As the owner of Morrison House and Elysium Restaurant, Peter Greenberg doesn't select an entree from the menu. When he dines with friends at the elegant restaurant, he tells the chef what he wants for dinner.
"I found that the food was much sharper when prepared this way," said Greenberg. "It's more focused and more intense."
After thinking about it for awhile he realized that he could make this practice available to all diners at Elysium. Last December, they announced the new dining format called "A Chef of Your Own."
This new format, which "matches a fresh palate of ingredients to the particular tastes of guests," is unprecedented in this country. When diners are seated, instead of being shown a menu, they speak with Executive Chef Gian Piero Mazzi. After conversing with them about their preferences, Mazzi goes back to the kitchen where he consults with the Chef de'Cuisine. Based on the ingredients he has on hand, he will develop several courses for the diners.
"It's a truly honest endeavor," said Greenberg. 'He really doesn't know what he's going to make until he goes into the kitchen to decide. If you order 100 meals, each meal should be different. If you both order lamb chops, they should each be different," said Greenberg."
Not having to produce specific items that appear on a menu every week, the restaurant is able to select items only when they're at peak condition. Blueberries will only be served if they are at peak. Last week, when Mazzi went to prepare a dish with risotto and green apples, he decided that the apples were not up to his standards so he made an appetizer with risotto on roasted eggplant with hedgehog mushrooms and prawns that came fresh that day from Dublin Bay, Massachusetts.
Mazzi enjoys this new format, it gives him much more freedom to create new dishes and gives him more of a chance to interact with diners.
Elysium Restaurant is located in the Morrison House at 116 S. Alfred St. Meals cost $62.50 per person; an optional flight of wine to compliment the meal is available for $32.50. Elysium is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6-10 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended; to reserve a table call 703-838-8000.