign.  We arrived around 7pm and all of the 4 or so tables were full.  The place is tiny.  The owner came up to us and shouted "the wait is 2 hours" and quickly turned around and left before we could even respond.  Since they don't take reservations, have no phone, and are rude to their guests, how on earth do they ever expect to survive once the newness wears off?  I doubt any of us will return since the way we were treated left such a sour taste in our mouth.  Anyone had a good experience?

Where is Elemental@Gasworks, and where did you read the great review? Is this just dinner, or do they do lunch as well? Was your bad experience a weeknight or a Saturday?

Karen

Editor of Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner, a Take Control series ebook.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After reading a good review of Elemental@Gasworks, I gathered up 2 foodie friends and we made our way to the mysterious restaurant without a phone number nor sign.  We arrived around 7pm and all of the 4 or so tables were full.  The place is tiny.  The owner came up to us and shouted "the wait is 2 hours" and quickly turned around and left before we could even respond.  Since they don't take reservations, have no phone, and are rude to their guests, how on earth do they ever expect to survive once the newness wears off?  I doubt any of us will return since the way we were treated left such a sour taste in our mouth.  Anyone had a good experience?

I read reviews in both ... Stranger and Times? .. I think and have also been eager to go. Will be interested to hear of others' experiences.

I take it you didn't get a sense of whether they had a list established, so you could have, say, gone and had a cocktail elsewhere (or slept in your car, or enjoyed the thrills of Wallingford, or whatever ...) and then shown up later with some actual hope of having a table? Were you to sit on the stoop?

Richard W. Mockler

Seattle

I will, in fact, eat anything once.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The review I read was in the Seattle Times. The restaurant is in the bottom of a condo bldg on Lake Union right near Gasworks Park. We would've gladly asked about a waiting list but the owner (Phred) just snapped at us and didn't give us the chance to ask. He literally snapped at us and immediately turned his back & went back to his customer. There is absolutely nothing around the area so it's not like you could easily go have a drink somewhere else. After mentioning this to a colleague today, they actually had nearly the same experience.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's I Heart Bacon's review from her blog.

The short version: she ran into the same long wait, explained just as rudely as you describe. The restaurant does not put people's names on a list. She went several places for drinks, returned really late and enjoyed the food.

I can understand a small restaurant being swamped by the attention of a good review, but it's possible to be civil to customers (or potential customers) even when you're swamped. Perhaps I'm just not enough of a food warrior, but I'd go elsewhere.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some friends & I went a few weeks ago-since there are no reservations taken & it is a very small restaurant, we met there about 5 mins to five. Alas, the wind was blowing as we waited for the place to open & it was with relief we noticed the guy who owns it walk by & open the front door-momentary relief, as scrutinizing our windblown, hopeful faces, he told us rudely to wait :blink: (we didn't ask to be seated at a table, only to stand indoors). Well, I too am in the profession that is based on hospitality, so this, I felt boded ill....). As we had arranged to meet others there who hadn't arrived, we stood outside and were finally allowed in. Then the nazi supervised the seating arrangements, only 2 4 tops were available & we were not allowed to push the tables together. Too exhausted to leave (& some of the others had not arrived yet, we settled into isolated tables.

Briefly, the drill is he chooses (modus operendi of the control freak, hee, hee) the alcohol, not revealing what it is until you have tasted & speculated on its' origins-his choices were interesting & well done, I felt. You choose dishes from columns, with casual names, eg. the "meatloaf" (only description) contained foie gras. The dishes, eg. lamb's tongue over a brioche, were excellent, but lacking varied, textures, colour, etc. on the individual plates. A couple of the sauces were amaturish in my opinion & didn't make sense. For me, as a one nite stand, it was sorta interesting to see how they worked out the fact they had one cook-could'nt see any saute, just prepared dishes ahead, like braises, etc. The lack of hospitality was reprehensible-Intimidation doesn't impress me. Masochists enjoy!

p.s. the restaurant was not swamped-weeknite

Edited by chefwendy (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The lack of hospitality was reprehensible-Intimidation doesn't impress me. Masochists enjoy!

p.s. the restaurant was not swamped-weeknite

And we, as a whole, have the power to do some serious damage to this business, just on word of mouth. Course, it could be argued that he's doing it to himself, ultimately, by his inhospitable manner. But word spreads fast in the digital age, and on a board as visible as eG, he could soon find himself with an empty restaurant night after night.

I give them a year, tops. The dining public won't put up with that shit for long. There's just too many other great places to go in this town.

Born Free, Now Expensive

Link to comment
Share on other sites

this is really quite stunning. we've been several times -- including right after the reviews came out -- and found short waits, but also found Phred nothing short of gracious. (and the food and wine were terrific.)

i wonder if the stress is getting to them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been 2 times in the last 6 weeks and had a great time both occasions.

The first time we went we hadn't realized that the wine is paired for you (yes - meaning that Phred doesn't let you see what he is pouring) and there is no wine list - but we thought it was fun and went with it.

There are very few tables - 4 I think is correct - along with 2 seats at the bar and a couple of low chairs at the front. So the trick is to get there early or late. Yes - Phred can come off as abrupt but I don't think rude (at least in my opinion).

They pass the menu according to when you arrive as they just have one or two people cooking. When we went the first time and asked for the menu and were told we had to wait our turn I wasn't quite sure what to say or do - but the people at the next table teased us and said they had it next so we were 3rd in line. I think that the fact that the tables/people around us were all friendly helped with that first experience.

The second trip we made was with another couple and we had told them about our first time there and the way that the restaurant "works" and they were looking forward to the experience. We shared 8 dishes between the 4 of us, had two cocktails each, wine throught the meal plus 2 desserts to share and spent a total of $200.00 and were there for close to 3 hours.

Phred definately added to our experience. We talked with him a great deal thoughout the night, he was funny and pleasant and we all really liked him.

The food we had both times was good. Drinks were good. Wine was good. Prices were very good.

We are definately planning on going back often.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I give them a year, tops. The dining public won't put up with that shit for long. There's just too many other great places to go in this town.

On the other hand, you've got to admit that any place with a two hour wait to get in is doing something right.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I give them a year, tops. The dining public won't put up with that shit for long. There's just too many other great places to go in this town.

On the other hand, you've got to admit that any place with a two hour wait to get in is doing something right.

They only have 4 tables - they would be full if 8 people walked in the door. Sounds like some others have had good experiences once they got in. I'll give it a few months and may consider trying it again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I worked for and with Phred and Laurie for a period of two years over at the Union Bay Cafe. This is definitely just the way they work. They are working this restaurant all on their own (which is an intentional choice.) because they believe they will provide you the best service you can get (which they will if you can get passed the fact that Phred can be a little difficult in the initial meeting for some people.). All I know if Phred and Laurie will give you the best service that you will ever have if you will just work with Phred and let him cater to you. He has a certain way of giving service, which I found out oh to well, and as a consumer that is a gift. They actually are wonderul people that are working way too hard. :wacko:

" You soo tall, but you so skinny. I like you, you come home with me, I feed you!"- random japanese food worker.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They actually are wonderul people that are working way too hard. :wacko:

this has very much been my experience. when we've eaten at Elemental, the food was excellent -- not uniformly so, but it was uniformly good (especially for a single-chef operation) and far more interesting than dishes at some monosyllabic Seattle restaurants with far larger staffs. the prices are hard to beat, especially the prix fixe. and while i think they're both nuts for refusing to let people offer gratuities, i'm not going to complain *too* loudly.

Phred's wine pairings are fantastic, and if you show yourself interested, i've found that he'll engage you in very animated discussions about what he's poured and what wines he enjoys. (disclaimer: i had the advantage of correctly guessing the first wine he poured for us, which probably helped.) we've brought our own wine in there too, and not only didn't get nailed with a corkage fee but managed to add it to the mix of all the things we were trying. i think each of us ended up with 8-9 glasses on the table that evening.

beyond that, i've found Phred and Laurie gracious and pleasant on every occasion, even sitting and chatting with us well after closing time. you clearly sense these are two people who are utterly committed to the food and to minimizing the layers of frou-frou restaurant crap that usually lies between an eager diner and a good meal. that said, if you're someone who thrives off the experience of fine dining, and is particular about the wines you drink, you'll probably be annoyed. but plenty of restaurants are around to cater to you.

when the reviews were coming out, Phred and Laurie sounded none too pleased, if only because they're so small (capacity about 25, at my last count) and expected to be deluged by people, most of whom they'd have to turn away. this is the inevitable downside of a good review -- a short-term bump by a flood of one-time customers.

it sounds like this is exactly what's happened, which i find unfortunate. (it's also why i speculated that the stress may be getting to them.) what i'm hoping is that Elemental goes slightly underground again -- not so much that the place is empty -- and regains its equilibrium. it's such a unique dining experience that i'd like to do whatever i can to keep it around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A new restaurant opens and it gets reviewed. Where's the surprise? So many aspects of this place sound ridiculous to me.

Edited by MsRamsey (log)

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

when the reviews were coming out, Phred and Laurie sounded none too pleased, if only because they're so small (capacity about 25, at my last count) and expected to be deluged by people, most of whom they'd have to turn away.  this is the inevitable downside of a good review -- a short-term bump by a flood of one-time customers.

If they were unhappy about the good reviews, they must be absolutely thrilled with what's being said about them here! :laugh:

Maybe they're so good they have the luxury of scoffing at good press reviews, if so, that's some rarified air they inhabit.

Is it really that much more difficult to say something along the lines of, "unfortunately we're not going to be able to accomodate you tonight, but I hope you'll try again another time" than to snap "two hour wait!" and storm off?

Ultimately it sounds as if they're determined to do things "their way", customers be damned. That's perfectly fine as long as there are enough customers happy to go along with it.

Edited: repeat after me their, they're and there..... :wacko:

Edited by tighe (log)

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All this "their way" stuff reminds me of Matt's, a few years ago. They still do it, but a lot less confrontationally. They take reservations now. And they are finishing up 9 or 10 years with a very busy business. 23 seats...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Believe me, a first time restaurant is a learning process. Phred will no doubt look back and regret how he acted.

Sounds like they have great potential because of their love for food. They will figure the gracious part out, it ain't rocket science.

I can't wait to eat there and be verbally assaulted as well. Its been a while. :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I give them a year, tops. The dining public won't put up with that shit for long. There's just too many other great places to go in this town.

On the other hand, you've got to admit that any place with a two hour wait to get in is doing something right.

They only have 4 tables - they would be full if 8 people walked in the door. Sounds like some others have had good experiences once they got in. I'll give it a few months and may consider trying it again.

My tongue was a little bit in my cheek when I wrote that, but just a little. I've been there twice, and my experience was very close to jbonne's.

There are an unwritten set of rules about how restaurants and their patrons interact. For example, there is no note on the menu telling you how much to tip. That part is understood. We expect that the hostess will bring menus to the table at the time we are seated because that's the way its always done. They are not supposed to make you feel rushed, but you aren't supposed to linger overly long if there are people waiting for the tables. And so on.

Elemental has a different set of unwritten rules. The first time I was there I found myself oddly out of my comfort zone because I didn't understand how the place worked (What do you mean we have to wait for menus?). I think a lot of the "bad" experiences people reported were simply experiences different from what they expected. Maybe not, but I think that's some of it.

I found the food to be interesting and fun, the wine pairing were great, Phred was entertaining, and the prices were very reasonable for what you got. If I may paraphrase Kate's and jbonne's comments above, if you let Phred do it his way, you'll have a great experience. If you don't want to do that, there are plenty monosyllabic restaurants (heh. I love that description) that do it the normal way.

I will say it is refreshing to dine a place where the emphasis is on the experience, instead of trying to turn over the tables as fast as possible. I'm going back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Elemental has a different set of unwritten rules.   The first time I was there I found myself oddly out of my comfort zone because I didn't understand how the place worked (What do you mean we have to wait for menus?).  I think a lot of the "bad" experiences people reported were simply experiences different from what they expected.  Maybe not, but I think that's some of it. 

I imagine this is true, but changing the "unwritten rules" without telling people is certain piss customers off. Again, all it takes is saying something like, "we like to do things a little differently here.....", and then at least customers know what to expect. One of my newer favs is the Red House in Renton which operates much differently than the standard restaurant. However, the first thing that happens when you walk through the door is that they ask if you are familiar with how the restaurant works.

I still want to check the place out, and at least now I will go in knowing what the deal is.

Edited to add:

OK, a couple more thoughts....

1. I was just looking at their web page and thinking, "hey! what a great opportunity to explain to potential customer how things work at the restaurant", but nary a word to tip off the reader that they are anything other than fairly normal place with a tasty sounding menu and good prices.

2. Those great reviews that they were so perturbed by are prominently linked on the web site. Hmmm.....

Edited by tighe (log)

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If they were unhappy about the good reviews, they must be absolutely thrilled with what's being said about them here! :laugh:

Maybe they're so good they have the luxury of scoffing at good press reviews, if so, that's some rarified air they inhabit.

i don't think they were scoffing so much as worried that the reviews would drive more business to their door than they reasonably could handle -- including a lot of customers who wouldn't appreciate what unquestionably is a quixotic way of doing business. from the reports, it sounds like their worries about being overloaded weren't frivolous.

needless to say, when someone writes a good review about you, you don't kick them in the teeth for doing so. (hence the Web links, i'm guessing.)

all that said, if the stress of this is getting to them, it's obviously their responsibility to determine how they want to cope and respond. unwritten rules or no, there's no excuse for not being a gracious host.

olivina: i'm guessing you'll get plenty courteous service, doubly so if you feel like revealing who you are. they both seem to be very happy when fellow industry folk pay them a visit. if not, your input to them will no doubt be invaluable. (you being an incredibly gracious host yourself, that is.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If they were unhappy about the good reviews, they must be absolutely thrilled with what's being said about them here! :laugh:

Maybe they're so good they have the luxury of scoffing at good press reviews, if so, that's some rarified air they inhabit.

olivina: i'm guessing you'll get plenty courteous service, doubly so if you feel like revealing who you are. they both seem to be very happy when fellow industry folk pay them a visit. if not, your input to them will no doubt be invaluable. (you being an incredibly gracious host yourself, that is.)

aw shucks jon, thank you for the compliment.

But I really would like to experience the abuse. Sounds kind of fun. A sort of theatre maybe. I can be a sick puppy at times. :raz:

Just so I am hip to the scene, do you think the treatment is part of the business plan? Intriguing, if so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If they were unhappy about the good reviews, they must be absolutely thrilled with what's being said about them here! :laugh:

Maybe they're so good they have the luxury of scoffing at good press reviews, if so, that's some rarified air they inhabit.

olivina: i'm guessing you'll get plenty courteous service, doubly so if you feel like revealing who you are. they both seem to be very happy when fellow industry folk pay them a visit. if not, your input to them will no doubt be invaluable. (you being an incredibly gracious host yourself, that is.)

aw shucks jon, thank you for the compliment.

But I really would like to experience the abuse. Sounds kind of fun. A sort of theatre maybe. I can be a sick puppy at times. :raz:

Just so I am hip to the scene, do you think the treatment is part of the business plan? Intriguing, if so.

I think the treatment is truly a reflection of Phred. In many ways what he provides is a gift simply because he is so well educated in wine and wine pairings. If you are interested as was mentioned above this can be a bit of an education. This is the way Phred has always been even if he was working in a restaurant that was not his. That is the sole purpose of why he opened the restaurant, he wanted everything his way and truly believe he knows what is best. Do I think this is correct 100% of the time? No way. But it is not going to change his mind or his ways. He has always had a fairly significant bite to him :angry: as an employee I experienced it first hand. But as a customer he is extremely gracious UNLESS he deems you an ignoramous. It is definitely his judgement call.

" You soo tall, but you so skinny. I like you, you come home with me, I feed you!"- random japanese food worker.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Arrived last night at 5:30. Plenty of space. Amazing food. Even more amazing wine pairings. Four hours worth of a brilliant culinary experience, $140 for two including wine and tip. We had the following:

First course: Parmesan Flan with fennel salad; Artichoke "dip" with toasted bread. I say "dip" because it was really artichoke hearts sauteed in garlic and (probably) gruyere.

Second course: Calamari canneloni (squid body filled with crab canneloni--completely amazing); goat cheese gnocchi with fiddleheads (mmm, fiddleheads, so earthy, so tasty, so _everywhere_ these days, but for a reason!).

Third course: Lamb with little yukon golds; copper river salmon over (what is that grain that is similar to cous cous but has (bear with me) a little white "swirl" in each "bead"?). Both were simply prepared, and roasted; my wife, who doesn't eat lamb, loved my lamb. The red wine paired with my lamb deserves special note; the combination of flavors actually fooled me into thinking I was tasting mint (as in, old school put mint jelly on your lamb); how that happened I'll never know.

Fourth course: cheese plate (can't remember the cheeses) with apples and two dates stuffed with pinenuts; vanilla risotto with rhubarb compote.

Wine is paired for you (we ordered one "typical white" and one "typical red" dish for each course, and, looking like the "sharing types," we each got a half glass of each for each course).

This was, hands down, the best meal I've ever had in Seattle. Sorry, we experienced none of the aforementioned "issues;" service was amazing, food was amazing, wine was amazing. Maybe we just "got it." Regardless--go. Relax (seems to be the key suggestion based on some posts above). Enjoy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(what is that grain that is similar to cous cous but has (bear with me) a little white "swirl" in each "bead"?). 

Was it quinoa?

Your description of the evening sounds lovely. I am intrigued by this place but I think to pull of something "different" you need to do so in an environment that makes people feel safe. Obviously if you pass some unknown test Phred can do that. I'm afraid I might not pass the test.

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...