Elisir Ristorante, the newest creation of highly decorated and acclaimed Chef Enzo Fargione, offers Italian cuisine at its finest. The restaurant itself is gorgeous. The design feels modern with clean, elegant lines. The semi-open kitchen offers a glimpse of a true master in the labor of his craft. Chef Fargione has a warm and inviting persona and takes great pride in his creations. Don’t be surprised if he pops by the table to ask how you are enjoying your meal.
Each dish showcases Chef Fargione creativity and playfulness. The meal begins with an amuse-bouche which changes daily and during our visit it was a crispy and delicate cone made out of corn filled with a creamy and rich fondue of fontina cheese, sautéed artichoke, crumbled pistachio and micro greens. It was an excellent start to the meal.
The next course was an Italian olive oil and infused sea salt tasting. It revealed the diversity of style and flavor of the olive oils produced in three regions of Italy. You would be surprised at how different they tasted. There is a wide selection of bread to choose from and I really enjoyed the garlic and anchovy bread. It was served with 3 salts (black olive, chianti and basil). Each salt paired with an olive oil though you can mix and match to try different combinations.
We decided to try the Carpaccio Di Vitello Piemontese Sul Marmo Con I Suoi Condimenti. This consisted of tantalizing cubes of veal filet served on a marble stone. There was shaved black summer truffle piled atop the veal which gave the dish a nice earthy flavor. A citrus dressing accompanied the dish to give it some acidity. Drizzled across the marble was a caramel and red wine sauce punctuated by toasted hazelnuts. Finally it had “condiments” of cardoon (celery), foraged mushrooms and parmesano reggiano cheese. With so many components, every bite was a delicious and unique adventure. You can experiment to build the perfect bite. All the ingredients worked well with one another. I particularly enjoyed the caramel and red wine sauce which gave the dish a sweet, tanginess. This is a must try dish on your next visit.
I then had one of the best, and most interesting salads I have had in a long time. The Insalata Di Cipolle Dolci Croccanti Alla Caviale E Tonno Affumicato. It was constructed of onion petals stacked on top of one another. It was lightly coated in a dressing made of grappa which complimented the onion nicely. On top of the onions was caviar and smoked Sicilian tuna shavings. This gave it a nice saltiness. The crunch of the onions with the crispiness of the polenta crackers yielded a phenomenal texture. Chef Fargione seeks out the high quality, seasonal ingredients for his food.
You can’t review an Italian restaurant without trying the pasta. One of the good things about Elisir is that they offer half orders of pasta allowing you to try more than one, or helping you to keep your carb intake in good shape. I loved the Tagliatelle Di Pomodoro Al Tonna Capperi Olive Verdi E Peperoncino Siciliano. The texture of the tagliatelle pasta was slightly al dente as it should be. The amount of love that went into the handmade pasta is unmistakable. It was a flavorful preparation with green olives, capers and spicy Sicilian sausage. Two types of tuna were in the dish. A nice seared tuna and a smoked tuna prosciutto. All the dishes were a hit, but I would come back for the pasta alone. It was very satisfying.
My entrée was the Pescatrice Arrosto Ripiena Funghi Estivi E Fave in Agrodolce which translates to roasted monkfish filet that was rolled and filled with pancetta, spinach and mixed summer mushrooms. It was served with a Pinotage red wine sauce and garnished with a savory fava bean salad. It takes real skill to cook fish in this fashion. The fish came out evenly cooked and flaked off perfectly with each gentle swipe of the fork. The sauce was rich and satisfying, yet did not overpower the delicate flavor of the fish.
We finished the meal with a selection of very innovative gelatos and sorbets. They are served with crumbled pistachios and candied rice to add texture. The offerings change daily and you are able to pick four. We had saffron sorbet, coffee sorbet, pink and black peppercorn gelato and ricotta cheese with black truffle sorbet. The coffee sorbet was a little edgy. It was strongly flavored, but in a good way. I liked the saffron sorbet the best. It had that grassy, honey like quality you come to expect. It also made the sorbet a touch savory, which was yet another demonstration of Chef Fargione creativity and playfulness.
We dined off the A La Carte dinner menu but Elisir also offers a 7 course tasting menu. From start to finish it was an excellent meal. And don’t be afraid to ask questions when you go, the servers are very knowledgeable and can easily help you select a meal based on your tastes. The next time you get a craving for Italian cuisine you should pop over to Penn Quarter and treat yourself to Elisir. I think you will be glad you did.
- Shawn Keeley