More often than not, there is too much of the same going on. Take for instance the amount of ramen joints that open up. Sure, they are different styles, but in the end, it is still rather similar. When you look at Downtown, it is pretty much lacking in unique choices for food. So when Heritage Asian Eatery recently opened up shop, it was a refreshing option considering the other places nearby. So I wasn't sure what to make of Elements Diner settling into its home at the corner of Smythe and Beatty on the edge of Yaletown. Okay, so it serves bubble tea and Taiwanese cuisine, what is so different about that? First of all, it's in Yaletown which makes it unique right off the bat. Second, I was about to find out that the food isn't really all that typical.
I was invited, along with a few more people, to sample their take on Asian-Western diner food. To start, we were presented with a platter consisting of Golden Fries, Smoked Salmon Avocado Rice Pizza, Pork Gyoza, Roasted Beet Salad and Warm Salmon Avocado. Hands down, the best item of the bunch was the golden fries. With a passing glance, they appeared to be plain steak fries. Yet, they were coated with salted duck egg yolk which added a rich and robust aroma and taste. It wasn't exactly salty, but it definitely added impact. My next favourite was actually the beet salad (yes really) since it featured tender Earthy beets aggressively dressed in a tart and sweet vinaigrette. Loved the citrus too. The avocado wedge with cheesy salmon on top was good, but I would've liked the fish more moist. The fried sushi rice topped with smoked salmon was a lot less heavy than it appeared, however, it could've been thinner. There was enough salmon and avocado on top to be noticed. The addition of bonito flakes added another layer of brininess. As for the gyoza, it was decent with a thin tender skin while the filling was a nice balance between veggies and moist pork.
Next up was a definitely Chinese take on an American classic being the Asian Honey Sesame Pulled Duck Mac n' Cheese. At first, I was a bit concerned with the combination of duck, hoisin sauce and melted cheese. I guess the cheese was mild enough that it didn't clash with the rest of the ingredients. Sure, it was missing some sharpness, but the texture was ooey and gooey while the duck, cucumber and hoisin created a Peking Duck effect. As for the macaroni itself, it was al dente which bucked the trend of Asian restaurants cooking the heck out of their pasta. I would've liked to see more of a cheese sauce though as the dish ate dry. Next up was probably my favourite item of the entire meal. By looks alone, the Spicy Crab Ciabatta Sandwich looked like any other ordinary sandwich. That was completely deceiving as beyond the crunchy bread lay tender crab patties that were juicy, spicy and super-flavourful (bordering on salty). What I liked most was the intermittent chunks of fluffy crab that was surprisingly not overwhelmed by the strong spicy flavours.
Continuing with duck, we also had something similar to the mac n' cheese with the Roasted Duck Quesadilla filled with cheese, green pepper and hoisin. So essentially, this was Peking Duck wrap that was grilled on the flat top. It surely tasted like a Peking Duck wrap, but with the addition of cheese, it ate more robust. I'm not sure that the green peppers really went with this wrap as it was strong in flavour and there was a certain raw aftertaste. I did like how the exterior was crunchy though as it was a nice balance to the soft ingredients. Something a bit more typical was the Baked Seafood Rice. I would say it was more or less pretty standard with the usual array of seafood on top with a nutty and creamy sauce. The rice was dry and chewy, which was good for accepting the sauce and not being mushy.
For dessert, we were treated to 4 Ice Cream Baos including Coconut Gelato with black glutinous rice sauce, Mango Gelato with mango sauce, Matcha Gelato with red bean paste and Triple Chocolate. The fried bao were robust enough to stand up to the moisture of the fillings. As such, they were definitely chewier. I though the flavours of the gelato and other ingredients came through, but eating the bao was messy as everything squirted out. My favourite was th mango as it tasted natural and refreshing. Overall, I felt the food at Elements was good albeit some tweaks are needed. I'm glad they are taking some chances though as food should be creative.
*All food and beverages were complimentary*
- Something different
- Minimalist, yet spacious dining space
- Loved that crab sandwich
- There were some really good dishes, however, some tweaks are needed on others
- Dessert Baos were good, but hard to eat