A Walk Through elm’s Tasting Menu

elm 2014Chef Brian Lewis of elm Restaurant in New Canaan recently announced that Chef Mark Butcher has joined his team as the Chef de Cuisine. So with a major winter storm looming, I decided to enjoy the Chef’s Table overlooking the kitchen, speak with Chef Butcher and enjoy elm’s extraordinary Chef’s Tasting Menu.

BL 1Prior to joining elm, Chef Butcher worked with Master Chef Joachim Splichaat at Los Angeles’ Patina Restaurant, known for delivering a “surprise” in many of their dishes. After several years in sunny California, Chef Butcher relocated to the area with his wife and one-year old son.

BL 2To begin the meal the chef presented a light crema with a touch of trout roe, puffed rice and topped with a Robiola fonduta. The dish was smooth and the flavor was accentuated by a slight saltiness from the mild roe and the slight tangy Robiola. The rice added just a touch of textural contrast to the smoothness of the crema. This was a calming start to the meal.

BL 3The next dish was a duet of Kusshi oysters topped with shallots, baby capers, a dash of cumin and Marcona almonds. This was one of Chef Butcher’s creations and is an indication of his talents. There were flavors galore with the mild brininess of the oysters combined with the tanginess of the shallots, the saltiness of the capers and the earthy and crunchy addition from the almonds. This all made for a delightful combination of flavors that exploded on your palate.

BL 4The citrus cured Hamachi with Cara Cara orange segments, fennel, grapes and finished with a habanero cream and Shishito pepper oil was divine. The sliced Hamachi was the great canvas for the abundant flavors of the other ingredients. The sweet orange segments were perfectly offset by the heat from the cream and the pepper oil and then small diced pieces of pickled shallots added the final and delicious component.

BL 5As we overlooked the kitchen we noticed one dish that was most often ordered, the Blis maple bacon and eggs. Eggs shells were first filled with creamy scrambled eggs, a little maple syrup was added, a touch of candied bacon and then topped with a mild cheese. Each bite was a perfect blend of Sunday morning breakfast memories. Served with buttered and grilled brioche, this would make for a wonderful brunch dish.

BL 7The next presentation was Ahi tuna wrapped around an avocado cream and topped with a soy caramel glaze, sesame seeds, a slice of radish and a cilantro leaf. The thick slices of Ahi were delicious and when combined with the sweet richness of the soy caramel, the crunchiness of the sesame seeds and the radish and cilantro created a perfect balance of flavors and textures.

BL 6Visually, the next course was beautiful and the flavors were outstanding, the beet salad with Burrata, Sicilian pistachios, greens and citrus oils. The presentation included several variety of beets that were mild and earthy in flavor and offered subtle differences. The Burrata was creamy and elegant and balanced the flavors of the citrus and beet reductions. This was bright and delicious preparation.

BL 8A trio of pasta creations were next placed in front of us and included red kuri squash ravioli; pork cheek agnolotti; and foie gras cappelletti. This is an outstanding choice to understand the various directions that pastas can take. The sweet red kuri squash ravioli was accented with hazelnuts, sage and parmesan. The sweetness of the squash and the earthiness of the hazelnuts were a perfect pairing and was fantastic. The pork cheek filling to the agnolotti was delicious and was complemented by the smooth cream. The richest of the three was the foie gras cappelletti, served with drunken prunes and amontillado sherry. The combination of sheer decadence of the foie paired with the sweetness of the prune was brilliant.

BL 9The Wagyu beef tenderloin was served with a rich coffee infused Cumberland sauce, duck fat potatoes, pickled shallots and leeks. The beef was prepared to medium rare, incredibly tender and rich in flavors. The earthiness of the coffee and walnuts in the Cumberland sauce added to the depth of flavor and then the crispiness of the fried potato and the leeks added incredible flavors to this already outstanding steak.

BL 10Dessert was a delicious ending to a perfect meal. The coconut tapioca brulée was served with a pineapple carpaccio, cilantro, and topped with a scoop of pineapple sorbet. This was a delightful combination that reminded me of a wonderful Pina Colada. The scoop of sweet pineapple sorbet was nestled the coconut tapioca and offered a delightful complement to the texture of the tapioca pearls. This is an fantastic option for any guest looking for a sweet, non-chocolate dessert.

Overall the meal can best be described as brilliant interpretations, incredible combinations with flavors and textures that sets the standard for incredible cuisine. I look forward to many more outstanding visits to Brian Lewis’ elm Restaurant to enjoy some of the best cuisine in Connecticut.

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