My Dinner at Elan

August 20, 2014

Sea urchin guacamole?  I was skeptical.  How is it possible for the delicate flavor of sea urchin to survive the onslaught of heat?  How could the soft pillowy texture not disappear into all that avocado mush?

But that's what's so great about David Waltuck: he knows what he's doing.  One taste of this and you say, "How come I never thought about putting wasabi into guacamole?"  It's the perfect heat for all those avocados.  The sweet richness of the urchins comes shining through. And somehow – I'm not quite sure how – the roe does not disappear into the vegetable.  It's a great dish.


The fried oyster had that same quality: it tasted like an oyster in a crackling package, rather than something fried withthat happened to be seafood. The caviar remoulade on top: pretty perfect.


This is the dish everyone's talking about: the foie gras pop.  (Well, they're also talking about the foie gras burger with bacon and too many other ingredients, which I could not bring myself to try.)  I was less impressed with this; it's a party trick, a talking point. A big ball of foie gras mousse with a heart of figs and a coating of pistachios.  What's not to like? So much excess; so few bites.


Impossible to take a pretty picture of this, but I loved finding a zucchini blossom that was not, for once, fried into flavorlessness.  Lightly stuffed, surrounded by tomatoes and plunked into a little puddle of lemon creme fraiche, it tasted like the flower that it is.  Fresh, bright. Lovely.


 "General Tso's sweetbreads."  A tangle of sweetbread, leeks, chiles, and onion in a lightly citric vinegar sauce.  If only you could order this in from your local Chinese take-out!

But my favorite dish of the evening might have been this:


Grilled mackerel with a risotto made with dashi broth, laced with clams and plunked into a yuzu-scented sauce.  It's not tricky, but it is original and the flavors are bright, the char of the fish perfectly accented by the tang of the yuzu.  And you know what?  That risotto made a perfect breakfast the next morning. 

I loved David Waltuck's cooking at Chanterelle, and I'm so glad he's back in this pleasantly understated room. He seems liberated by the casualness of Elan. The food is not the same, but hte spirit reminded me of the original Chanterelle, before it moved to Tribeca and shouldered the burden of being the restaurant where downtown people went when they wanted a grown up meal. 

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