“I just got chills, up and down my leg,” a fellow diner blurted out immediately after one bite of David Waltuck’s überbuttery foie gras ($4), cheekily served lollipop-style at the chef’s comeback restaurant, élan. Those chills aren’t hyperbole—the perfect spheres of smooth liver, coated in pistachios and curled around a figgy core, are so audaciously rich, it’d be a medical anomaly if your arteries didn’t give a good quiver.
Waltuck has never been one to shirk decadence—at his late, great Chanterelle, a 30-year-old Tribeca trailblazer that deftly married fine-dining finesse with mom-and-pop familiarity until it shuttered in 2009, the zucchini blossoms came gorged with black truffles, and sausages famously burst with lobster beneath their casings. That seafood sausage makes a congenial cameo at this looser, pomp-free follow-up, but don’t feel bound by Chanterelle nostalgia—the new stuff is just as unabashedly awash in duck fat but heaps more playful.
Under the watchful gaze of Chuck Close—three massive self-portraits claim one wall—and with Lorde’s moody crooning as soundtrack, a meal here starts and ends with pretzels. There are complimentary everything-spiced twists and butter with a subtle mustard-seed thrum to start, and two dense, heady chocolate truffles dotted with crunchy pretzel bits to finish.
Waltuck’s understated quirk is also on display in a bowl of guacamole swirled with ocean-brine uni and a whisper of wasabi ($16); potato pot stickers—hitting the sweet spot between pan-fried crisp and dumpling chew—stuffed with delicate, earthy summer truffles ($17); and tender General Tso’s–style sweetbreads, boosted from the takeout container with a ginger-carrot mirepoix and a pep of fresh chilies ($29).
Share the mains not out of generosity but necessity. Even after the puffed crust of your chicken potpie ($33) is pierced tableside, revealing airy hollowness beneath, the dish is still a colossal undertaking, with lardy-yet-light pastry yielding to two-bite hunks of juicy fowl, chanterelles and bacon. The off-menu duck-and-foie burger ($20), crowned with a cardiologist’s nightmare of bacon mayo, caramelized fig-onion chutney and truffle oil, downright overwhelms. Instead, opt for the duck breast ($31), which arrives like good steak, superbly supple, rare and anointed with smoky jus.
Pop a truffle in your mouth and unbuckle your belt for the stroll home—you will waddle from the added weight. But knowing that Waltuck’s cooking in New York again, you will waddle happy.—Christina Izzo