My name is Jeff and I am a carnivore.
When I saw the announcement that Elm Restaurant in New Canaan was hosting four of the best chefs in Connecticut were gathering in the kitchen to serve a completely vegan menu I was curious. Elm’s chef Luke Venner arranged for chefs Mazen Mustafa, formerly of The Elm restaurant in Brooklyn, Marcell Davidson, from Community Table in Washington, CT, and Tyler Anderson, from Millwright’s in Simsbury. Would these four chefs create a meal this self-professed carnivore would enjoy? The answer is YES.
Mazen Mustafa trained in NYC at several Michelin starred restaurants including Corton, Momofuku Ko, and Restaurant Bouley. Marcell Davidsen brings a unique and artistic approach to his cuisine, celebrating local and natural ingredients, many found as he forages for herbs, flowers, and greens. Tyler Anderson worked with Chicago chefs Charlie Trotter, Sarah Stegner, and George Bumbaris and is a two-time James Beard nominated restaurant Millwright’s in Simsbury, CT. He respects and supports Connecticut’s farmers and artisan food producers.
When I arrived at Elm every table was occupied and the kitchen was abuzz with activity. I wandered to the rear to say hello to Elm’s chef Luke Venner and meet the other three chefs. Mustafa, Davidsen and Venner were busy finishing plates. Venner informed me that Anderson was, unfortunately, delayed out of town due to Hurricane Matthew.
While we looked at the menu I ordered the “avocado, indian corn tostada…” The avocado was serve guacamole–style and was rich, creamy and delicious. The tostadas were similar to poofy pita rounds, but darker. A little combination of the two; delightful, the avocado was great with the almost wheat-like tostada. It was one of our two favorites of the evening. The other was the “buffalo chicken of the woods, blue cheese.” Large sections of hen of woods mushrooms were seared and topped with a Buffalo wing sauce and topped with micro greens and dollops of vegan blue cheese. The mushrooms were dense and were a great complement to the slightly spicy sauce and the creamy blue cheese.
Two of the other smaller plates we enjoyed were the “tomato tartare, ras el hanout, charred bread” and the “pineapple steak, cilantro, peanut, szechuan peppercorn.” The tomato was served as a disk, exploding with the spiced diversity of the ras el hanout seasoning. The pineapple steak was petit and incredibly sweet with a great balance from the cilantro and the peanuts and Szechuan pepper added crunch and spiciness. From the larger plate section, we ordered the “charred eggplant, ratatouille jus, black olive, thai basil” and the “crispy hen of the woods, farro boullion, pickled onion. The vertically sectioned eggplants were charred and delivered a combination of subtle and deep flavors, which were elevated by the jus and the Thai basil. The mushroom dish was an enormous head of hen of woods mushrooms, which delivered both a crispy exterior and moist interior. The farro boullion was a required addition to each bite to add depth.
For dessert we enjoyed both the chocolate cake with banana ice cream as well as the peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies served with a small glass of almond milk.
Overall I really enjoyed this introduction and total immersion into vegan cuisine. Each dish focused on the tremendous and natural beauty of a single ingredient, and then the chefs added both complementary flavors and textures. If I was able to prepare vegan cuisine anywhere close to these dishes, I would definitely place them on my dinner table as frequently as possible.
The author was not compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.