The Block Island Times

Picky Judy's Picks:  Eli's

By Judy Tierney | Mar 20, 2012

Even after a so-called winterless winter, the signs of spring stand out prominently and they are oh! so welcome. I don’t know which I like more, the early morning birdsongs or the open sign on Eli’s.

Hmmm, maybe Eli’s.

Luckily for me, Eli’s opened Friday night on our wedding anniversary and a celebration was in order, although I must admit, we both had forgotten the anniversary until our nephew Dave called to wish us a happy one. He was dutifully keeping in touch, having been the subject of a winter scolding concerning his lack of connection. His wife, Jennifer, keeps a list of family dates, so he was on the phone at the break of dawn in California, where he now lives.

There must have been a lot of other celebrations that night because Eli’s tables filled up quickly, and people were even eating at the bar. By the time we left, a small crowd had formed outside, waiting for seats, all starved for one of the restaurant's really good meals.

I tried the braised lamb osso bucco with glazed vegetables, ceci beans and a citrus herb gremolata. I ordered the dish though the only ingredient I could identify in the description was the lamb shank. It turned out to be a great choice. I admit I ate it all, primarily because it was delicious.

Ceci beans, I now know, are more familiar by their other names, garbanzo beans or chick peas. A citrus gremolata, according to Wikapedia, is chopped lemon zest, parsley and garlic, sometimes with anchovies and other herbs added. I might try making a gremolata next time I cook lamb. The light citrus overtone was just the ingredient the osso bucco needed to elevate it from country to opera.

Ron had the seared red snapper served with a five-spice carrot puree, baby bok choy, grilled Chinese style pork belly, ginger-soy froth and toasted sesame oil, and he loved it. I heard him describing it with enthusiasm afterward, especially noting the pork belly ginger-soy froth. Ron, I have mentioned before, is a super taster and a tough critic of cooks’ offerings. He has learned, at home, that if he is critical, or if even the edge of his lips turn down, he could be the one cooking the next night, but he feels free to voice his opinions of restaurant food and he often does. Many nights I have enjoyed my meal only to learn when we arrive home that the spinach was stringy or the side dish was overcooked or the hamburger was sawdust. But Eli’s snapper suited him fine.

Instead of appetizers, we shared a dessert. I am happy to report that Linda Rondinone has returned as pastry chef. That night, she made a chocolate crepe with a caramelized pear filling, topped with a bittersweet chocolate sauce. I’ve eaten crepes all my life, though they came with other names. Many ethnic groups make them, filling them with local cheeses, jams, or even roe. The Russians call them blinis, the Danish and Swedish, pancakes. In Hungary they are polychinkins and among American Jews, blintzes, but I’ve never eaten chocolate ones before. I think that marriage will last, chocolate and crepe! Brad Marthens, who was serving and visiting tables, noticed that we had eaten every single crumb and vestige of the sauce.

It was a grand Block Island night and a wonderful way to kick off the 2012 season. Thanks, Eli’s, for opening early before the off island throngs crowd in.

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