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Dining Out

Elements (Napa, California)

by Michael Chu
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On a recent trip to Napa, California to Camalie Vineyards, a family vineyard and winery owned by my friend Mark, Tina and I celebrated this year's Cabernet harvest and crush. When we were ready to leave, Mark suggested we try a new restaurant that his friend just opened - Elements. It sounded like a great idea, so off we went.

It turned out that Elements is a great place to dine on well executed small plates at a reasonable price. They also have several entrees (which we didn't try on this visit), almost two dozen cheeses (with accompaniments ranging from pickled figs to honey combs to marcona almonds) and an extensive wine list (as you'd expect from a restaurant that also calls itself an enoteca).

Rich Poliak, the creator and owner of Elements, is (like Mark, myself, and Tina) a former Intel employee who eventually found a new passion and pursued it. He's made it a point to make his restaurant as socially responsible as possible. They don't serve bottled water at Elements - all the water is filtered and purified (and carbonated if you chose sparkling) on site and served in reusable glass bottles reducing waste and environmental impact of shipping water from around the globe. The menus are printed on 100% recycled acid/chlorine-free paper and all their glass, paper, and cardboard waste is recycled. Even the dining chairs are constructed out of 98% recycled aluminum. The waste from the kitchen is composted while surplus food and ingredients are donated to non-profit agencies in Napa. All seafood that they serve are sustainably caught.

Not only are they environmentally responsible, they also responsible to their people. All employees are provided with health insurance (which is very rare for a small restaurant) and they do their best to purchase through local purveyors and donate back into Napa's non-profit organizations.

But, that's all icing on the cake. First and foremost how was the food? Here's what we had.

Oxtail terrine with a salad of summer roots $8
The chilled terrine had the strong beefy flavor you look for when eating anything made of oxtail.

Hamachi tartare, Asian pear and a radish salad $9
The flavors and textures were excellent in this plate. The fish was firm and savory and paired perfectly with the sweet, crisp cubed pear pieces.

Dungeness crab, avocado and citrus $11
This was my favorite dish and I highly recommend ordering it. The crab tasted fresh - mild and sweet - and went perfectly with the rich, creamy avocado that was served on top.

Cured meats and salumis, cold pressed grape seed oil $9
We got a mix of spec, salami, and a couple of other cured meats.

Monterey calamari, Spanish chorizo broth, oregano $9
This slightly spicy dish isn't your normal restaurant preparation of calamari. The calamari was perfectly cooked and paired with little chorizo bits the flavor was great. This was Tina's favorite dish.

Broccoli Rabe sautéed with anchovy and toasted garlic $5.50
We ordered this side because we long broccoli rabe. This preparation was not a disappointment, but I do recommend making sure you get a little of the anchovy to get just enough briny goodness with the broccoli rabe.

Peach tart tatin $6
We ordered two desserts. This one was made with a poached peach set on a disc of puff pastry. A dollop of vanilla yogurt sorbet was set on top of the warm peach. The flavors were very good, but we weren't sure about the microgreens served with the dessert.

Ruby red grapefruit $6
I ordered this dessert because our waitress (who was on her first week at the restaurant) hadn't seen it served before. Slices of grapefruit wedges (which were not ruby red...) were served with a prosecco saybayon[sic] gratinee (looked like some light blowtorching). I like grapefruit, so I didn't have a problem with the dessert, but the sabayon sauce was a little weird. I tasted it on it's own and it was slightly sweet with an odd flavor that I couldn't quite place. Later, after trying the peach dessert, I tasted the sabayon again and it tasted really odd - like it was heavily fermented or something. I don't recommend this dessert.

I would recommend that if you find yourself in the Napa Valley region of California you definitely give Elements a try.

Elements Restaurant and Enoteca
1400 Second Street
Napa, CA 94559
Reservations: OpenTable
Walk-in: worked for us (might be harder as the restaurant becomes more popular)

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Written by Michael Chu
Published on October 15, 2008 at 01:16 PM
2 comments on Elements (Napa, California):(Post a comment)

On October 15, 2008 at 07:19 PM, Nate (guest) said...
Subject: very pretty
and looks like they have enough lighting for good photos.

I like the looks of that radish salad, and the cured meats.

On October 22, 2008 at 02:19 PM, onefoodguy said...
Subject: Eating in Napa
I love eating in Napa Valley and your recap of your dining experience makes me want to go back and visit real soon! Thanks for sharing your meal with us!

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