Catherine and Jose Luis Pawelek opened Elements in 2009, a super-cozy spot in Spring Valley serving mostly refined fare and a 400-martini cocktail menu to the folks living in and around Spanish Trail. Last fall, they sold the restaurant to another local couple, Paul and Liz Fisichella of Henderson, who previously owned restaurants in New York and “fell in love” with Elements right away.
It’s pretty easy to see why with this place, the textbook definition of a charming neighborhood restaurant with a big, sturdy bar tempting you with drinks and bites, even if you don’t do martinis. The Fisichellas have made the right kind of changes, staying open seven days a week instead of six and installing lunch and weekend brunch. Elements still hosts a stellar happy hour every day from 3 to 6 p.m., when martinis are priced $5-$7, beer from eight taps is half-off and a tasty tapas menu reigns.
The new owners also brought in a new chef, Scott Morrow, who has cooked at restaurants at Town Square and Station Casinos and most recently ran three Fremont Street kitchens at once: Hennessey’s Tavern, Mickie Finnz and Brass Lounge. Morrow’s style mixes classics with modern touches. His smart strategy includes holding on to favorite dishes like spicy jambalaya ($22.95) and chicken, vegetables and basmati rice in Thai peanut sauce ($21.95), while punching up other familiar stuff, like adding quite a bit of smoky bacon to the roasted red peppers and cream sauce on the penne ala vodka ($17.95).
Another old element, sweet mango chutney served with bread, is sticking around, but the new Elements is less about globally influenced flavors. The majority of the menu hovers around Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, with a stronger focus on pasta and seafood. The chef has switched out salmon for grilled Arctic char ($25.95) with roasted mushrooms and pea purée, and regulars are latching on to different specials, like Morrow’s “fire and ice” treatment—grilled scallops and shrimp smothered in chipotle butter over a tender filet of beef. Where there are martinis, there is always steak, and the bone-in ribeye ($36.95) is the top pick, dusted with more smoky, spicy chipotle seasoning and served with roasted bone marrow and sweet grilled tomatoes.
The lunch and brunch menus will certainly evolve as this place finds its footing as a daytime spot. Early standouts include a spiced lamb burger in pita bread ($13.95) and Bananas Foster French toast made with challah bread with walnut butter ($14.95) for Sunday brunching.
Most importantly, the food has been refreshed without sacrificing the easy ambiance or offending a strong following. Liz Fisichella put it best: “We bought a winner.”
Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar 4950 S. Rainbow Blvd. #100, 750-2991. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.