Elements, Princeton, NJ

Elements opened in Princeton a few months ago and ever since then I have wanted to check it out. After 1 cancelled reservation a few weeks ago thanks to my wife, we finally went yesterday night.

We got to the restaurant right on time, however there wasn’t any parking available and no valet parking either. We ended up parking in the lot of a bank about a block away, even that only had 2 parking spots left. It was a freezing night and only got worse by the end of dinner. Boy was I shivering when I got back into the car.

We walk into the restaurant and find the hostess stand just next to an amazingly small bar. I think it could only hold about 3 guests. Things seemed a little chaotic. Our hostess wasn’t there and than 3 different people asked if we were being helped. I think one of them was the hostess. We got to our table which had no cutlery whatsoever, just napkins. But this is planned – they bring out a fresh set with every course. We were approached with the drinks menu by someone who I thought was our waiter, but he wasn’t. A waitress came to take our drink orders – she was our waitress! I think chaotic service is good word for Elements. They have a lot of staff floating around, all in an attempt to provide good service but it comes across as chaotic. Every course was delivered by a different person, usually the same person delivers all your food at most restaurants. Despite the chaos, it doesn’t detract from the food whatsoever which is very good.

The restaurant itself is pretty nicely decorated in muted earth tones. However, the lighting is a little on the low side. I personally would have liked to have had a little more light to admire the unsmiling, attractive waitress who seemed to be jetting back and forth in front of our table all night long.

Ok, it’s all about the food and the food, save the desserts, is very good. For the 1st course we had the handmade farfalle which came with broccoli rabe, sausage and rock shrimp. This was an excellent dish. Very flavorful, very well balanced and the sausage was amazing. I had the pork belly. Pork belly is my new favorite thing. I was in Dallas last week and had the most amazing pork belly ever from The French Room at The Adolphus. This has become the pork belly standard. The pork belly at Elements was very good, just not as good as The French Room. My guess is that if I had not eaten that version I would have liked this even more.

For the main course we had the black bass in thai curry. This was a very good dish too. The fish was perfectly cooked, and the spices and flavors were perfectly balanced, just a little short on salt. I had the 48 hour short rib which in a word was fabulous. I love short rib and this is the very best version I have ever had. It reminded me of an excellent kobe steak, perfectly cooked, just the right amount of fat, amazingly tender, beautifully flavored. This is a dish to die for.

For dessert we had the jelly doughnut and chocolate with salty caramel. Desserts are ok, nothing really to rave about. The doughnut itself was very good, the jelly was just too tart. The chocolate made me think of a brownie not the brioche it was supposed to be and a little salty for me. I am very sensitive to salt in food.

For drinks we had the dirty lychee martini and I had a glass of tempranillo which was excellent. I wish the wines by the glass list was a little longer.

Overall, great food, a very welcome addition to the Princeton restaurant scene which really needs better restaurants. I have moaned about the lack of decent restuarants in Princeton forever – it’s a crime but things are slowly changing. Having a restaurant like Elements will hopefully force other restaurants to push the the creativelity and taste envelope.

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