Wednesday, November 12, 2014


David Waltuck is certainly one to follow.  His first permanent engagement since the shuttering of the iconic Chanterelle in Tribeca, Elan has opened up with a distinct... well, let's just say it is aptly named.  The dining room is subdued and relaxing, but the food more than compensates for the formally relaxed vibe.  Our server, notably, might win the year's Best Waiter award if there were one.  He was so personable and helpful I wanted to compliment David personally on having procured such an outstanding individual.  Luckily, there were a lot of things I wanted to compliment David on throughout the course of the night, and he wasn't even actually in the kitchen that evening.

The menu is both accessible and pretty standard in format, but it may belie some of the surprises the appear once the food begins to arrive.  A warm, seedy pretzel roll will tide you over 'til the first courses arrive, and our waiter confessed to having consumed far too many of these.  I could see it happening, for the warm chewy rolls have a scrumptious appeal on their own, and they paired magnificently with the lusty seafood sausage.  Its loose, delicate texture imparted lightness, seasoned just intensely enough to uphold a brat-worthy tradition but not to overpower its robust seafood flavor.  A thin, saucy sauerkraut puddled beneath, rife with mustard and fresh
 chives, simply divine swabbed up with a hunk of pretzel and a chunk of forcemeat.  It's a generous portion for an appetizer, and there are starters before that list playful bites like a fois gras pop and truffled croquettes.  Elan works best in a small plate format, but rely on your waiter who can deftly advise in terms of quantity.  Our choices (a starter, a main and two sides) turned out to be a modest meal, but fully satisfying.  

From the eight entrees listed, we chose a grilled flank steak, fanned out over the plate, although decidedly much rarer than the medium which we requested.  Not being such a big meat eater, though, I was happy with the well-done edges and left the bloodier bits to my tablemate.  That, I felt, justified my hogging most of the delicious pile of sauteed oyster mushrooms, smothered in a delectable gravy, a few token snappy snap peas thrown in for color.  And given the season (and presence on the menu) no autumn/winter meal is complete for me without brussels sprouts.  These are rich and nutty, tossed with quite a surplus of Chinese sausage for my taste: I would've gone twice or quadruple the sprouts for that quantity of chewy little pork
nubs, but the flavors were outstanding.  I'm sure the Ozerskys of the world would appreciate the proportions.  Instead, to fulfill my veg quotient we doubled-up with an order of regal grilled oyster mushrooms, these simply seared hot and anointed with a zippy herb butter, leaving the woodsy mushroom flavor to shine through in all its glory.

Certainly such a diminutive repast demands dessert, but the hourglass did not.  Wistfully I bypassed the apple sundae with butterscotch and halvah, a summer's-last-hurrah blueberry tart with corn and basil, and the welcome-to-fall gorgonzola panna cotta with Concord grapes and pignoli, all for which I would happily return.  And if I am lucky enough to make it back in any reasonable time frame, I bet our waiter might even order my brussels without asking.

43 East 20th Street, New York City

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