We sat outside, and started, as we all must do these days, with a "hand-crafted cocktail." The margarita was good, but I should have known better than to order a drink in which Veuve Clicquot is used as an ingredient. In this case, it was combined with Hypnotic and garnished with blueberries, but nothing is the only thing to add to Veuve Clicquot, and I hope the widow forgives me.
The balcony patio was a bit blinding in the early summer evening, and the out-of-place Coca-Cola umbrellas didn't help, but our server was solicitous, offering to change our table and bringing lots of water. We stuck it out, and kept our eyes on the apps: a deconstructed lobster mac and cheese with a nice lump of claw meat, a pile of al dente noodles and an eggshell filled with cheese sauce and mussel shells filled with chopped mussels, avocado and yuzu with a nice kick. I do think the menu should include the info that the shellfish are chopped; we found it disconcerting but we loved the flavor.
All this is the creation of Kaharim Becerra, formerly of the Grand America and most recently and only for about 20 minutes, Frida Bistro. He's put together a menu that suits the space, thoroughly modern but hefty enough for Utah. He uses hibiscus. He uses chestnuts. He infuses chestnuts with contemporary tastes. My halibut (subbed for the red snapper listed) came with an orange ginger puree, shiitake leek salad, bok choy and hibiscus air. The latter was missing, can air vanish into thin air? Anyway, the fish was lovely, falling into great pearlescent shards, its seared crust contrasting nicely with the sweet ginger. Scallops, in a hibiscus reduction, a shiitake salad and crisps of prosciutto, came with a rather brilliant summer succotash.
My friend over at Tribune loved the braised kurobuta pork that comes with a cassoulet, but the sun was too bright to even consider anything braised.
There's lots more to try; Vuz is new and ambitious, and it will take several visits to see whether the kitchen is consistent and how the menu evolves, in other words, where it will rank in the city's dining scene. Right now, I have only one definite suggestion to make: the view from Vuz, at least in this season of lingering sunlight, would be greatly improved if the railing around the patio were solid. That way, you'd cut out the view of the Walgreen roof and the parking lot and would only see the distant Oquirrhs.
See what I mean?
The patio at Elements in Logan is practically level with the Logan River, a particularly dramatic location this highwater season. Both sides were sandbagged, and the railing was reinforced with a bright red danger warning barrier. But that meant the white noise of rushing water covered nearby diners' conversation and created an intimate space by accident.
From the parking lot, Elements looks unlikely, it's part of Riverwoods Conference Center, which means it's connected to a Springhill Suites by Marriott. Not a sophisticated-looking location. But Logan is a college town so Elements seemed to be feeding faculty USU-related types, not the typical suburbanites.
A gargantuan plate of gaufrette potato chips with a Maytag blue cheese sauce (which we requested on the side) served as an appetizer. The rest of the selection ranged rather oddly from buttermilk-fried chicken tenders and red chile onion rings to blackened ahi, lettuce wraps and quesadillas. Sort of a Top Forty list of American starters. Does it seem weird to ask for a doggy bag for potato chips? Because that's what we did. It was a Utah mountain of chips.
Our server was quick, intelligent and knew the food, one of the nicest serving experiences we've had in awhile. The food was short of spectacular, only because the kitchen is trying too hard. Their star dish, kamikaze salmon, comes with a roasted pineapple and ginger coulis and is a showy plateful.
But the fish was overcooked, not by much, just enough to make it uninteresting even with the vibrant sauce. I chose mashed sweet potatoes (other choices were garlic and straightup mashed) as a side, and the combination of flavors could have been great.
That was the main problem I had with Element's kitchen, they're trying too hard.
All in all, if Elements were a band, I'd tell them to kill the violins.