A friend and I finally made it to Elements in Arlington last night. Place was about a third full when we arrived around 7; a few more customers came in as we ate, but it never completely filled. (Being a Tuesday, I'm not overly surprised.)
My friend had a mesclun salad with walnuts, sprinkled with some Great Hill blue cheese with a champagne vinaigrette, and I had a Chanterelle Risotto with Maine rock shrimp. Her salad (I did a small taste-test) was some nice baby lettuces with a light vinaigrette. I personally thought the Great Hill blue cheese was a bit strong; I prefer a milder blue like a Spanish cabrales, but it was still very good.
My risotto wasn't "risotto" as both of us were expecting. I'm almost 100% sure that they did *not* used Arborio rice. I know Arborio as a chubby, pearly-colored, shorter-grained rice. The rice seemed more like Basmati, as it was a long and thin medium- or long-grain rice and remained separate, with no clingyness to the other grains of rice the way Arborio does with its higher starch content.
Also, the risotto wasn't creamy, again as we were both expecting. I'm not overly well-versed in variations on risotto, but I've never had it when it wasn't a creamy risotto. This was served with some kind of an earthy-flavored au jus - maybe from cooking the chanterelles? It was slightly disappointing, but still very good...lovely, tender chanterelle mushrooms (except for one which was slight gritty as if it wasn't rinsed/washed well enough) and the rock shrimp were done perfectly. Portion size was perfect for an appetizer - about a cupful of risotto topped with a good number of shrimp.
My friend had the Semolina and Ricotta Gnocchi with roasted wild mushrooms, delicata squash, and sage. I didn't try it, but it looked good. She loved the delicata squash, and it was obvious that she could have had more of that, as she kept going back to scrape out the last little bits of flesh from the squash shell.
I chose the Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with Spiced Quince and Glazed Root Vegetables (I think the veggies were small-diced carrot and maybe parsnip?) with another side of sauteed kale or spinach. The tender slices of duck were done to perfection and the quince, while not as "spiced" as I expected, was a nice counterpoint to the duck. I was kinda hoping for a whole duck leg quarter which would have had some crispy duck skin on it, but alas, it was not to be. The sauteed kale was done perfectly - just until wilted.
I had several glasses of Murphy Goode Sauvignon Blanc to go with my meal while my friend stuck with water.
And while we weren't planning on having dessert, we *did* look at the dessert menu.........and I caved. :-) I had read a previous review about their Pistachio Popover with Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream, Figs and Pistachio Brittle (was that review here?), and when I saw it on the menu, I couldn't resist. It was very good - the popover was slightly heavier than I expected - almost like a light muffin, and the honey-vanilla ice cream was rich, creamy and oh-so-honey-good! The figs were a nice counterpoint and the strips of pistachio brittle added some crunchy texture and a nice sweetness.
Total bill with tip was $81.00, which I thought very reasonable. I will be back, as there were several other items on the menu I want to try (the quail app with figs and serrano ham and the sauteed monkfish entree both look very enticing!)
I tend to get very provincialized in the restaurants I go to - I have my few favorites and tend to repeat my visits to them vs. trying new places more often. But traveling down Mass Ave. from Lexington, I now know where Blue Ribbon BBQ, Punjab, and one other Chowhound-mentioned restaurant are (the name of which escapes me right now). :-) While I'll never be an adventurous restaurant explorer like some of you are, I *definitely* have get out there trying new restaurants (to me) more often.
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