6/27/2013 - XO on Elm isn’t new to tapas, but with 21 plates now available to mix and match, the micro-entrees have become the highlight of the restaurant’s menu.
“[Diners] want to have a little food adventure,” said Steve Thompson, general manager at XO on Elm. “That’s what going out to eat is all about.”
They started serving the new tapas menu regularly a couple weeks ago, and began serving lunch last week on Thursday and Friday.
“It is almost a new direction,” said Thompson, noting that the restaurant has always been an artistic kind of place, and their new menu highlights that. “That’s the kind of place we are. It’s a funky atmosphere for people.”
Thompson began at the restaurant as chef in November and witnessed the culinary and artistic talent of current chef, Jared St. Amand. Thompson and owner Rosa Paolini decided to make a change.
“[St. Amand is] someone that’s been here all along,” said Thompson. “The food this kid is putting out is going to blow you away. … It’s artwork.”
“I get to do all different types of cooking, poaching and braising,” said St. Amand. “There’s so many different plates.”
Before, customers might have been confused between the few tapas items and the appetizers on the menu. Originating from the bars of Spain, the small tapas plates are meant to form a meal from a selection of items.
“It’s a few bites. There are some tapas that are a little bit bigger than others,” said St. Amand.
“Tapas is supposed to be like micro-entrees,” said Thompson. “When you’re doing tapas you can come in and pick and choose.”
These small dishes also allow for chef St. Amand to practice his creative plating techniques. Each plate is features the small dish with accents of well-placed garnish or a swirl of sauce.
“Every table ... is like a runway for the food,” said St. Amand. “[Customers] don’t even want to eat it [because it looks so good]. They want to look at it more than anything.”
It’s a different kind of dining experience. Diners used to going into a restaurant and ordering one large entree may be unfamiliar with the idea of ordering a few different small plates for their meal. Thompson mentioned a couple who came in after they introduced the new menu who by the end of their meal ordered about half the tapas menu.
“They started out cautious at first, which people usually do when they first try tapas, but then they got excited about it,” said Thompson. “We encourage people to have fun.”
“There’s everything on here from the familiar to the unusual,” said St. Amand.
With 21 plates to choose from, diners can select items as adventurous as roasted bone marrow or as tame as the tandoori chicken skewers. For diners new to tapas, the more modest items include the chicken skewers that are grilled and slightly blackened, drizzled with a curry cream sauce, crab rangoons with a sweet and spicy sauce, and the chorizo cream cheese stuffed dates wrapped in pancetta.
“My favorite is the bone marrow and blood orange and oxtail … which is very, very classical European,” said St. Amand.
Diners who order the bone marrow with blood orange oxtail marmalade can scoop the marrow out onto a slice of toasted bread.
“The umami of the marrow, it almost has a meaty and mushroom flavor to it, and then you bite into the sweetness of the orange,” he said.
Besides the new tapas menu, there are still some entrees, soups, salads, and desserts on the menu.
“We didn’t want to do a disservice to customers that have been supporting us for years, so of course we wanted to leave some entrees,” said Thompson. “There’s also the people coming to the bar that order some of the appetizers. Now, their ordering [tapas].”
They started serving lunch again last week with the new tapas items. Thompson said there will be a specialized lunch menu each week with some regular items and that lunch will only be served on Thursdays and Fridays.
XO on Elm serves dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, but they also will serve the tapas menu until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, along with their live music outside on the sidewalk from Thursdays through Saturdays.
“Its perfect for one of those summer nights. Just order a bottle of wine and order tapas items,” said St. Amand.