Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 5
 
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors



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Iris Interiors


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Weather Forecast


It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton


CREATIVE KITCHEN: “We have a wonderful team in the kitchen,” says elements’ chef Scott Anderson (third from left). “Presentation of the food is important — people eat with their eyes. But our focus is on flavor first and presentation second.” Shown in the state-of-the-art kitchen are, from left: sous chef Joe Sparatta, butcher and baguette-maker Chris Peterson (in the background), and assistant sous chef Mike Ryan.

Intriguing and New elements Restaurant Offers Patrons a Unique Dining Experience

Steffanelli’s, the long-time garage at 163 Bayard Lane, has sure changed! In fact, it has been totally transformed: good-bye Steffanelli’s; hello, elements!

The new restaurant opened in October, and has quickly become the “hot” dining out destination in town. With its sleek, sophisticated lines (both exterior and interior) and delicious dining, it offers a treat for the senses visually and gastronomically.

“Owner Steve Distler (also owner of the Bank of Princeton) is a real dining enthusiast, and he wanted to have something special,” says events coordinator Beth Rota. “Steve was looking for a chef, and he was introduced to Scott Anderson, who has been chef at the Ryland Inn, among other restaurants in our area. Scott’s team is very important to him, and he knew or had worked with many or nearly all of his staff before.”

The name “elements” is derived from the restaurant’s structure and philosophy, explains elements’ welcoming statement. “Our name speaks to our philosophy, and a memorable dining experience depends on a harmonious union of elements, the food, service, and environment. We unite these key ingredients with the utmost passion, dedication, and respect.”

State-of-the-art

Stone, steel, glass, and wood are the main “elements’ in the restaurant’s interior. With its clean lines and modern style, a sense of refined elegance pervades the setting. It can accommodate 78 diners, and spaces include the main dining room, the adjacent “cube” with its chef’s tables and opaque glass walls for private dining, the upstairs “loft” dining room with its inviting open air space, suitable for general dining or business meetings; and of course, the state-of-the-art kitchen, designed by Chef Anderson.

“Most people open a restaurant because (1) they want to showcase themselves or (2) to make money. That is not what it should be,” says Mr. Anderson. “It should be about feeding people and nourishing them. That is what we do here.

“This is like my house,” he continues, “and you are treated as a guest. If people have food allergies, we’ll create a special dish for them. We have gluten-free flour, for example. Or if guests are vegetarians, we will accommodate their needs. We always have vegetarian appetizers, and we can create a vegetarian entree for them.”

elements is open seven days for dinner and Sunday brunch. There is no lunch service as yet. “We started Sunday brunches during the holidays, and they were so popular, we continued them,” explains Ms. Rota. “It has become a real favorite. We offer a variety, a real menu mix, with a different take on things. For example, eggs? Sure, but freshly presented with Spanish ham, Swiss chard, and truffled tomato broth. Think of the elements brunch as old friends that have been through make-overs that show off their better qualities to new advantage.”

Other brunch specialties include Terhune Orchards apple crepe, with breakfast sausage, and candied walnuts. Or fois gras French toast, with candied walnuts, and maple cider syrup. Finger sandwiches include curried chicken, truffled egg, cucumber, and croque monsieur.

Along with the fresh juices and green tea latte, there are blood orange mimosas, house bloody Marys, and michelatas.

Fresh Ingredients

Dinners are imaginative, with a focus on fresh ingredients of the season. As Mr. Anderson notes, “They offer a true dining experience. Our cuisine is interpretative American. We are focused around the ingredients. Right now, it’s citrus season, and citrus is everywhere. It’s also shellfish season now.

“Nearly all our cooks have their own little garden, and we emphasize local products and whatever the farmers have, whenever possible.

“Also, a specialty we offer is our ability to cook on the fly, and to be improvisational. To make something out of what is available. We always use the freshest ingredients we can find. Right now, we have root vegetables — potatoes, rutabaga. We can also get lettuce from Terhune’s, which is grown in their greenhouse.

“Another thing,” he adds, “we don’t have over-sized portions. It’s just the right amount of food. No one leaves hungry, but we don’t over-stuff you.”

This was emphasized by one of the recent reviews (all very favorable). “The portions are just right,” said an area newspaper.

A very popular entree on the winter menu is the 48 Hour short rib, with watercress, purple potato, truffles, and “soubise”. A unique dish is the Kindai tuna, served with forbidden rice, mostarda, kumquat, and beets. This is indeed very special, points out Chef Anderson. “Kindai open water tuna is sustainable tuna from Japan. I get half a fish every two weeks. It has zero mercury level, and it is so unique that only 15 restaurants in the U.S. have it.”

Regional Dish

Occasionally, the chef will offer a regional dish, but with a twist. For example, “we have an American snapper faux New England clam chowder. It’s basically clam chowder deconstructed.”

Appetizers range from Kindai tuna tartare to Nantucket Bay scallops to market, citrus or roasted beet salads. Also, wild mushroom crepe, lobster bisque, oxtail ravioli, and cardoon soup are favorites.

The same care that goes into planning the “beginning” (appetizers), “middle” (entrees) is also emphasized with the “end” (desserts), as the categories are described on the menu. No one doesn’t have a sweet tooth at elements!

A specialty is the layered chocolate dessert; featuring brioche, salted caramel, sablé, and smoked maple syrup ice cream. Others include a unique jelly doughnut, featuring meyer lemon and Turkish spice; gianduja chocolate parfait with praline, blood orange, and laurel; and cheesecake with Sicilian pistachio, brown butter, and graham crackers, among many other mouth-watering desserts.

In addition to regular dining, elements offers special events, such as the Chef’s customized 9-course tasting. This offers guests an exclusive dining experience, as Chef Anderson guides them through the special menu, made from the day’s finest ingredients, plus a special look into the kitchen.

The 6-course tasting is a slightly reduced version, including fish, meat, and vegetable choices, all chosen to pamper the palate. In addition, 4-course and 7-course tastings are available for Valentine’s Day, and reservations have already been coming in.

Wine Event

A special wine event includes a 5-course tasting menu, combined with wines produced by the Librandi family for four generations in the Calabrian vineyards on the Ionian Coast. Paulo Librandi will speak informally, as guests are served the award-winning Gamberro Rosso (red prawn) wines. Limited seating is available, and reservations are required.

Wines and spirits are offered at elements, with the impressive wine list especially popular. Martinis continue to be favored, and there is also a variety of other special cocktails.

Prices cover a range at the restaurant. There are high-end choices, such as the Kindai tuna, as well as more moderately-priced options.

Ms. Rota and Chef Anderson are very pleased at the enthusiastic reaction of customers to elements so soon after its opening. “The response has been a delight,” says Mr. Anderson, and adds Ms. Rota: “The food is the most exciting part. People used to say, ‘Princeton was the town that food forgot!’ Not anymore. We are a real dining experience.”

elements is open Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10; Friday, Saturday 5:30 to 11; Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9. Reservations are not required, but strongly suggested, especially on weekends. (609) 924-0078. Website: www.elementsprinceton.com.

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