Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 26
 
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton


NEW TASTES: “We love to see the guests enjoying themselves, and we have many regular customers from all over,” says Emilia Sparatta, general manager at elements restaurant. She is shown with Chef Scott Anderson (left) and sous chef Joe Sparatta.

Dynamic Destination Dining Out Experience Is Highlight of Popular elements Restaurant

It’s been a hot topic in town since it opened last October, and it is definitely a destination dining out experience.

elements, the restaurant at 183 Bayard Lane (formerly the site of Steffanelli’s Garage), is intriguing in many ways. With its sleek, sophisticated lines (both exterior and interior) and delicious dining, it offers a treat for the senses visually and gastronomically.

Stone, glass, and steel are the main “elements” in the restaurant’s interior. Its clean lines and modern style create a sense of refined elegance throughout 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, and the upstairs “loft” dining room with its inviting open air space — often used for private parties.

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.”

About Texture

“It’s about texture,” adds the restaurant’s events coordinator Beth Rota. “The texture of the food, of the setting, of the wine.

“Steve Distler, owner with Scott Anderson, is a real dining enthusiast and he wanted to have something special,” she continues. “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 severe economic crisis has not deterred customers, adds Ms. Rota. “People are coming to us instead of going to New York. When you consider carfare, time, and New York prices, we can offer a significant savings. We provide excellent value and high quality, with great attention to food and service, and you can have a great dinner, with appetizer, entree, and dessert for under $40.”

“Interpretive American” cuisine is featured at elements. As one critic described it in his review of the restaurant, this “essentially means classic flavors cast in new, even edgy, roles that defy expectation.”

General manager Emilia Sparatta, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, refers to it as “adding life and vibrancy to familiar dishes. Scott is unique and works with whole products from start to finish. At elements, we try to treat every ingredient with integrity and respect. With our charcuterie (sausage, pate, etc.), everything is made in house. Scott loves to use local produce and work with local purveyors. Everything is fresh every day.”

One of the most popular dishes is the “48-hour short-rib, served with broccoli, bok choy, peanut, and “blackening spice,” notes Ms. Sparatta. “This is prepared ‘sous vide’ or with submersion cooking. It’s a distinctive method of cooking short-ribs. They are cooked very slowly for 48 hours. It keeps it very moist and soft, preserving all the flavor.”

Popular Items

Other popular items on the dinner menu include black bass, with laughing bird shrimp, carrot, hummus, and tempura; local skate, with barbecue consomme, corn meal, local collard greens, and garlic scape.

Favorite appetizers are house-made cavatelli, with lamb bacon, fava beans, mint, and grana padano; Thai shrimp salad, with laughing bird shrimp, avocado, peanut, and pineapple; and white asparagus, with mountain caviar, smoked trout roe, and yuzu.

Lunch is now served at elements, and is popular for business and corporate meetings, and “for ladies who lunch!”, says Ms. Rota. Favorite dishes include “Peterson’s burger, with elements’ bacon, Cara-me-away, caramelized onion, and homemade potato bun”; also Cobb salad with avocado, soft boiled egg, Griggstown chicken, and bacon; and marinated tofu pita with soy bean hummus, alfalfa sprouts, miso, and whole wheat.

Sunday brunch is another specialty, and it has been popular since the restaurant opened. “It’s a real favorite with families,” says Ms. Rota. “We have children’s specials, including pancakes (which they love!), macaroni and cheese, and Griggstown chicken fingers.”

Adults enjoy a wide choice, such as whole wheat crepe with Swiss chard, goat cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms; French toast, with candied almonds, and maple syrup; French-style “Scramble” with creme fraiche, elements’ bacon, summer truffle, and chives; and Griggstown chicken salad with Soba noodles, pinenut, and citrus, among other choices.

The same care that goes into planning the “beginning” (appetizers) and “middle” (entrees) is also emphasized with the “end” (desserts), as the categories are described on the menu. So many choices, so little time!

New Specialty

“Our dessert menu is very different,” says Ms. Sparatta. “We take as much interest and care with our desserts as with the rest of the menu.”

A new specialty is elements’ own “Kit Kat”, with gianduja, hazelnut, “crunch”, and milk chocolate. The rhubarb cobbler is a big favorite, and the carrot cake with cream cheese icing, cardamom, and golden raisins is always a traditional choice.

Seasonal fruits are also popular, notes Ms. Sparatta. “In the last two weeks, we’ve had local strawberries and blueberries.”

In addition to regular dining, elements offers special events, such as the Chef’s customized 9-course tasting menu. This provides guests with 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.

Wines and spirits are offered, with the impressive wine list especially popular, as well as the intriguing selection of specialty seasonal signature cocktails.

Dining is a la carte at elements, and there is a range of prices, moderate to high end. “We offer choices at prices that are definitely in line with the quality we offer,” says Ms. Rota.

Wine events are another focus of the restaurant. On July 10, Argentina, Wines of Bodegas Nieto Senetiner will be featured, with guest speaker Javier Guinazu. July 17 will highlight Italy’s famous Brunello & Bolgheri regions, with guest speaker Robin Shay.

The elements staff is very proud of the response to the restaurant. In addition to the popularity with customers, there have been excellent reviews from food critics. elements received the Diner’s Choice Designation as “the best overall dining experience in New Jersey,” and Chef Anderson was chosen as the first guest chef to represent New Jersey in “Outstanding in the Field’s” special farm dinners. It will be held September 1 at Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville.

Restaurant hours are lunch, Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Sunday through Thursday 5:30 to 9, Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 11. Sunday brunch is 11 to 2.

Reservations are appreciated. (609) 924-0078, Website: www.elementsprinceton.com.

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