Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m. Disco dancing evenings until 2 a.m. weekdays, 3 a.m. weekends ($10 cover charge to public if not dining there). AE, MC, V. Reservations. Prices: main courses at lunch average $6 to $8, main courses at dinner average $11 to $13. Valet parking $1.
Seafood is the stylish food of the '80s. It is low-calorie, low-cholesterol and all natural. It is easy to cook but hard to cook well. It is a standard bearer among inflationary goods. Besides, it goes well with white wine, the stylish drink of the '70s.s No wonder we hear a steady stream of rumors about new French seafood restaurants, Italian seafood restaurants and seafood markets. But more than rumor are a new seafood restaurant with an Oriental accent and -- it had to happen -- a seafood disco.
If a few price tags were scattered around, you would think you were in Bloomingdale's. Elan is so carefully groomed, swathed in fashionable bright geometry, its accessories of hand-thrown pottery and hand-rubbed wood so painstakingly chic. And the crowd, particularly late in the evening when it is disco time, looks as if their faces were as carefully chosen as their clothes and haircuts to complement the room. Meant to be a private club, elan compromised to become semi-public. And now new management has rendered it a fully public restaurant, with admission fee or club membership necessary only for non-diners who come late in the evening to dance.
Elan has a challenge ahead in trying to overcome its "just a pretty face" disco image and be taken seriously as a restaurant. The will is there, but the way is not yet cleared.
Getting right into the food, which is unlikely when the room is crowded and even menus can't be summoned within the first half-hour, it is on the whole less natural than the setting. Your culinary introduction to elan is the bread and butter: pretty butter curls with supremely dreadful rolls. The appetizers -- oysters, clams, shrimp cocktail, snails, melon and prosciutto -- for $3.50 to $4.95 -- are plump and ample with no distinguishing features. The star among first courses is seafood bisque ($3), a creamy pink soup with bits of tender lobster, though one day its delicate flavor was overpowered by curry.
Lunchtime features more main courses than dinnertime, including salads, quiche, omelets, a couple of hot sandwiches along with at least 10 seafood and three meat entrees. Salads average $5 to $6, seafoods $6 to $9. The menu's obvious emphasis is on fresh seafood, and you are wise to accept that at face value. The flounder has the clean taste and firm texture of fresh fish, and the crabmeat is in big, creamy lumps. Combined as stuffed flounder ($9 at lunch, $12.25 at dinner), it is a suitable marriage, except that the rolled fish filets are overdosed with paprika and drowned in butter. The paprika overdose is also applied to rockfish filets, which are inexplicably deep-fried. Why go to so much trouble to cook rockfish in a less satisfactory way than grilling or sauteing?
The problem with elan's kitchen becomes increasingly apparent: The value of restraint is not understood. Large scallops are cooked with careful timing, but awash in soupy, acrid white wine and shallot sauce. Shrimp with linguine at lunch are excellent quality seafood in a delightful herbed cream sauce, but the dish is overwhelmingly rich. Veal Oscar, too, is fine veal topped with excellent crabmeat (crabmeat is the kitchen's best feature), asparagus and mornay sauce, but some curry-happy cook couldn't resist an inappropriate sprinkle. Of all the main dishes I tried at lunch and dinner, the shrimp with linguine was the single memorable taste, though the crabmeat stuffing of the fish could have starred on its own. At lunch, potatoes and baby peas were nicely seasoned but unmistakably canned. At dinner, almond-crusted potato fritters had considerably more style.
On the small wine list, handsomely illustrated with labels and full descriptions of the offerings, are some good buys, particulary St. Jean Riesling for $9 and a pleasant muscadet for slightly less.
This being a fashionable restaurant, the desserts of course include carrot cake and chocolate cheescake, this one very fluffy and creamy and without much guts. A liqueur parfait is made with soft ice cream, a kind of grownups' Dairy Freeze. Fresh pineapple and melon is an overstatement.
The news, therefore, is not that elan has turned into a fine seafood restaurant, but that it is now a public restaurant-with-disco that serves food good enough to make it worth eating there if you are wearing your disco shoes anyway.