Discreet Diner | Elements Cafe

Posted: September 23, 2007

Not every restaurant the Discreet Diner visits deserves five out of five stars. But every restaurant does have something to recommend it.

So much is happening on the South Jersey restaurant scene that there really is something for everyone.

Always in search of a new place to eat, the Discreet Diner stopped by Elements Cafe in Haddon Heights last week for lunch.

I had read about Elements, opened in 2003, online first, and was looking forward to trying a variety of the tapas, Spanish for appetizers or small plates.

We started with crispy truffle-scented risotto ($5), three deep-fried mounds of risotto drizzled with a dijon soy sauce. The taste reminded me of the old tater tots from the school lunch menu, but smoother. The sauce added a nice kick.

Our other appetizer was pulled pork pot stickers ($4), three dumplings filled with pulled pork and served with barbecue sauce for dipping. I found the pork dry and the dumplings too crisp, but the barbecue sauce did help it.

For lunch, you pick the item and tell the server whether you want it prepared as a sandwich, with chips and cole slaw, or as a salad atop the house greens.

My luncheon companion selected the grilled bistro steak ($9) as a sandwich on a kaiser roll. It was medium meat stacked with mozzarella cheese and smoked peppers. I thought the meat was well-prepared and the cheese and peppers blended nicely. He expected that it would have stronger flavors than it did; I found it to be quite good.

My choice was the eggplant "parmigiana" ($7) as a salad. The quote marks are theirs; it's not really what you would expect in a parmigiana, although it does have mozzarella and roasted tomatoes. It was several pieces of breaded and deep-fried eggplant with melted mozzarella and roasted tomatoes on top of salad greens. It was good, but I couldn't get the benefit of all the flavors. I would have preferred the salad on the side and the eggplant in a dish with the cheese and tomatoes.

There are a few other items on the lunch and dinner menus I'd like to try: truffle scented fava bean ravioli; and jumbo lump crab and grilled corn crudo. And the dinner main courses have much to recommend a return visit.

The point here, I found, is that you can try a lot because the prices are low enough that you won't be spending dearly for something you may not like. I appreciate the small portions. They're just big enough that you can enjoy a sampling.

Of course, you still need to save room for dessert. Next time I visit, I'll try.

Discreet Diner | Elements Cafe

517 Station Ave., Haddon Heights

Phone: 856-546-8840

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; dinner 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday - except for private parties.

Reservations: Available

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Parking: On street

Children's menu: No

Cocktails: BYOB

On the Web: www.elementscafe.com

The Discreet Diner is a member

of the Inquirer staff and welcomes your comments. E-mail discreetdiner@phillynews.com.

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