I'd always wanted to get there, and was spurred into action by Karla cook's laudatory review in the Times last week. I am very happy I went. Cocktails at the diminuative bar were on par with Milk and Honey, or Little Branch, or any NYC mixology clinic. The charcuterie plate was a shotgun blast of variety, even the headcheese was delectable. But nothing could prepare me for the ectstasy of the 48 Hour Short Ribs. I've eaten short ribs from Short Hills to Long Branch, but these defy convention. They had the consistency of a scallop, or perhaps even foie gras, but they weren't the least bit fatty. A masterpiece. Wrap it up with the mini french toast with the paper thin slice of bacon and the custard in the egg shell, and you'll be a fan for life.
163 Bayard Lane, Princeton, NJ 08540
Elements is a one of the top dining establishments in New Jersey. It has received a Don't Miss rating from the New York Times, which is the highest possible rating and has been named one of the top 30 restaurants in America by Opinionated about Dining. Executive Chef, Scott Anderson (who I met at the Summit Food and Wine Festival), uses the freshest produce available and applies modern cooking techniques to them. Elements caught my attention when they opened in 2008 and I am kind of surprised it took so long for me to dine there. I went for lunch with my dad and sister and had a great time......
When you open the doors and walk into Elements you already feel at home, a modern home to be exact. There are glass panels that glow within the stone and steel walls, and maple backdrops that make you feel comfortable and warm. The hostess was very friendly; we were greeted with a nice smile. The dining room is very bright, almost too bright (the sun was shining in my eyes through the window). The kitchen is a semi-open kitchen, so I was able to hear Chef Scott Anderson expediting. Also, the bathroom is right next to the kitchen, so I was able to see some cooks banging out their mise en place, while finishing lunch service. One of the cooks looked familiar, I think he might have staged at Uproot one day when I was there, but I wasn't sure so I did not say anything. Now on to the food.....
First off the bread selection was hit and miss. The bread basket contained three selections of bread which consisted of a foccaccia bread, paremesan twists, and a flat bread. These were served with a spiced olive oil, which was quite delicious. The foccaccia was amazing, it was very fresh and doughy. I wish they only served this bread because the parmesan twists had very little flavor of parmesan and tasted stale. Also, the flat bread's texture was no where as good as Wd - 50's flat bread, but it had a more pronounce flavor. A spice mixture of paprika, salt, pepper, and other spices was coated unevenly on the the flat bread. Some of the pieces had no seasoning while others were seasoned perfectly.
For my first course I ordered the "Local Potato Soup with 48 hour Short Ribs, Chives, and Parmesan". The servers accidentally put the spoon that was intended for me with my sister's plate setting, but they fixed the problem before I got my dish. The dish was very visually attractive. The bright green of the chives contrasted well with the blonde colored potato soup. The soup itself was really tasty. It was perfectly creamy and rich. The dish was garnished with fried onions that were so crispy and retained their crispness in the soup, which surprised me. I though they were going to get soggy. Overall I loved this dish, but looking back it is not a dish I am going to remember. Maybe some sour cream discs frozen over an Anti-Griddle would have made this dish extraordinary (hot vs. cold + more acid) :)
Next I got a "Thai Duck Sandwich with Duck Confit, Local Egg, and Kimchi". This dish was delicious, but kind of messy for the atmosphere. The egg was slightly under cooked or just not fully cleaned. Some of the white part of the egg was still translucent. The yolk was perfect and bursted all over the sandwich adding a nice moistness. The kimchi was strong-flavored and assertive. Could the meat have been chicken or turkey legs? For sure, the presence of the duck flavor was not up front, but that was not the main focus of the dish, so it was fine.
My dad got his dish without salt so there is no point of me critiquing his dish, but he got the "Avocado and Quinoa Salad with Griggstown Chicken, Walnut, and Raisin".
My sister who is nine got a mac and cheese that was not on the lunch menu. She did not like the dish and the restaurant was extremely nice and did not charge us for it. However, I thought it was actually pretty good. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente and the sauce was very tasty. The only thing I missed was the golden brown top that would have added a nice roasted flavor.
For dessert we shared "Pumpkin Cheesecake with "gingerbread", cranberry, and toasted pumpkin seeds". This was the most ascetic dish of the night and the most "high end". The dessert menu is the same for dinner as it is for lunch, so you know you are going to get the real deal. The cheesecake was luxuriously creamy and actually tasted like pumpkin. The gingerbread sorbet had great flavor and had no ice crystals. The pumpkin seeds were mega delicious and added a nice textural contrast. I loved this dessert. It was my favorite dish of the night.
It is fair to say that I really did not get to experience the real deal of the savory side of the kitchen because the dinner dishes are definitely more elaborate than the lunch dishes. I am very interested in returning to Elements for dinner.
Agree, Elements is fantastic. I did their spring tasting menu at the bar a few weeks ago and was blown away. The short ribs are great, they use the sous vide method of cooking them very low and slow, which I had not yet tried (although I had read about the cooking technique in NYT and other places). The amouse bouche consisted of an egg cooked the same way at 64.5 degrees F, brought out in the shell with the top taken off, very creative presentation and delicious.
I think my favorite thing about Elements was the way the courses moved across styles, Italian (spaghetti carbonara), Thai (Mahi-Mahi in a peanut curry sauce), and the Short Rib dish I received (I notice it has since changed) was a play on "rice and beans" in the Cajun realm, complete with house made chipotle sauce that was to die for. Throw in the locally sourced ingredients and the exquisite cocktails and I truly enjoyed my experience.
Going this Saturday with my wife, where we will be dining in the Chef's Table section of the restaurant. Can't wait!