Element – Was I in My Element?

You have all heard about my “list” of places to try.  Well Element has been on there for a long time.  It was time to cross this one off.

My visit was a Friday so of course, a drink was in order.  At the time, they were redoing the cocktail menu so I can’t say if they have any custom creations.  I stuck with a Cabernet so I could keep things simple and focus on the food.  The server shared that the menu does change based on what’s fresh and they stick with as many local ingredients as possible.  Since I had already reviewed the menu before going, I had a few things that I knew I wanted to try.

For appetizers, I went with the country fried foie gras and the Pork Belly.  I’m sure the pork belly isn’t a surprise to anyone at this point.  In case you didn’t know, foie gras is a must order for me as well.  I love the decadence and texture.  I’m sure that PETA won’t be showing me any love after that confession…

This is my first time having country fried foie gras so I was a little unsure of what to expect.  It was paired with greens and green tomato chow chow.  The dish had a very southern feel and frying the foie gras made me think of fried chicken liver.  It’s a completely different take on this delicacy.

foie gras

My quest to eat pork belly more than any human should continues!  This pork belly was served with prunes, pear, walnuts, and blue cheese.  I love dishes like this.  Each bite gives you the opportunity to mix-and-match different flavors and textures.  My personal favorite was the belly, walnut, and blue cheese.  I loved the pairing of the pear, walnut, and blue cheese. Be careful; the blue cheese is strong, so a little goes a long way.

pork belly 1

The first large plate was the lamb pot roast.  I needed a dish to redeem lamb after my experience at RJ’s.  This was not your mom’s pot roast, unless hers is also tender and rich.

lamb pot roast

The second large plate was the duck breast with scrapple, brussels sprouts and apple butter.  I haven’t had a vegetable surprise me in a while, but I really liked the brussels sprouts.  Wait, did I say I liked brussels sprouts?!?!?  They weren’t over cooked so they stayed crunchy.   The apple butter was a solid accompaniment to the duck breast.  I always love fruit pairings with duck.

duckAfter all that food I was going to stop, but thank God I didn’t.  Dessert was the payday and I felt like I hit the jackpot.  The peanut butter cake and caramel was fantastic.  If you don’t like things that stick to your teeth, you may not like this dish.  Personally I was happy to be able to save that flavor for later. This made the struggle to drive down I-64 through the traffic and construction completely worth it.  I would go back just to eat this and hope it stays on the menu.
payday

Element has an adventurous menu that changes frequently so each visit will be unique.  It’s clear they like to have fun and like to experiment.  The highlight of my meal was the dessert.  Hopefully the Payday is frequently part of the regular menu.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  4.  This place is hard to find in the dark if it’s your first time.  Look for the rock climbing gym.  It’s very contemporary inside and has a lively atmosphere.  They have small and large plates to fit all appetites and dining preferences.

Element on Urbanspoon

MEDIAnoche – Half & Half at Twilight

Last Saturday, my wife and I dined at MEDIAnoche. For those that have been to Half & Half, it’s the same location but a completely different style. Half & Half focuses on breakfast and brunch while MEDIAnoche is Mexican. This won’t be your typical Mexican restaurant, but you will find familiar dishes and ingredients used in a new and unique way. Since I have been a fan of Half & Half for several months now, MEDIAnoche has been on my list of places to try.

I love when restaurants offer a prix fixe menu because I usually have a list longer than what one human should consume in one sitting. Their version, called Probando, ensured that I would try an appetizer, a taco, and an entrée. Having my wife there, meant we could double what I would sample 🙂

My appetizer was the biscuit con Puerco. It was a biscuit made using pork fat with BBQ smoked pork belly inside and topped with Brussel sprout slaw. It was served with a side of mango Habanero jam. For those that read my post about Atlanta’s Six Feet Under, you are probably surprised I went for Habanero’s again so soon. I sampled the sauce first to determine how much to use for the biscuit. It started off with the refreshing taste of mangos and then had a nice after-burn from the Habanero. The texture of the biscuit was more soft than your typical flakey variety. The pork belly was a little tougher than what I typically like but still had that extreme pork flavor. I was surprised at how well I liked the Brussel sprout slaw; it provided a nice crunch. Overall this dish was unique but not something I would probably order again. The highlight was the mango Habanero sauce which has endless possibilities for use.

Watch out for the kick of the sauce!

My wife’s appetizer was the atun fresco. It was seared tuna with corn, oyster mushrooms, and jalapeno. It was a typical seared tuna that was cooked perfectly. The slight taste from the corn and jalapeno do give it more of a Mexican flair than you get at most restaurants. A solid appetizer for those that like seared tuna but not too out of the ordinary.

For the 2nd course, I had the de panza de Puerco (pork belly taco). My family has started to wonder about my obsession of pork belly. If there is an option for pork belly I will try it. As you can see it was a part of the 1st two courses! I love that they served the taco in a paper tray. It reminds me of real Mexican style street food tacos. You can tell that the toppings were fresh and that is a key to a good street food taco. If they only had cow’s tongue as an option….

My wife’s 2nd course was the avocado taco. I was hoping she would try the beef cheek or lamb. As all married guys know, there is give and take in a relationship. This was a time to let it slide. I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor. It was as if you took a good guacamole and served it in the taco. It has a peppery kick. In both cases, I really enjoyed the tacos.

For my entrée, I had the pato agridulce. This was seared duck breast with sweet and spicy confit and corn tortilla puree. The duck was tender and had a good flavor. The tortilla contained the sweet and spicy confit. Luckily the server provided the instructions to break that tortilla to mix in those ingredients. My favorite part of the dish was the corn tortilla puree. It always excites me to try familiar flavors in a different way. In this case, it was the mouth feel of eating something that tasted like a tortilla but had the consistency of mashed potatoes. It makes me want to puree things at home to experiment.

Fun presentation. Don’t ignore the corn tortilla puree.

My wife had the special lamb dish for the night. It was three different cuts of Jones Heritage farm lamb. It featured braised belly, shoulder, and leg. It was served over balsamic vinegar and had large fresh blackberries. The presentation was the best so far. She was nice enough to share a taste of the three types. The braised belly was my favorite. It may be too much for some if you aren’t used to that fatty of a cut of meat.

MEDIAnoche provided a unique spin on Mexican cooking. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. They provided great suggestions for drinks and description of the food as it was served. I do recommend the prix fixe menu for sampling their diverse menu. I prefer the morning version of the restaurant, but this is a solid choice for dinner if you want something different.