Still trying to catch up on these posts!
Over Spring Break, my parents took me to one of the best restaurants within a 2-mile radius from our home, Elements. It’s located in a small nearby plaza close to my old middle school (cue the nostalgia) that is home to my favorite part of town, the biweekly farmers’ market. Always nice to be able to get fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables so close to home, even in a somewhat out-of-the-way place like Almaden.
Anyways, we’ve been to Elements a couple of times in the past and they’ve always given us a good impression with the presentation and taste of their food. It might not look like much from the outside, but we’ve found them to be consistent in their quality and execution of their food and their service. Of course, they’re a bit on the pricy side (though nowhere near as expensive as some of the NYC eats I’ve gone to), but at about $20 for a main dish it’s okay to eat at once in a long while.
The restaurant has pretty dim lighting, and the interior design isn’t quite as meticulous as some of the restaurants here in the city, but it’s still pretty classy and comfortable. The service was smooth enough; no complaints here. They sat us down pretty quickly and brought us bread within minutes. They get an honorable mention for their pretzel buns, which were sinfully buttery and silky and sweet.
We didn’t do a full-out three-course meal, but we still had plenty of variety since we each ordered a different dish. Mom stuck with the shrimp and scallops with risotto: The risotto was slightly mushy but not soggy, with just the slightest bit of stickiness to it. The individual grains of rice weren’t really discrete, but were rather somewhat mashed together and soft; it wasn’t like the rice I’m used to that’s cooked to an al dente, but it was still delicious. There were green peas mixed into the rice, which provided a fun change in texture with their bursts of juiciness and sweet grassiness. The lightly fried shredded carrots on top were airy and crispy and added a slight rough texture to contrast with the rice and peas. The shrimp and scallops were both sweet and tender and went perfectly with the green sauce, which was slightly thick and milky with suggestions of green beans and maybe even peas blended in. There was a good amount of sauce so that it provided enough flavor without making overwhelming everything else. Zucchini is always one of my favorite vegetables, and these were sweet and juicy with a nice firmness to them.
I ordered the tea-smoked duck in a cranberry reduction sauce with taro au gratin and apple slices on the side:
The combination of sweet fruity notes and poultry is always good, and this was no exception. The duck was quite tender, though not melt-in-your-mouth tender (which is incredibly difficult to achieve with duck, I’m aware), and the sweet sauce provided a gentle lightness to the dish that was pretty refreshing; it was balanced out by the slight bitterness of the tea flavor so that it didn’t cling to the mouth for too long. The bed of spinach was juicy soft but not over-cooked to the point of sogginess, and I guess I would say that the vegetables met my ridiculously high standards of freshness since they had their characteristic bittersweet stringiness. The taro au gratin was mushy but still slightly firm with the usual extremely subtle ashy texture of taro. It had a bit of cinnamon to it, which brought out the sweet milkiness of the root, and made it taste almost like a dessert. Eating it with the crispy shredded carrots gave the taro a slight savoriness that was interesting.
Dad ordered one of the specials of the day, the seafood paella:
Just saying that this was NOT your Ferris Booth paella; not nearly as greasy or artificial-tasting. The seafood was fresh and not too bitter or limp, and I could taste the bright tomato flavor. I appreciated the wide range of textures in the dish from the soft grainy rice and the chewy clams, scallops, calamari and mussels.
Elements is definitely a hidden gem in a small part of San Jose. Definitely recommend if you’re in the area.
Rating: 4.5/5 spoons