The last time Enzo Fargione led a kitchen was way back in March 2010, when the chef was still at Teatro Goldoni, the K Street institution from which he was unceremoniously fired after a fallout with the owners.
Fargione will be able to bury those memories, once and for all, when he debuts his own restaurant next week, but the chef will also carry at least one important element from his days at Teatro: He’ll bring his modernist ideas about Italian cooking to Elisir, his downtown restaurant scheduled to open to the public for lunch on Thursday, Dec. 1.
“I can’t wait to start,” Fargione says. “I’ve been itching for this for a long time.”
So have those who tasted Fargione’s cooking at his chef’s table at Teatro, where he developed his personal, modern takes on regional Italian dishes, such as smoked branzino carpaccio in a cigar box or his Cubist interpretation of a Caprese salad.
Some of those dishes will migrate over to Elisir (Italian for “elixir”), such as the branzino carpaccio, but mostly Fargione wants to create a fresh start in his new space. “We feel the novelty of the restaurant should recommend the novelty of the dishes,” he says.
As promised earlier, Elisir will offer diners two different tasting menus (and some a la carte items) at dinner, which will officially begin on Saturday, Dec. 3. One is a seven-course option for $75, the other a 10-course meal for $95. (You can begin to book reservations tomorrow, either by phone or via OpenTable.)
What can you expect to see on Fargione’s tasting menus? The chef highlighted a few dishes: a chestnut soup spiked with house-made quail sausage, capon liver caviar, buffalo ricotta flan and pickled plum-tomato jam; poached duck eggs served with a port-wine reduction, dehydrated pork cheeks, shaved winter black truffles and tempura deep-fried sage leaves stuffed with Taleggio cheese; fagotti stuffed with a truffle-flavored liquid that’s released when you bite into the little saffron-pasta bundles.
“It took a while to get it done right,” Fargione says about the fagotti, “and I’m still working on it.”
Lunch will be divided into an a la carte menu, with most dishes priced under $20, and a $19 two-course bar meal that will include a main, a dessert and a non-alcoholic drink. One of the lunch a la carte items will be Fargione’s Italian take on a maki roll, in which Parma prosciutto stands in for nori and is wrapped around a filling of marinated goat cheese, poached asparagus and roasted portabella mushrooms. It comes with pickled shaved carrots, a balsamic dipping sauce and chopsticks.
Dishes aside, there will be at least one other innovation at Elisir: Fargione will have two monitors in the dining room (and three in private dining rooms), where guests will be able to watch the chef prepare their plates.
“We have an HD camera, which is mounted on top of the plating station, where I will be working,” Fargione says. “It will create a live feed to the five monitors that will be throughout the restaurant...So you can see the plating close up.”
Not to worry, Fargione says, the monitors will not include audio, just in case the kitchen adopts any colorful language during a dinner rush.
Elisir, 427 11th St. NW, 202-546-0088.