When opening Element Seafood in Great Neck Plaza on Monday, owners Mathew Ingraham and Nellie Wu did so while sharing a vision: to create a place that brings together cool, casual and quality seafood.
Workers served up everything from bucatini pasta, rich with shrimp, crab, manila clams, tomato and chilis, to scallops and seared tuna. Bouillabaisse, mussels and oysters also made their way from kitchen to plate.
“We’re here to be sort of your second kitchen, your second home,” Wu, the general manager of a connected food distributor in Brooklyn, said in an interview. “We want you to feel comfortable enough to really just pop in.”
Head chef Rob Tweedie said that when he was creating Element Seafood’s dishes, he thought about what he would like to eat and not overload the menu with options.
“I think it’s pretty simple and fresh on here,” Tweedie said in an interview. “None of the stuff is unapproachable or out there and it’s all familiar.”
The walls are clad in flower wallpaper, postcards and pictures of docks and water.
The restaurant also features reclaimed lumber walls, chairs and tables, as well as a bar with craft cocktails and beer.
“Our uniqueness is, one, we are a seafood restaurant,” Ingraham, a 45-year seafood business veteran, said. “And with this bar area, this lounge area, we’re trying to create an atmosphere that’s kind of like an upscale hipster joint with great service, great food at an affordable price.”
This was something Great Neck Plaza lacked, Wu said.
“I know there are some bars in the town and restaurants but not anywhere where I’d be like ‘hey, this is a place I would go to regularly in Brooklyn,'” Wu, who moved to Great Neck a few years ago, said.
Prior to this, Ingraham had worked for many companies, including one in Maine that raised and distributed mussels throughout the country. The Wu family’s business – also named Element Seafood – was their biggest customer in the city.
Then, when Ingraham’s company moved their sales office again, he decided to move on too. The two then started their first seafood restaurant venture in Brooklyn, which they put on hold” for about eight years, Ingraham said.
In that time, Ingraham had moved to Peoria, Ill., to help manage a group of restaurants. Wu then called in January this year about an opportunity in Great Neck Plaza.
“Sure enough, she talked me into coming out,” he said.
Ultimately, the restaurant came together within months. Both Ingraham and Wu said that the town had been very cooperative. It also helped that the kitchen set up stayed largely the same from the previous owners, Ingraham noted.
“I kind of feel like we won the lottery here,” Ingraham said. “It’s really been a pleasure to work with the town and the different entities to get this running.”
Currently, the restaurant’s hours Monday through Thursday are 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, Element Seafood stays open until 11 p.m.
The restaurant intends to expand its hours, add a lunch menu and be open on Sunday in a few weeks.