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Eli’s... A wonderful mosaic of flavor

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 6:15pm

What do you do when you’re a small restaurant with indoor seating only and a pandemic comes along? Eli’s decided to pivot to take-out and sold out the first night they opened on April 23. On those early spring weekends, you could enjoy Chef Erica’s food on your own plates, with a bottle of wine selected by staff and the cocktails of your choice along with it.

The restaurant recently opened for indoor dining as well, and it’s been nice to drive by and see diners seated at tables separated by plexiglass hanging from the ceilings. The windows and doors are open to allow for maximum ventilation and while it’s not true alfresco dining, it’s pretty close to it. Reservations are taken day-of for indoor seatings, and parties of two can request “date night corner” which has an additional privacy screen to lend itself to a more intimate dining experience.

Eli’s is a local favorite, and with good reason. Chef Erica procures local ingredients when possible; fresh tomatoes and vegetables are flown over from a Westerly farm, tuna is local to Rhode Island waters and most of the micro greens and herbs come straight from the owner’s personal garden up the hill at their sister restaurant The Atlantic. This year’s menu has a few perennial favorites on it — Statler Chicken, the Eli’s Burger and Tuna Nachos — with added additions like BBQ seasoned jenga fries with the burger and creamy broccoli spinach pie, sweet herb infused beer butter sauce and coriander rubbed squash accompanying the chicken. The rest of the menu isn’t long, but it’s creative, eclectic and showcases Erica’s attention to detail in flavors and balance.

Each dish has been designed to look as good in the take-out container as it would if it were being served to you in the restaurant. Take out box #1 contained pan-seared tender marinated shrimp nestled on top of a creamed leek potato casserole, seasoned with a light white wine and saffron butter sauce. A light hint of fennel comes through with each bite of this savory, lovely appetizer that whets the appetite without filling you up. Our second take-out box revealed a big piece of local tuna, pan-seared to taste but not sliced so that I was able to reheat it at home without overcooking it. Once it was warm, we sliced it (perfectly rare inside) and laid it over a generous helping of mirin and nori sushi rice, ginger-infused edamame, tender green baby bok choy and crunchy sweet heirloom carrots. A separate container of a tangy cucumber and orange vinaigrette brought the whole dish together and voila, our beautiful meal was savored bite after bite. I barely needed to chew the tender tuna, and the tang of the sauce mixed with the spicy ginger on the vegetables made this summery Asian dish sing.

Our final box held a wonderful mosaic of flavorful food that ticked all my food preferences at once — this dish is creamy, full of interesting blends of spices and flavors, and mixes them up in a new and interesting way. Plump George’s Bank Scallops are a meal unto themselves, but paired with smoked cream corn and sweet potato and caraway hash, they turned the corner and entered a whole new world. Buttery without being heavy, the scallop and the corn/ hash mixture was elevated with the smear of Brussels sprout and almond pesto that tied this dish with a bow. I didn’t want it to end; it was that good.

Desserts rotate weekly; some nights there’s a Summer Berry Trifle with lemon pastry cream and fresh mint compote and others might offer a Cardamon Citrus Chiffon Cake with fresh berries and homemade Chantilly Cream.

Dine-in, pick up, even curbside drop off is offered for those who need it — Eli’s can accommodate any kind of dining you wish. It’s a great place with great food. And as one online reviewer wisely noted: Who doesn’t love a restaurant named after a dog?

Eli’s is located on Chapel Street. For more information, visit elisblockisland.com or call (401) 466-5230.