One of the easiest choices Mart had to make this year was where to celebrate my birthday dinner . . . I made it easy on him, asking well ahead of my birthday to go to Element, the new steak-centric restaurant located on Main Street, in the previous location of the Ivory Lounge. Element opened in November and has garnered a lot of positive reviews, but that doesn’t surprise me. I know the Executive Chef, Nils Tarantik, the same chef of Duvals. Fresh. Local. Seafood. Chef Nils hasn’t left Duvals, he’s actually Executive Chef for both restaurants as well as the new PB&T (Pizza, Burgers & Tacos) a fast-casual restaurant that shares the kitchen with Element.
Before I go into the food, let me compliment the Abrams family for designing such a stunning restaurant. If guests can expect to pay $50 or more per person when dining out, a beautiful atmosphere should be part of the dining experience.
If I had to describe the decor, I’d call it “Textured Elegance.” There are layers of chic decor at Element, from the logo projected on the outside entry walkway to the black and white movies projected on the exterior entry wall, to the stunning lighting, textured walls and artwork. The fact that Element isn’t an especially large restaurant makes the experience even better. It’s recommended that you get a reservation, especially if you want table 11 or table 54. . . More on that later!
For our starter, Mart and I shared a Caprese salad of heirloom tomato, microgreens, edible flowers and housemade burrata. This was seasoned with simple Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar and sea salt. I loved how creamy and luscious the burrata was, as well as the “can’t beat that” flavors of the acid in the balsamic blending with that creamy cheese. Suffice it to say this dish was almost squeaky clean when it went back to the kitchen!
We also shared an order of Bone Marrow — affectionally known as “meat butter.” Served with grilled Tuscan bread and roasted garlic, this starter is one of the many creative choices you’ll find on Element’s menu. To eat it, you simply scoop some of the soft, creamy bone marrow out of the center of the bone, spread it on the Tuscan bread, and enjoy. Or, if you’re like Mart, you just scoop the marrow straight into your mouth — no bread needed!
Chef suggested the Grilled Octopus salad as well, so who were we to argue? The octopus was sliced into bite-sized pieces that sat atop a salad of poblanos, green tomato, and frisee greens. A little shallot vinaigrette was drizzled over the top, adding a slight “zing” to a plate that was high on flavor. The octopus was tender while still have a bit of “chew” to it, and the smokiness from the grill only added to the flavor. Thanks for the suggestion Chef!
For his entree, Mart selected the Braised Bison Osso Buco. I’ll say that again . . . Braised Bison Osso Buco! Good gracious, but what a lip-smacking dish! The bison had a nice char on the exterior and fall off the bone tenderness that you should expect from a properly braised protein. Being bison, it is leaner than other proteins, but every bit as delicious. Topped with a roasted tomato demi and resting on a silky potato puree, this was a great take on Osso Buco, which is typically made with veal shank, another lean alternative to beef.
Most of the people I know who already dined at Element have given rave reviews for their steak, but I was soooooo tempted to order the Wild Mushroom Truffle Risotto with shaved black truffles. I surprised myself when ultimately deciding to order a 6 oz Filet instead. To be honest, the aroma of other guest’s steaks was wafting through the dining room and became too tempting to ignore! (Happy birthday to me!) Element’s steaks are all hand-cut in-house and served ala carte. There are eight different side options, so, having backed off the truffle risotto, I went with a side of wild mushrooms instead, with a Borolo Demi-glace on the side that I could dip both the steak and the mushrooms. Borolo is a full-bodied red wine which, when made with a demi including butter, heavy cream, and shallots, (among other ingredients) enhances the natural flavors of steak, instead of covering it up like a steak sauce can often do. The 6 oz filet was exactly as I could have hoped, especially after having enjoyed sharing three starters with Mart.
To finish up the night we went with a non-traditional birthday dessert, a Vanilla Panna Cotta with honeycomb, apricot gelee, and a rosemary gastrique! Wow! I especially like the honeycomb, which was naturally sweet and chewy and added a nice texture element to the panna cotta, while the apricot gelee added that touch of fruit acids that work so well with dairy. Chef Nils also sent some biscotti, a little “plus” provided for my birthday celebration. What can I say? Sweets from the sweet!
Overall, it was a marvelous birthday, and an inspiring night at Element! And . . . as promised, here is just one reason to ask for Table 11, which seats 4. The other reason shall remain a surprise when you get there.
The only thing left to say . . . Wild Mushroom Truffle Risotto — Top of my bucket list!