Saturday, February 9, 2013

Elisir

Located in the heart of Penn Quarter, Elisir Restaurant is the latest incarnation of Chef Enzo Fargione’s approach to Italian fine dining featuring the chef’s distinctive hands-on approach, personalized vision and interpretation of his acclaimed modern Italian cooking. Elisir offers unique and creative multi course tasting menus nightly highlighting Fargione’s creativity and constant search for taste, presentation and concept. The restaurant also offers a very detailed a la carte menu which changes seasonally. At lunch time the restaurant offers a simpler and faster bistro concept with an a la carte menu for the main dining room and a dedicated limited bar menu inclusive of alcoholic beverages for a lower set price. Closest Metro is Federal Triangle or Metro Center.

For Winter Restaurant Week 2013, we chose to dine at Elisir.  We were escorted pass the open kitchen expedition bar, eyed Chef Fargione, and were seated in the far corner.  I noticed how surprisingly small the dining area was and the two tables next to us were already finishing up their desserts.  The decor was standard with warm neutral colors, reminiscent of a hotel restaurant.  Flat screen televisions providing a birds-eye view of your dish being prepped were a nice touch though, and allowed you to pace yourself throughout the meal.  Our server immediately greeted us and allowed us plenty of time to peruse the menu.  We chose a bottle of white wine from Southern Italy, Farnes e Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Abruzzi 2010.  It was quite refreshing with subtle acidic notes and a light sweetness.

Before we chose our courses, the server prefaced with an unnecessary caveat that "since it is Restaurant Week, our portions are much smaller."  I found this to be a little off-putting and came across as either them being too defensive or just an unpleasant way to ploy you to order extra sides or supplements. The server also pointed out how "normally, Chef sends out an amuse buche and complimentary petit fours at meals end, but not this time due to Restaurant Week."  Again, no need to advertise something would be missing to an unknowing patron.  The whole staff must have been coached this way, as I heard other servers give similar "warnings" to their tables as well.  Nevertheless, the service was attentive throughout the night and since 30 reservations were cancelled last minute (yes, another tidbit we were told by the server), it refrained them from rushing us, as would be typical during the busy Restaurant Week.

Now, on to the food... For my appetizer, I chose the Roasted Calamari stuffed with shrimp and spicy salami.  It was served with a potato/leek ragu, Castelvetrano olives and a sweet garlic broth that was über flavorful.  The sausage stuffing was plentiful and had some heat; overall this dish was a very nice starter.  Keith chose the Creamy Chestnut Puree Soup, with Buffalo ricotta flan, pickled tomato jam and splurged on the extra $12 supplement for the addition of poached goose liver torchon with fruit Mostarda.  The soup was rich, velvety, and the ricotta flan and goose liver provided an indulgent and decadent start.

For my main course, despite another warning from the server, I enjoyed a Roasted Diver Scallop over a spinach mashed potato nest, roasted cauliflower florets with black olives and capers, and cherry tomato confit.  This portion was on the smaller side akin to a tasting portion with just one scallop, but I did not mind as we also ordered a side of the truffled whipped potatoes.  The scallop was cooked perfectly, and the sweetness was contrasted nicely by the tart tomatoes and salty olives and capers.  The whipped potatoes were very buttery and covered with shaved black truffle - a treat in itself.  Keith enjoyed our server's recommendation of the Marinated Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Port wine glaze, crunchy pancetta sage leaves, and tempura style Maitake mushrooms.  I think of all the entree choices, the pork was the most generous and that is why the server was pushing it so much.  The truffled mash potatoes highlighted the earthy Maitake mushrooms already in Keith's dish, and Keith was left satisfied.

For dessert, I chose the Triple Chocolate Cake with chocolate curls, dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate gelato.  The cake was very soft and super chocolatey.  I devoured it with the rest of my wine.  Keith ate the Light Apple and Cheese Strudel with vanilla gelato, dehydrated marshmallow, and caramel sauce.  Both were a nice finish to our meal.  Overall, the food was exceptional - we enjoyed every bite - and  although it was Restaurant Week, we did not feel the portions were too small as feared by the staff.  Elisir is best known for their tasting menus, and the RW offering provided a mini glimpse to the stellar food and attentive service.  I only wish they would embrace the RW experience more and be less defensive about it.  Regardless, RW brings in extra business so that is something any restaurant should be appreciative about.

Total Rating: 4.4
Food: 5, Price: 3.5, Service: 4, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 5
What Micky Eats...

What I ate:
Roasted Calamari
stuffed with shrimp and spicy salami, with potato/leek ragu,
Castelvetrano olives and sweet garlic broth

Roasted Diver Scallop
served over spinach mashed potato nest, roasted cauliflower florets 
with black olives and capers, cherry tomato confit

Truffled Whipped Potatoes
with shaved black truffle

Triple Chocolate Cake
with chocolate curls, dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate gelato

Plus Keith ate:
Creamy Chestnut Puree Soup
with Buffalo ricotta flan, pickled tomato jam
(Optional poached goose liver torchon with fruit Mostarda $12 Supplement)

Marinated Roasted Pork Tenderloin
with Port wine glaze, crunchy pancetta sage leaves, tempura style Maitake mushrooms

Light Apple and Cheese Strudel
with vanilla gelato, caramel sauce

Elisir on Urbanspoon

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