October 9, 2013

Dynamic and Daring, elements Restaurant Continues to Be a Favorite in Princeton

CHEERS!: “Freshness is important. Not only in our food but in our libations as well. We make anything we can from scratch, and otherwise source quality ingredients from elsewhere. Always experimenting, always having fun.” Jamie Dodge (left), bar keep at elements restaurant, is shown in the newly remodeled and expanded bar.

CHEERS!: “Freshness is important. Not only in our food but in our libations as well. We make anything we can from scratch, and otherwise source quality ingredients from elsewhere. Always experimenting, always having fun.” Jamie Dodge (left), bar keep at elements restaurant, is shown in the newly remodeled and expanded bar.

elements has now been in town five years. To say it has made an impression is an understatement. The award-winning restaurant at 163 Bayard Lane has garnered kudos from food critics and the public alike, and it continues to gain approval both from long-time regulars and first-time diners.

“The kitchen is unique here,” points out administrative manager Beth Rota. “The dishes are well-conceived and thought out. It’s wonderful to see how appreciative customers are when they leave. They often ask to meet the chef!”

The restaurant is intriguing in many ways. The menu, of course, but also the decor and atmosphere. 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 70 diners, and spaces include the main dining room, the adjacent “cube” (a more intimate setting, with opaque glass walls for private dining), and the upstairs “loft” dining room with its inviting open air space — often used for private events

Union of Elements

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.”

“It’s about texture,” adds Ms. Rota. “The texture of the food, of the setting, of the wine.”

“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.”

Chef/owner Scott Anderson, formerly chef at The Ryland Inn, emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients and is known for his creativity in preparing imaginative, delicious choices. “I like the craft of cooking,” he explains. “Taking ingredients and transforming them through heat into something edible. It’s a very dynamic art.

“The menu is seasonal, and using local products is first and foremost,” he continues. “It’s proper eating to eat seasonally, locally, and whatever is available. We serve items in season, when it’s the correct time. We even go foraging in the woods for some ingredients, and we also have our own garden in the back.”

“Everything revolves around the kitchen,” adds general manager Matthew Rotella. “The menu is constantly evolving. We’re always adding new things, trying different flavors and profiles. The menu changes daily, and there is always something new.”

Several Options

Lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch are served, and there are vegetarian dishes as well as gluten-free, so people with special dietary needs can be accommodated.

One of the most popular dishes at elements is the “48-hour short-rib”, served with green peppers, potato, and mushroom. “It is cooked Sous Vide (with submersion) for 48 hours so it is incredibly tender,” explains Ms. Rota. “Scott is also very proud of our seafood dishes and sourcing. We’ve added a new wild salmon choice, and there are always several options of fish.”

“Sometimes, guests call ahead to ask for our sashimi plates,” adds Mr. Anderson.

Other fish specialties include summer flounder with cucumber, radish, sesame, and coconut milk; and monkfish, big eye tuna, and Oregon king salmon are all available. Chef Anderson points out that many of the fish choices come from the New Jersey shore.

Other popular entrees include Griggstown chicken with buttermilk, cornbread, tomatillo, and cashew; filet mignon and Lava Lake lamb are also favorites.

Chef Anderson is especially noted for his multi-course customized Chef’s Tasting Menus. These provide guests with an extensive dining experience, as the chef guides them through the special menu, made from the days finest ingredients, plus a special look into the kitchen. “These are for adventurous diners,” says the chef.

Lunch and brunch tasting menus are also available.

Sunday Brunch

Lunch at elements is especially popular for business and corporate meetings, and of course, for “ladies who lunch”. Favorite dishes include Peterson’s burger, with elements’ bacon, lamb chopper, miso?, and homemade potato bun; Griggstown chicken sausage; and roasted sunchokes. Also, many items on the dinner menu are available for lunch.

Sunday brunch is another specialty, which has been popular since the restaurant opened. In addition to the regular menu, with buttermilk pancakes, fromage de tete hash, chicken sausage, and scrambled eggs, a children’s menu is offered, with pancakes, macaroni and cheese, and organic eggs.

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

Specialties include fascinating combinations: peach and nectarine, cherry, smoked tea sponge cake?, blueberries and blackberries with apple, anise, and lime; chocolate ? including hazelnut, mint, feutilletine?; and peach, bourbon, and fennel beignets, along with housemade ice cream and sorbet, and artisanal cheeses.

Wines and spirits are an important part of the elements’ dynamic, and the bar has recently been expanded, doubling in size. “Our bar attracted its following from our craft cocktail offerings,” points out Beth Rota.

“Our bartenders always have a mix of classic cocktails to let guests experience famous drinks from other eras as well as new and modern flavor combinations listed under the heading, elements Classics. We have the most extensive collection of bottles/types of alcohol I have ever seen in an establishment, and our bartenders know how to use all of it. It is truly amazing.”

New Spin

“We put a new spin on an old cocktaill or create new cocktails,” adds Mr. Rotella. “We build flavors and have unique flavors.”

Everything from the latest martini combination to single malt Scotch to the best beers and wines, after dinner port and liberating liqueurs is available — with seemingly never-ending choices. And those who prefer non-alcoholic cocktails will not be disappointed either. How about a purple cooler, with blackberry, fennel, citrus, vanilla, and bubbles?

A new selection of “Bar Bites” has been added to the menu, as well, and these include a variety of tastes. For example: garden green coquettes with malt vinegar and squid ink; pork rinds “popcorn” with paprika and arugula; salt roasted chicken “oyster” and lime pickle; mushroom tempura and tonkatsu? sauce, to note just some on the list.

elements is also introducing a new “element”, adds Ms. Rota. “We are going to have ‘Sparkling Wednesday’, with complimentary sparkling wines and champagne. We think this will have great appeal, and especially to the ladies — for a night out.”

The elements’ staff is very proud of the response to the restaurant. elements has received numerous awards, including being selected as one of the top 25 restaurants in the state, and the best brunch and lunch 2011, 2012 from New Jersey Monthly magazine. OAD’s (Opinionated About Dining) Nationwide List of the Top 100 named it 23rd, and it came out ahead of several well-known New York City establishments.

Best Award of Excellence for the wine list came from Wine Spectator; and in the National Seafood Challenge 2011, Chef Anderson cooked at Drumthwacket against other New Jersey top chefs, and was voted to represent the state in the National Seafood Challenge in Louisiana, where he placed third.

“As a restaurant, we have done well; we’ve been well-received, and I’m proud of elements’ being recognized,” says Mr. Anderson. “I am also proud of the town of Princeton. There are good restaurants here now. Four of the top 25 restaurants in the state named by New Jersey Monthly are in Princeton.”

In addition to regular dining, elements offers special dining events and selected catering. It will also now offer a selection of cigars, which can be enjoyed outside on the patio.

Reservations are appreciated, and elements is open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Sunday through Thursday 5:30 to 9, Friday and Saturday until 11; Sunday brunch 11 to 2. (609) 924-0078. Website: www.elementsprinceton.com.