I agree with you, to a point, Elecsheep.
Except, I do not think that Elementi ever was fine dining.
As I wrote when Elementi was new, we really appreciated the effort by the Elementi owners. They invested in creating a clean space and comfortable seating and they clearly did try.
Unfortunately, it was also clear that Elementi was hit by the harsh realities of the brutal economics of running a restaurant / overhead quite early on, including the lack of support - and in my opinion, also the disproportionately high rents of 7th Avenue (compared to cheaper rents on 5th, for example).
Also, I do not think their cuisine was exciting enough. Still, for a while, we wanted to support them because of the effort.
We did have a couple of surprisingly good lunches and brunches at Elementi and one surprisingly good dinner. That was encouraging. The owner seemed passionate and somewhat knowledgeable about wine, too (or a certain area of wine) and had a few nice wines on the list. It was not a big list, but it was pretty OK and could have gotten better if the restaurant had taken off. Maybe the food would have had a chance to improve, too, who knows,
So, we went back for a few dinners and even more lunches. Was the dinner there ever as good as the food is in good 5th Avenue restaurants? That one time it was, but only that one time.
Unfortunately the subsequent dinners were not nearly as good as the first one was. They could be maddeningly uneven. One of us would have a pretty tasty dish and the other one had a mediocre one. We stopped going for dinner.
After a while even the lunches got worse in quality. (I do not require much to be happy with my lunch: just make sure that my salad is fresh and that the chicken on top of it is not bone-dry. Or if a special says strip steak sandwich, the sandwich better have more than a few super tiny, super thin pieces of steak on it. )
When the cost-cutting starts, even the people who would like to support a certain restaurant, will abandon it.
Just in general, a response to several posts in this thread:
I disagree with the idea that we do not need a good restaurants on 7th Avenue only because there are good ones on 5th and Smith. Even though we do not have a problem with walking from PH to 5th Avenue (which we do and sometimes did both on Friday and Saturday - also on windy, freezing cold nights or pouring rain -when Tempo was there) we would really love to have a great neighborhood restaurant on 7th Avenue.