Element Bistro

Food: Three stars

Service: Three stars

Ambience: Three stars

Price: $-$$$

Address: 6315 Lookout Rd., Boulder

Contact: 303-530-5400, elementbistroboulder.com

Hours:

11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Credit cards: Yes

Noise level: Moderate, consistent with a vibe that's more established professional clientele than a bunch of rowdy partygoers.

As Gunbarrel becomes increasingly built up with lodgings and apartments, it was inevitable that the dining options here would also ramp up. One of the newest entrants to this area's dining scene is Element Bistro, which dishes out fresh takes on American classics at lunch and dinner.

The setting here is airy and modern, with rustic stone and brick accents, topped off by a rooftop patio that will undoubtedly be a draw in warmer months. Service was friendly and generally prompt, if not a little consciously conscientious — we were greeted by staff flinging open the doors upon arrival and departure.


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At dinner, the menu spans from the simple to the more sophisticated, with the humbler items encompassing salads, burgers and flatbreads, since we apparently aren't calling them pizzas anymore. More ambitious entree selections include steak frites, grilled salmon and tuna poke salad. Gluten-free courses are also clearly identified.

Elk tacos at Element Bistro.
Elk tacos at Element Bistro. (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)

To kick things off at a weeknight dinner, my companion and I split a $10 arugula salad, making for two more-than-adequate half portions. The greens were crisp, although not quite as peppery as they could have been. Roasted golden beet contributed an earthy counterpoint to the greens, while pear added a mellow, tempering sweetness. Candied walnuts and goat cheese were fine adornments, although the salad's subtler flavors would have benefited from a lighter touch with the accompanying vinaigrette.

Tavern fare is a significant part of the menu, and an $11 order of flash fried chicken wings gave us the opportunity to sample Element's take on this bar classic. Granted, we eschewed the traditional Buffalo hot presentation in favor of a fancier parmesan truffle version. The flash frying made for a subtler roast chicken-type crispness than anything coming from a Kentucky colonel, and the wings themselves didn't lack for meatiness. At first bite, the dominant flavor was of black pepper, but over time the more nuanced tones of truffle and cheese emerged. Too often truffle flavors take center stage at the expense of other ingredients, but in this instance, the kitchen wisely restrained this element so as to balance out the cheese.

On paper, lobster macaroni and cheese seems like a good idea, in the same way that filling zeppelins with flammable hydrogen might have struck early aviators. But in both of the above mentioned instances, execution can be a problem, and more often than not I've been disappointed by this seafood laced pasta. There's a lot that can go wrong with this dish. Common afflictions include a deficit of seafood, and what shellfish there is is unpalatably dry, and a too-rich sauce to compensate for lacking lobster. Happily, Element's $22 main course version of this dish was the first that I can remember that didn't disappoint, and it certainly made my dining companion happy.

Spiral pasta, dressed with a three cheese sauce, carried al dente texture, and while the dairy-laced condiment was unequivocally rich and luxurious, it wasn't off-puttingly heavy. Best of all was the decent portion of moist and tender lobster, sensuously buttery in both texture and taste, with a hint of briny freshness.

My main course was a less ambitions $13 plate of two barbecue elk tacos topped with a chipotle broccoli slaw and sprinkling of goat cheese, sided with sweet potato fries.

When one orders game in a restaurant, it's farm-raised, and in this instance, the featured minced meat predictably lacked the gaminess of the wild species. That's not necessarily a negative attribute for some diners, and the elk possessed a hint of mineral-like qualities that made it clear that the filling wasn't beef. The tender meat also carried a touch of welcome smokiness, although a heavy hand with the toppings did overshadow the taste of the elk.

A $6 house made key lime pie with whipped cream and berry coulis was a straightforward take on this citrusy dessert. A little less sweetness and more pungent lime juice would have improved the taste, but an eggy, more custard-like than usual texture was a pleasing redeeming factor.

As a newer eatery, Element Bistro appears to be making significant progress in dialing in its menu, and some fine tuning of flavors will elevate it to the next level. Certainly, if the entire menu reaches the standard set by the noteworthy lobster mac and cheese, it will be hard to find much to fault. For now though, the continued emphasis on service and quality preparation make it a solid neighborhood destination.