Brass Elephant, The Sequel What happened when Steven and Linda Rivelis decided to kick "brass."

By Martha Thomas



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In STYLE’s annual food issue last November, I wrote about Steven and Linda Rivelis, Baltimore business owners who had purchased the former Brass Elephant with ambitious plans to renovate and open a restaurant proffering world cuisine—some based on what they had encountered on their extensive travels running Campaign Consultation, Inc. The Elephant opened over the summer to a buzz as deafening as 17-year cicadas, so we decided to check back in.

_dsc3626Food. “We didn’t want to be everything to everyone,” says Steven. He points to the Singapore noodles on the menu. “We’re not from Singapore, so we can never do the real thing. But we can be inspired.” The owners have enlisted friends of friends for help. For example, a client hooked them up with his Kurdish I.T. specialist, who taught Chef Andy Thomas to make the kubba of her homeland, small patties of rice, minced lamb and saffron. The menu ranges from “spoonfuls of things,” says Linda, to such shared dishes as Moroccan tagine and Spanish paella.

_dsc3844Drink. The trend of juice offerings, started by culinary innovators like Denmark’s René Redzepi and Australia’s Momofuku Seiōbo, is slowly trickling to the U.S. Complex ferments, extractions, tinctures and herbs are used to create non-alcoholic concoctions that go head to head with the wine list and craft cocktails. Those who want to take a more spirited route can opt for The Elephant’s 75-bottle wine offerings, beer (a mix of imports in bottles and locals on tap), or a signature cocktail, some with unusual spirits, like Żżubrówka, bison grass vodka from Poland.

_dsc3671Décor. The main dining “salons,” as Linda calls them, are an opalescent pink—“like the inside of a shell,” say the Rivelises—with glittering crystal chandeliers and banquettes upholstered in a silky pearl grey fabric printed with circles. This bubble motif also appears in the vintage glass transoms above the old doorways in the downstairs bar, and in the new metal stair rail (replacing the ’70s-era brass that gave the former restaurant its name) leading to communal tables. Local artist Jonathan Maxwell, who made the railing, also created the bubble-themed marble mosaic on the entryway floor, and procured the heavy glass for high-top tables in the upstairs bar (once the Tusk Lounge). The thick glass was once part of the dolphin tanks at the National Aquarium, Steven tells me.

_dsc3882Pet Peeves. Solo diners will not be discriminated against, Steven says. “Instead of saying, ‘Are you expecting someone?’ we’ll flip the expectation and say ‘Are you dining alone?’” Linda says. Instead of being asked if they have a reservation, guests will be greeted with, “I’m so glad you’re here!”

Final Verdict. The Rivelises, who were married at the Brass Elephant in 1986, seem to have infused new life into the rumbling beast with creative choices in food, drink and décor—as well as a truncated new name.

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