This place was pretty legit!
I think I had it bookmarked from a while ago, but I can't remember.... but yesterday night, we were looking for a new place to eat and randomly decided on this place as I was going through Yelp. I couldn't really tell how 'fancy' the place was based on the few photos alone but it seemed like it might be a mix of upscale and casual.
Upon arrival, we noted that it was in a strip mall next to a Dierberg's. Definitely an unassuming location. I had called in advance to ask if we would need reservations but the guy who answered said it wouldn't be necessary. We were greeted by a friendly man when we walked in, and his greeting seemed very genuine.
It was fairly quiet--maybe only two other tables there besides us--but it was a Wednesday night. I wonder how busy they get on the weekends... I did feel a bit under-dressed in jeans and a polo, but I didn't feel as though I was being judged for it.
Had already stalked the menu online prior to leaving so I knew in advance I wanted the mushroom pasta. Sean opted for a burger. Our server, Clayton, was on the spot with everything. Sean noted this and was very impressed stating that it was, quote, "no joke, fine dining." Whenever we felt like we needed more water, he was already standing behind us, reaching for the glass to fill it up! A+
The pasta was amazing. Like woooah mind-blowingly good. I was also ravenously hungry, so that probably made it taste better, for sure. The mushrooms were rich and delicious probably due to the intense flavor from the shallots. There was some cheese on top but not too much. The pasta is homemade here and SO freaking good. Wayyy better than Pastaria's and much better than my homemade attempts too. I'd go back for almost any type of pasta dish alone. The portion was just right too. I didn't feel like I over-ate, didn't feel like I wanted more, and didn't need to take home any excess. Spot-on. The only negative was that I felt it was pretty oily. I am hoping it was olive oil instead of butter though...maybe a tad bit more nutritious. But yeah, really good.
Also tried their house cab for $5 not a bad deal.
Sean really enjoyed his burger and I liked how they stacked the fries like a jenga game or a log cabin. Cute touch. It was cooked perfectly the way he wanted, and the bacon on it was reeeally good. I was worried he wouldn't like the fries as the menu advertised them with Parmesan on top but everything turned out just right, with a very small quantity of cheese sprinkled on them.
It seems most everything here is homemade and you can really taste the difference. Price-wise, not too bad considering the quality and degree of service you get here. $48 was our total after the tip, and that was for a burger, pasta dish, and glass of wine.
On our way out, we struck a conversation with the guy who greeted us on our way in, and turns out he's the owner. (His name is Mike.) They've only been in business since February, I think, is what he said. I'd love to have a UYE here, in fact I am probably going to plan one for end of August if anyone is interested. I hope they do good business. I really appreciate being treated with respect in "fine dining" restaurants...doesn't always happen when a young person walks into such a place. So kudos to Gist!
Fantastic new place with a really nifty location. I seriously would not have realized there's a restaurant here if Stewart P. hadn't told me! Not gonna lie, though, there's something that bugs me about seeing the rock climbing people below us....I think it has to do with the fact that I never work out, so I felt incredibly guilty staring down at them sweating and toiling away, trying to scale that massive expanse of a fake rock while my fat ass was lounging around sipping booze and stuffing my face, lol...
I digress....but yeah. I feel the need to preface this review with a statement reflecting the fact that the food I had here the other night was partially free....not because I am a Yelper, but because they were doing two free dishes the first few nights after they opened...I guess as a special promotion to get people to try the place. So that being said...I did pay for the cocktail I ordered ($10) and Stewart paid for the 3rd dish (dessert) he ordered.
Many things on the menu sounded good but I opted for the lobster (small plate) and the risotto (large plate.) I also opted to try a cocktail which was not included, as I mentioned, but I was excited to try one regardless because $10 is what I typically pay at a place such as Taste or Sanctuaria for a fantastic mixology drink. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the drink I ordered. The name of it escapes me but it's the one with rum in it (there's only one drink on their cocktail menu with rum, FYI.) The initial sip was great but the finish was...watery. I don't know how that was even possible but I barely even got a buzz from it. Kind of a bummer. It was sweet at first, with a hint of tart which is perfect (in my book) but the finish, like I said, was lacking. Maybe the ice melted too fast? At any rate, definitely not worth the $10, sadly. Maybe I should have picked a different drink? They had a decent beer and wine selection too...
The lobster was truly incredible. Very delicious. Tender and buttery and almost melt-in-your-mouth. Unfortunately, there was a rather sizable chunk of shell in one of the pieces I ate and I had to awkwardly pick it out of the chewed up wad using my napkin (sorry for being gross, Stewart) and it was really just...a buzzkill to the texture and overall lobster-eating experience. I didn't want to risk swallowing something that big and that hard, though. (Cue that's what she said jokes!) Also, the portion was TINY. I don't recall how much this cost (there's no menu on their website yet and derpy me forgot to snap a photo for reference later on) but I want to say it was between $15 - $17. That's a lot of freakin' cash to spend on a few hunks of lobster (see photo) ...Albeit amazingly delicious lobster but still... At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical American: I can't say I would spend that much money on such little food!
Stewart ordered a beef dish for his small plate (forgot what it was called, but see photo.) It was also incredible and they obviously know how to expertly blend flavors together at Element...something to be said for that.
My large plate was the risotto, and it was probably the star of the evening for me due to the fact that there was a bit more food than the lobster which meant that I could enjoy the amazing taste that much longer, (but also cost just as much if not more, I can't remember) and the flavors were equally mind-blowing. Unfortunately I did gag a little bit on the pea shoots/sprouts that were on top of the risotto. Maybe I was just having bad luck that night with swallowing things? (again, cue that's what she said!) or maybe I was just ravenous still since the lobster didn't fill me up and ate too fast. Either way, another buzzkill. Probably more my fault on that one than theirs, though, lol.
Stewart opted for the halibut which wasn't anywhere near as good as any of the other three dishes I'd already tried that evening. The textures were good but the flavor didn't really float my boat. It also appeared to be more like a stew and I was surprised they didn't bring a spoon. I probably would have asked for one, stew-art (ha ha see what I did there) but either way, I am glad that he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.
Stewart decided to order a dessert and I want to say it was some kind of apple dessert...it had an AMAZING lemon curd sauce on it which I wish I had the recipe for. Unfortunately, though, the dessert cost around $7-8 and it was TINY. I literally almost laughed out loud when I saw it on the plate. (And they use HUGE plates here so they really dwarf the food and make the small portion sizes look even smaller.) The entire dessert could literally be consumed in a bite or two. Since it was split in half for us to share, I actually did eat it in one bite!
The verdict? 3.5 stars. I bumped them up to 4 because the service was pretty good, the location is creative (and I didn't even see the lounge in-person yet!), and the flavors were incredible!
But the bad? Too damn expensive. :(