What might one consider minimalist food? Could it be a single pea drizzled with a thin stripe of balsamic reduction? Or a grilled shrimp, topped with a lone flake of gari? Does it make sense to introduce the minimalist ethos into cuisine? After all, if taken to its logical conclusion, an adherent of minimalism would never own anything, do anything, or eat anything and would thus starve. Then I would label the deceased minimalist a chump, a fate worse than death to be sure.
I don't understand minimalism. That's because I'm a maximalist. Unlike minimalists, who don't want anything, maximalists want EVERYTHING. Even shitty things like cancer. I'm a true maximalist because I love everything that's complicated: HP Lovecraft. Baroque music. Taxes. The only thing I normally prefer slick and streamlined is pussy. And Japanese food.
Now that I've said all that shit let's discuss Elemental. Located in a condo on a cul-de-sac overlooking Gasworks Park, it's a tiny minimalist fantasy in brown and light brown. We tried to get into Elemental once before, but it was full. By full I mean that all 4 tables were occupied. If you don't get to Elemental BEFORE IT OPENS at 5:00 pm, you're never going to get inside.
Between 5 and 6 is cocktail hour. The chipper bald guy who seems to run the place took our drink orders. I already knew I wanted a manhattan. Some other poser overheard my selection and also got one. Lame. After we got our drinks, the bald guy brought out a clear glass cylinder of ice water, in which was floating a thin slice of cucumber. In the summer heat, the cucumber water was light and refreshing. With the ice water came a dish of popcorn, heavily peppered, perfectly crisp, and perfumed with truffle oil. A great accompaniment to a manhattan and a glass of cucumber water on a warm evening.
Finally we got around to dinner. The first course was figs with bleu cheese ($6). Three black figs were hollowed out, the pulp removed, then mixed with the cheese and stuffed back into the fig. The tang of the cheese contrasted well against the sweet fruit. Unfortunately the figs were less than ripe. My grandpa's figs are better, though my grandfather has never eaten bleu cheese. Or even knows that cheese comes in any color other than yellow. So fuck him.
Next came the cream of fennel soup ($6). Delicious! The cream was light but still smooth and rich, and the fennel flavor was very intense. In true minimalist fashion it was served without garnish in a clear glass bowl. This was my favorite dish of the evening. Following the soup came watermelon salad ($6). Slices of pink and yellow watermelon were drizzled in olive oil and served with goat cheese and arugula. Refreshing.
Then we had the tuna tartare ($12). Cubes of raw ahi were tossed with sesame oil and accompanied by a petite pile of cold buckwheat noodles. Yes, I know, we all hate the “pan asian” bullshit, but it was awesome. The fish melted in your mouth. It was served with a shot glass of very fine chilled sake. That sake was so good, in fact, that my raving about it prompted Elemental's bewildered proprietor to ask me if I liked the sake better than the tuna. The answer, luckily for my taste buds, was that I liked them both.
After the tuna came baked tomatoes stuffed with lamb, bell peppers and corn ($16). These were light and tangy, but were probably the low point of the meal for me. I generally don't like stuffed tomatoes because, like your mom's cunt, they're too drippy and the skin slides all around in your mouth when you try to eat it. Yes, I actually wrote that.
Following the tomatoes we had the cheese plate: three scalene triangles of hard, white cheese with the tiny holes and dry tang reminiscent of manchego. Maybe it was manchego? I lost track, because by this time I was so damn stuffed I couldn't believe it. I was also delightfully fucked up. We drank probably 10 glasses of wine, which is INCLUDED with dinner. Note to the bald guy who runs Elemental: you are one hospitable motherfucker! It's more like being invited to a dinner party at a friend's than like going out to eat. Our total bill came to $142, more than reasonable for the amount and quality of food and service, and best of all, gratuity is included!
Elemental is fucking awesome: simplicity in every bite. I was surprised to find my maximalist appetite tamed by their minimalist sensibilities. Maybe the two philosophies CAN be reconciled! Or maybe Elemental is really a maximalist restaurant in disguise, a wolf in sheep's clothing, because the menu changes weekly. Unfortunately, by the time you read this, my review will be out of date. But then, next week's menu will just give me an excuse to go back.
Rating: 8 dead minimalists out of 10