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The W on Elm… and letting the chef surprise us

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by Kristi Maier

@triadfoodies

What a wonderful way to review a restaurant. We let the chef surprise us at our monthly Chef’s Supper. Since we were first-timers at The W on Elm, it was just as new to us as it was to nearly every guest at the table. On top of that, it was Downtown Greensboro Restaurant Week and the whole area was just bustling with activity.

The W on Elm opened earlier this year at 324 S. Elm Street in the building that formerly housed Ham’s and Bin 33. It is a gorgeous space and owners Karen and Jason Willette have embraced the light and architecture to enhance the ambiance downstairs and create a venue in the upper level for special events as well as accommodating overflow on busy nights.

Karen Willette said the restaurant is starting to get noticed more and more and that they’ve tried to focus on letting the space and the food that they share on social media speak for itself.—and simply invite people to their business.

“We are focusing on letting things happen very organically and kind of start from scratch and grow naturally,” she said.

The way to do that is to show off your assets, like the ambiance and the food. The W has had what many new restaurants experience—some growing pains, but Karen believes they’re hitting their stride.

The W now has two Chefs de Cuisine and Chef Michael Deese and Chef Josh Kinney each greeted us at the top of the evening and introduced the dishes throughout. The meal started out with multiple shareable plates of Mushroom Coquettes with the W’s Green Goddess Dressing. They were yummy. Perfectly crispy on the outside with a creamy, interior that was reminiscent of arancini. Chef Kinney told me that this dish makes its way onto the special features from time to time.

Then for the rest of the evening, it was individual small plates of courses that Chef Deese and Chef Kinney will be rolling out on the Fall menu next month.

Course 2: Fall Panzanella Salad with Radicchio, Butternut Squash, Red Onion and Feta dressed in a Beet Vinaigrette.

This course was quite delicious. It wasn’t too overly “autumn like” which was just fine with me because it was light and bright and we just loved how the bread still had some crispness yet was starting to take on the moisture and flavor of the vinaigrette. This is one of the best panzanellas I’ve had in a long time because it can be quite a challenge to get the perfect texture of bread to the crispiness of the veggies. The flavors were perfectly married.

Course 3: Chili Marinated Sirloin over Grilled Bok Choy and Cheese Foam topped with Beet Green Chimichurri.

This course was designed as the “appetizer”. We had two seared medium rare slices. Mine was just right. I wanted more, so that should tell you it was tasty. And I’ve never had a chimichurri with beet greens, but what a beautiful way to repurpose what someone might just normally toss in the garbage or compost. Hint: Don’t throw away beet greens. Cook them.

Course 4: The Entree—A Turkish Stew with Shrimp and Fettucini roped with Feta and Olives.

This dish was bursting with flavors of the Mediterranean with a rich, savory and slightly sweet tomato sauce with pops of the tangy olives and the feta, which started to get just melty by the time it hit the table. The pasta was nicely cooked. This is something to look forward to in the Fall, when you want pasta but maybe not quite craving Italian, it gives you a great alternative. And I’m willing to bet there will be bread for the sopping. You’ll want it.

Course 5: Dessert: Coffee Cake topped with Blueberry Coulis and Madagascar Vanilla Bean Glaze.

Delicious. It tasted like breakfast and coming from me, that’s still a compliment. Desserts, by Pastry Chef Emily Mikkelson, change weekly but we’re promised that it is one that guests can expect to see in the future. Don’t pass it up. It was a memory trigger for our guest, Meg Lohuis. “This tastes like the coffee cake my dad used to make when I was a child. Brings back so many memories,” she told us.

These chefs are young, but they’ve got some good experience under their belts. Both from Kernersville, Kinney came from Lucky 32 then the renowned 1618 group.

Deese cut his teeth at Bistro B in Kernersville, then was a sous chef at Marshall Free House and had a brief stint at Tessa Farm to Fork.

Having two Chefs de Cuisine is pretty new concept. The chefs share duties and allow for more collaboration and Kinney says he’s been enjoying it. “Working at The W has been a dream come true. I get to come into work every day and

make food that I love with a great friend and share it with the people of Greensboro. This has been the most challenging and rewarding job I have ever had, but seeing the passion and personal investment from Karen and Jason has made every obstacle along the way seem small.”

Our party was largely impressed with the quality of the food as well as the service and we all aren’t the easily-pleased types. There were chefs, farmers and purveyors among us. It’s not the easiest thing handling a party of 16 people with all the multiple courses coming out. The first year in business is always the toughest. We think The W on Elm is worth a try and if you were there in the early days, deserving of a return visit. !

KRISTI MAIER is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.

WANNA go?

The W on Elm is located at 324 South Elm Street, Greensboro. The restaurant is open Tuesday- Saturday evenings for dinner and Saturday and Sunday brunch. The Loft upstairs is available for dinner parties and special events. Visit thewonelm.com for more.

About our Chef’s Table dinners:

Our little dinner parties are taking on a life of their own and are nearly scheduling themselves, but we love your input and we’d love you to be there. Next month: Chef Travis Myers will surprise us at Willow’s Bistro. We have reached capacity for that event but you can message triadfoodies on Facebook if you’d like to put your name on the wait list. And on October 12, we’ll be letting Chef Richard Miller of Graze Restaurant surprise us with multiple courses. The cost is $25 per person (not including beverage or gratuity) and you’ll simply pay the restaurant at the end of the meal. Message us if you’d like to be a part of this talented chef’s tasting. If you’re a chef or a restaurant owner, let us know if you want to be on the docket. We’re planning out from December at this point.

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