Before Onil Chibs became a chef, he worked for more than a decade in animation with film studios like Disney, Sony and DreamWorks.
And at Elements Kitchen — the newest, fine-dining extension of Chibs’ already-established Pasadena catering and caf branches — Wednesday-night “sketches” are the culinary version of an artist’s extemporaneous
“There’s this whole idea of sketching and everybody having their pads out and translating it in a certain way,” Chibs said. “As food artists, chefs are doing the same thing.”
The kitchen staff is given a single ingredient — goat or curry or maize, as examples — and about a week to come up with a creative use for it in small-plate appetizers that are served for $5 in the Elements Bar. (On Thursdays, the bartenders do liquid sketches, creating $5 cocktails around an ingredient.)
The quick-draw exercise has turned into a sort of working test kitchen for Elements; Dozens of new tapas-sized dishes have been developed, and some of them are good enough to make it onto the menu in the bar or restaurant. Others spark a winning idea for a new flavor combination on which Chibs and chef de cuisine Alberto Morales will put their spin.
Chibs and Morales serve up an eclectic range of sophisticated comfort fare in the main dining room, including street food-inspired dishes like marinated flank steak and kimchi tacos in corn and sesame tortillas, with sambal aioli and pickled ginger.
“I wanted this to be a neighborhood restaurant for sure,” Chibas said. “There needs to be something in the food that you can enjoy it on a daily sort of basis — but it also needs to feel elegant enough that you’re going out to dinner.”
Below, a seared black cod filet and chorizo piprade with clam nage, preserved lemon, fava beans and nioise olives:
Grilled lobster and mixed-beet salad with citrus supremes, shaved fennel and tarragon vinaigrette:
Elements Kitchen, 107 S. Fair Oaks Ave. (626) 440-0100, elementskitchen.com
Photos by Walt Mancini / Staff