If you've ever been to Elemental@Gasworks and been cold-shouldered at the door by co-owner/sommelier/waiter/ bossypants Phred Westfall, you've thought to yourself, "Well, self, here I am literally at a dead end, and I'm thirsty and hungry and I've nowhere to go."1 Then you've cursed Phred's (irritatingly spelled) name and slunk off into the evening, maybe going for fish and chips at the Pacific Inn, which is the opposite of Elemental's generally excellent, rather expensive globe-spanning cuisine. (There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Pacific Inn's fish and chips, by the way; they're just the antithesis of the dinner that your mind already got your stomach in the mood for.)
Paid for by Committee to Reelect Judge North, P.O. Box 27113, Seattle, WA 98165
What you would truly like right then is a place, say, right next door, with lovely food, and tons of wine, and (why not?) the same kind of loftlike but not hyperdesigned atmosphere as Elemental, and (while you're at it) a man who's the opposite of Phred to hand you a complimentary glass of sparkling wine and then proceed to be as sweet as humanly possible for the remainder of your time with him.2
Voilà: Elemental Next Door, the wine bar/restaurant next door to Elemental. Same owners (Phred and his partner/ chef Laurie Riedeman); different staff (Allyss Dillon, formerly of Vessel and Mona's, cooks, using just a few burners and no real oven)3; similar, pleasantly spare decor; simple, lovely food; and a free glass of bubbles graciously offered the minute you walk in. (This is the single smartest thing any restaurant can do, even smarter than an amuse-bouche; it's a tiny expenditure that launches the diner on a pretty much inescapable trajectory of happiness.) The food menu, on a pulled-down roll of butcher paper, bears the inked message "SAME FOOD, LESS ATTITUDE." Well played, Phred.
E.N.D.'s wine list is in the form of bottles, approximately 100 of them, on shelves along one wall. It's $15 for any half-bottle, which makes for a great game of Try to Get the Best Value. On one visit, rosé sounded right; about a dozen were on the shelf. I eliminated anything I recognized (more fun that way), then entreated the soft-spoken anti-Phred for assistance. He narrowed further, to three; I went with the French one, which also had the best-looking label (no, you don't drink with your eyes, but terrible labels should not be rewarded). The internet says this 2006 Domaine Maby Tavel rosé retails for around $18 a bottle; given restaurants' (massive) markups, it was a deal. More importantly, it tasted perfect, and the service is proper—sleek glass carafe in matching ice bucket (though for rosés and whites, the delay in attaining correct chill can be a bit excruciating).
While the menu overstates the case in saying the food is the same—Elemental has more entrée-type dishes, and the overlap between the two menus is not huge—it is good in the same way. Both are mainly local/seasonal/ organic, and both feature preparations that stop short of fussy, letting flavors do their work. At E.N.D. recently, one of the best things to eat was a spring onion vichyssoise ($7), the creamy potato soup usually made with leeks, served cold. Vichyssoise is the definition of uncomplicated and an apex of summertime food; getting the texture exactly right makes it a miracle, and E.N.D. did. A frog-leg terrine ($15) was another exercise in French restraint, made classically with (the server said) just butter, garlic, and parsley. It tasted almost sweet, just faintly aquatic, and precisely right with its peppery frisée (which itself had tiny, salty croutons as a further foil). A "simple salad with pastis" ($7/$10) had no detectable anise taste, but did not suffer for it—there were thin slices of radish underneath the greens, thin slices of pecorino on top, cucumber, vinaigrette. Well played, salad.
In the hot-food department, tagliatelle with asparagus and cream ($14) had the virtues of barely any cream at all—more of a coating than a sauce—and generous Parmesan. It was not an exciting dish, just well executed and, thus, fought over. (At E.N.D., it makes sense, though it can be difficult, to share.) Risotto cakes with wild mushrooms ($12/$22) were crisp-browned on the outside, warm and smooth within: good indeed. But the chorizo-stuffed calamari ($12/$22) was fantastic. The thin, tender squid performed almost like a pasta casing; the chorizo was a pretty pink, fine textured, and not too spicy-hot; the fava and garbanzo puree underneath would've been a hit on its own; and the reduced saffron sauce had a lemony white-wine taste that was a stellar complement.
The signature dessert at E.N.D. is chocolate truffles rolled in bacon ($6), an experiment I was open to but found truly terrible: The bacon had a powerful smokehouse smell and was lardy and soft instead of crisp, doing all the wrong things with the flavor and texture of the chocolate. Other desserts were far better—E.N.D. makes surprisingly wonderful rice pudding with different fruit accompaniments ($8), for instance, and there's a creditable almond-flour chocolate torte ($8). The very end of the evening at E.N.D. holds an extra treat: As at Elemental, the tax and tip are included, which is almost as nice on the way out as the sparkling wine on the way in.
1. Elemental is in a condo complex north of Gasworks Park. The cold-shouldering is not out of the ordinary; reservations are not accepted, there is no list, and you're liable to be told in an extremely perfunctory, if not outright rude, manner to come back in an unspecified number of hours. Elemental is known for this, as well as for Phred's quasi-jocular, bullying style of service if you do get a seat. Some love it (Stockholm syndrome!), some don't.
2. On one occasion this delightful man got overwhelmed, though the place wasn't full. He remained delightful, but everything took a looong time. They ought to add another server; meanwhile, consider yourself warned.
3. On one occasion another person was cooking, and the risotto cakes were mushy, salmon was overcooked, etc. Riedeman said by phone that, in a happy coincidence, this person just gave notice.