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Elario’s menu is full of winners

Elario’s has undergone a few changes over the years. The newest incarnation of this upscale restaurant is flying high at is 11th-story location atop the Hotel La Jolla.

Al Crescenzo took over the restaurant about a year and a half ago, instituting a philosophy about fine food and wines that seems to have struck the right chord with La Jolla diners. “Wine is food,” he notes on the menu, and his splendid wine list contributes to the dining experience at Elario’s.

To make it more affordable for diners to enjoy wine with their dinner, Elario’s offers half-price bottles every Tuesday for San Diego residents only. The Tuesday night promotion also features a free entree (up to $24) when you buy one entree. That bargain is available for cash-paying customers only, but it certainly makes dining out on Tuesday evenings a real deal.

The dinner menu is chockful of excellent entrees, including sauteed lump crab cakes ($27), roast duck with caramelized raspberry glace ($28), grilled lamb chops ($38), shrimp and seafood scampi ($25), and seared ahi tuna ($28).

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If you like the taste and texture of real lump crab rather than the bread-filled crab cakes we see all too often on local menus, sink your teeth into Elario’s crab cakes. The meaty cakes make a marvelous main dish and are accompanied by risotto and nicely cooked fresh vegetables. Fortunately, you can also opt for a crab cake appetizer ($12). The crab cakes are served with old bay remoulade, and they are very popular with crab fanciers.

The roast duck comes with herb risotto and fresh vegetables, and with two meaty duck legs on the platter, you’ll be hard-pressed to finish the dish. Seafood lovers can select from several fish preparations, including roasted halibut en papillote served with saffron risotto and julienne vegetables ($29), grilled salmon with papaya salsa and roasted-garlic mashed potatoes ($25), shrimp and seafood scampi with lemon linguine in a garlic white wine sauce ($25) and shrimp fra diavlo served with a spicy marinara sauce, capellini pasta and olive crostini ($24).

The appetizer menu is just as impressive. The oysters Rockefeller ($15) is a house specialty. When you taste it, you’ll know why it’s such a favorite. The dish includes baby spinach, garlic cream sauce and smoked bacon, and the presentation is colorful and appealing.

Other outstanding first-course options include prawn cocktail ($14), scampi with avocado and citrus mousseline ($15), ahi tuna tartare with wasabi, fresh avocado and wonton crisps ($13) and stuffed portobello mushroom with garlic parmesan crust ($9). Warmed baked brie with sauteed apples ($9) and classic escargot in garlic herb butter are two other winners on the appetizer list.

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Even the salads get royal treatment at Elario’s. The warm baby spinach salad has red onions, mushrooms, chopped eggs, and a bacon vinaigrette ($9), and it really is served warm. There are five salad selections on the menu, plus three homemade soups prepared from scratch.

The portions are very generous, and you’ll probably end up with a doggie bag. Elario’s serves three meals a day, including a lunch menu served seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The lunch selections include pizzas, soups and salads, several pastas, three hot entrees and a variety of sandwiches served with a side of cole slaw, fries, or onion rings. The sandwiches start at $9 for a half-pound cheeseburger, and you can get grilled chicken penne with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic for $13.

As everyone knows, Elario’s offers magnificent panoramic views of La Jolla from every table and a chic contemporary decor. The service is first-rate as well.

Elario’s Bistro & Sky Lounge is at 7955 La Jolla Shores Drive. Call (858) 551-3620.