Sunday, October 24, 2010

Elements of Surprise

A few months ago my office was devastated when Palomino shut it's doors.  Just a stone's throw away from our building, Palomino had always been a conveniently classy option for client lunches or happy hours. The waitstaff was always friendly and the menu delicious enough to keep us coming back.  So needless to say I was nervous when I heard about a new restaurateur from outside of Pittsburgh was coming in to open up a new place called Elements Contemporary Cuisine.

That is...until I found out his executive chef was Justin Severino.

I am a huge fan of the Big Burrito group in general, Eleven in particular which appears last on Severino's resume. So I perked up a bit at this news and thought we might be in for a treat.

I'm happy to report that I was right.

About a month ago my team and I checked things out for happy hour where all draft beers and well drinks are half off and wines go for $5 per glass.  We ordered the American Tasting platter ($5 less expensive during happy hour) which featured Prosciutto Americana,  Fra Mani Salametto Picante, Meadow Creek grayson, Rogue smokey blue, a white bean puree and roasted peppers to name a few items.

Coworkers tried intriguing cocktails like the Cucumber Martini, Basil Gimlet and the mojito reminiscent Green Tea. I reluctantly stuck with a glass of cab sav as I had a number of things to do after HH.

Because a meat and cheese plate is not a reasonable means of judgment in terms of rating a restaurant, I decided I needed to go back for more.

Thanks to a recent Groupon surprise,  I was granted just such an opportunity.  So I stopped by for a solo lunch on Friday afternoon.

Happily, the entire front of house was very pleasant. The hostess asked me if I had a seating preference and she gave me a table with a lovely view. The layout hadn't changed much from the way things were at Palomino. Just a few new tables and chairs.

As...luck?...would have it I had the same waiter as our team had just a few weeks earlier. His name was Bill.  As much as he weirded us out during happy hour with his oddities and overly conversational nature, he made up for it this time around. He came around just enough to fill my diet coke when the (absurdly tiny) glass neared empty and, observing my apparent need to quickly return to an afternoon of meetings, brought me my check in a very timely manner.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll start with the bread...

A motley crew of white, poppy seed and a whole grain raisin of sort proved far too much for one person, but welcomed nonetheless. The butter was appropriately soft -- perfect for spreading. I like a variety of bread choices. Sweet, savory and plain. An option for any diner's taste. A sweet deal for me.

Then it was on to the appetizer.

I couldn't ignore the crabmeat pumpkin soup screaming my name over and over again. So I didn't. And thank God. It was completely delicious. If I'd had fewer morals or manners I may have just picked up the entire bowl and slurped it right out. Jumbo lump crab meat swam in a sea of pumpkin bisque with a kick of curry for the heat and a drizzle of sweet and sour sauce which gave it a nice cooling touch. It reminded me quite a bit of the Butternut Squash soup from Spoon, but I don't think I'd dare say I preferred one over the other... That being said I definitely recommend the pumpkin soup at Elements.

I rounded out my meal with an entree to write home about:

Dear Mom & Dad,

I ate something amazing this afternoon. It was sea scallops served with thick cut bits of bacon, pomegranate and apple slices bathed in a mouth watering chestnut pesto. For getting only three scallops, it yielded a good 12 hefty bites of juicy meaty scallop. The bacon was thick and crispy (although one gooey fatty piece snuck in there some how) and provided a great textural contrast to the softness of the scallop. The crunch of the apple strips added a touch of sweetness to the (not too) salty dish and played a significant role in the texture wars as well. It was outstanding.

You need to come out here and visit so I can take you here. You'd love it. I think you and Bill would get along, too.



Cliffs Notes:
Groupon:                @ $15.00
Beverages:              1 Diet Pepsi @ $2.50
Appetizer:               Pumpkin Soup @ $9.00
Entree:                    Sea Scallops @ $15.00
Groupon discount:  @ -$25.00
Tax:                        @ 7% (Allegheny County only) @ $0.11
Total for one:          $16.61

Not bad for a schwanky lunch, I'd say! 

Overall opinion:

I truthfully believe that I made the perfect choices for someone with my taste. Looks like the menu is still extensive and appealing enough that I wouldn't be opposed to taking my clients here time and time again. Which makes me quite happy.  And yes, I'd even bring my mom here. Being a downtown restaurant its more of a happy hour, after work dinner spot than a weekend date location. Parking, I'm sure, is just as expensive as the meal and as much as I enjoyed it, I won't ever believe any meal is worth paying excessively for parking -- so call ahead to see if they validate.

Well done, Elements.  You've made me forget all about Palomino.

Elements Contemporary Cuisine on Urbanspoon


  1. Thank you for the extensive review. We do VALIDATE parking--5 hours with dinner, 2 hours with lunch. Enjoy the food, drinnk and atmosphere AND park for FREE.

  2. Great extensive review. Many better restaurants and service in the downtown area. The $ is average,hostess is rude.


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