I had a sandwich and soup at Element recently. You shouldn’t judge a place by one lunch, or a few dishes, but if I did, I would give a hearty handclap to this restaurant that recently celebrated its first year in business.
It’s a bit of a challenge to locate, but if you follow the voice of MapQuest Molly, you’ll have no problem. The highly-trumpeted eatery located on the edge of Lafayette Square occupies the 2nd and 3rd floors of what was once the power plant for the City Hospital complex.
Before boarding the elevator, you might want to pause to watch the athletically inclined, scale the wall of the first-floor climbing gym. If watching others exercise annoys you, proceed directly to the restaurant on the 2nd floor or to the comfortable and roomy 3rd floor lounge. The rooftop terrace is seasonal and provides seating for 72, an incredible view of the city, and small garden spaces for the restaurant.
I spoke with one departing customer at the elevator. “What do you recommend?” I asked.
“The crab chowder.”
“Definitely, the crab chowder,” another chimed in.
I followed our hostess into the airy, well-lit, contemporary space warmed with touches of old wood. The first thing to catch my eye was the open kitchen. Diners were seated far enough away not to get splattered, yet close enough to enjoy the synergy of top-notch chefs working together.
I had the crab soup special, (an excellent recommendation), and split a Reuben on marble rye with a friend. I neglected to ask about the ingredients in the sandwich, which affirms I’m not a real food critic. But the taste bang coming from the Reuben, led me to believe that the brisket, sauerkraut and dressing were made in house.
I eyed the dinner menu and noticed a range of items from traditional to trendy. For those wanting the familiar, there was roast chicken, rib eye, scallops, and lamb shank. The more hip hop palate could chose from mushroom tofu, braised belly, faro, parsnip puree, saffron cous cous, kale chips and butternut squash fritters.
It’s good to know that ingredients are locally produced and that the modern American cuisine is the work of a team of chefs. The pleasant surroundings, easy parking, food presentation and flavor wallop convinced me that I must return—next time for dinner.
Element, 1419 Carroll Street. Hours: Lunch, Tue-Fri. 11a-2pm; Dinner: Tue-Sat. 5p-10p; Lounge: Tues-Sat. 5p-12:30. NO LONGER IN BUSINESS.