When new restaurants run by renowned chefs open in Manhattan, it’s usually a big deal – for better or for worse. This kind of “for better or for worse” response is what chef-owner David Watluck is getting for his new restaurant, élan, which opened this summer. Before he opened this edgier American fusion food establishment, he ran a well-known and respected restaurant called Chanterelle in Tribeca.
While I myself didn’t live in Manhattan while Chanterelle was open, I have only read great reviews. When it closed, people were very upset and nostalgic for their favorite restaurant, but then Watluck decided to come back to the dining scene in a new way last year. Needless to say, there was a big buildup for his return and Chanterelle diners were excited to see what he would do. But what they didn’t expect was that Watluck was going to try something new. His new restaurant was to be edgier, more fun and less traditional than his older establishment. To sum it up, he went from making fine, classic French cuisine to French/American/Asian fusion. That’s a lot fusion. For those who miss the Chanterelle they know and love, Watluck’s new restaurant élan has been a lot to wrap their head around. The menu covers a very wide spectrum of flavors with dishes like a “general tso’s” sweetbreads and foie gras lollipops with figs and pistachios. It seems Watluck designed each dish on the menu to be classic with an unconventional, almost shocking spin.
I happen to love unconventional, shocking spins. I love trying “weird” combinations and I respect chefs that step outside of the box, even when the New York Times slams them for doing so. So I decided to try élan, which just so happened to release a brand new lunch menu with some more unconventional dishes like seafood sausage sandwich and duck confit hash … and lots more but I’m not here to give you the menu, you can Google that.
The restaurant was weirdly not crowded, which was actually great for my friend and I for filming purposes… but otherwise it felt empty. Either way, we ended up staying and eating lunch! And this is what happened!
Now that you’ve experienced élan with me, I have a couple points to make.
I’ve read a couple reviews about the duck & foie gras burger, and I was surprised at the negative backlash. Yes, the onion chutney and figs were very prominent, but some reviewers said that was a bad thing. Honestly, I don’t give a damn how much onion chutney and figs were on there, I thought it tasted good. Really good. As you could see, I liked it. Maybe it’s because we had a duck egg put on it. Or maybe it’s because I guess my standards are lower since I live off of Clif bars and coffee most of the time. Who knows.
On another note, the sea urchin guacamole was good. But I think there could have been a more even distribution of uni throughout the guac. Some bites would be crazy powerful and others would be sea urchin-less. And no one really wants sea urchin-less sea urchin guacamole ya no?
Either way, my only complaint about élan was really how empty it was because it felt weird. But do I care about that when I’m eating a fancy, exciting lunch with good company? Not at all. Like I said, I think I’m just easy to please.