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Restaurant Eve: My Experience in Review

ponocat Oct 17, 2006 01:46 PM

The first impressions of a restaurant are, of course, formed when walking through the door. Restaurant Eve is lovely and relaxing from the outset. Entering, you can see a comfortable bar on your right and, as you pass down a hallway to the left, toward the dining rooms, you view a wine cellar and a bustling kitchen. The dining room in which I sat had a row of three booths along a mirrored wall in the back. There were 15-20 tables depending on whether they were intended for two or four people.

I was extremely comfortable in the booth. My only criticism is that the seat was so well worn that it sunk deeply where one must sit; the cushioning is simply gone. I was very glad not to be at one of the miniature tables for two. Not only did they have minimal space for one’s dining, but most were very close together. The tables across the aisle from me were some 18 inches apart. There is no way to have any privacy in such a situation; I would prefer a communal table to that.

When we sat, we were offered menus and a wine menu. I love to have a glass of wine to sip while I consider the meal, so I turned to that menu first. There were none by the glass, so I began to consider the bottles. When a waiter came to take our drink orders, I learned that there is indeed a by-the-glass menu—a short list contained in a block of plastic. I did not like it that my husband’s drink arrived at the same time as my getting that by-the-glass menu, but I liked it even less that the plastic was smudged and greasy-feeling. (I felt compelled to go and wash my hands after handling it.) I saw nothing appealing by the glass, so ordered the bottle we had selected.

After a bit, the sommelier came to say that the wine we’d selected was no longer available and offered another. I found the substitute quite acceptable. Nevertheless, my opinion is that either unavailable wines should somehow be so-indicated on the menu, or the waiter should tell you. All told, it was a bit of time and effort just to get a glass of wine!

The menu has a good selection of 10 appetizers and 9 entrees. Some descriptions appealed more than others: “Bacon, Egg & Cheese Salad”, to me, just doesn’t compete with “Heirloom Beets with Walnuts and Pipe Dreams Farms Goat Cheese.”

I decided to start with “Maryland Crabcakes with Baby Greens.” My husband’s choice was the “Housemade Charcuterie.” Both were excellent in terms of presentation and taste, and we felt that the menu’s description of the dishes was apt. The crab in the two cakes was very fresh lump meat with little added filler. It was perfectly spiced to allow one to taste the mild crab flavor. The strongest spice I tasted was chives. The baby greens alongside were also excellent—fresh and gently coated with vinaigrette.

I like to make a meal of multiple appetizers, so I next ordered the “Heirloom Beets with Walnuts and Pipe Dreams Farms Goat Cheese.” (I have been trying hard to increase my intake of vegetable, but I find steamed or stir-fried vegetables unappealing. So, I particularly look for vegetable salads as well as more complex recipes involving vegetables.) My husband chose “Pan Roasted Veal Sweetbreads with Fried Oysters and Country Ham.”

I expected from the description that I would receive sliced beets with either a round of goat cheese on the side or a goat cheese cream zig-zaged across the beets. What I got was a large bowl of greens—something not even in the description—the same greens and vinaigrette that I had gotten as a side with the crabcakes. There was one tiny gold beet, about 2 inches in diameter, that had been quartered and thrown in, along with a smattering of walnuts and a couple of chunks of cheese. In retrospect, I wished that I had sent the dish back. I ate the beet morsels and cheese, leaving the rest. I believe that the waiter should have known what was in the dishes and should have warned me that I would be getting another salad like the one I’d had. I also think that the description of the heirloom beets was grossly off-target.

My husband’s sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and the fried oysters and “country ham”—which tasted like tasso ham—were good accompaniments. We both thought it was the best course of the meal.

I chose “Poached Bouchot Mussels in the Style of our Sister City” as my last course. The waiter explained that the style meant that they were flavored with apple. What he should have said is that the mussels’ texture would come through, but that I would taste only apple—it was cooked in apple cider and apple vinegar, with apple chunks thrown in. It was an overwhelming treatment for the mussels.

For dessert we chose to split a pecan tart with vanilla ice cream. The filling of the tart was yummy, but the overall dish was marred by the crust. It had the rock-hard texture that you find in pre-fab, frozen pies crusts—nothing buttery or crumbly about it. Although we did not discuss it, neither of us ate any crust after one bite. The ice cream was but a tablespoon full, so we each had only one small taste. I wished for more, as it was delicious.

We asked about after-dinner teas, as there was an intriguing selection. We wanted something decaffeinated and mild. The waiter had no idea how anything tasted, so we winged it. We got a brew that was so bitter that my husband set it aside. Although our server had been there whenever we beckoned, he failed when it came to helping us with selections.

I will probably never go to Restaurant Eve again, nor will I recommend it. Although it has a pleasant ambiance and some excellent food, there were some serious downsides. Most damning is the fact that of the 6 dishes we ordered, 3 excelled and 3 were very disappointing indeed. 50-50 just doesn’t get it.

  1. chowser Oct 17, 2006 02:00 PM

    Thank you for the thorough review. We are planning to go for lunch today so it helps me with what to order and not. I was thinking of getting crab cakes and a meal salad but with your description of the crab cake, I'll go with something else instead of the meal salad. I'm sorry to hear it wasn't a great experience--I was hoping it would be.

    1. p
      Pappy Oct 17, 2006 03:25 PM

      Thank you for your thoughts. Your review is sound and your criticisms are well detailed. I might add that I found the food and service at Eve to be some of the best I've ever had, not only in the Washington area, or even nationally, but probably internationally.

      Who'd a thunk it?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Pappy
        s
        Steve Oct 17, 2006 03:31 PM

        Yes, but you may have been to the Tasting Room, which has a different menu.

        1. re: Steve
          p
          Pappy Oct 17, 2006 04:38 PM

          Steve, you are absolutely right, and I probably should have been clearer. I was just drawing to draw a distinction between the OP's conclusion after experiencing Eve, which I found surprising, and my own.

      2. s
        Steve Oct 17, 2006 03:28 PM

        I think the starters at Eve are weak and the main courses very, very, strong. Your strategy of ordering, which would work brilliantly at most restaurants, is a recipe for disappointment at Eve.

        The following is from my original thoughts about Eve:

        "At Restaurant Eve, we were 4 for 4 - each one of the main selections were super delicious. Confit of Pork Belly, Duck Confit Salad (do you detect a theme?), Potato Crusted Cod, and Bouillabaisse were all full bodied dishes with lucious flavors. How often does that happen? We were in the hands of an expert kitchen, and they took us where they wanted us to go. The room itself is like a secret hideaway.

        Appetizers were a bit drab, though. Bacon and Egg Salad, and the terrine of game birds - a touch dry and austere. The rillettes were a refined version - not so shamelessly fatty like you find in France. But not as good, either."

        1. chowser Oct 17, 2006 06:52 PM

          I don't know if I should tag onto this with my experience or start my own thread but since it's a review here...

          I really wanted to like Restaurant Eve--I love the concept of organic sustainable fresh food done well and search for restaurants like this. I wouldn't say it's disappointing but it's done better elsewhere. The bread was warm but tasteless. It had been sliced and then heated in the oven so one side was soft, the other too hard. No crabcakes which I was in the mood for so I started w/ scallops. Good, juicy served over beets. Good, not great. My husband had the bacon, egg, and cheese salad which they said was their version of caesar salad. Crispy romaine but not that flavorful. It had some dresssing, scattering of good bacon w/ poached egg over it.

          Thanks to OTchowhound for the wine recommendation. My husband really liked the syrah, a very good starter wine. The waiter also recommended the Ken Forrester chenin blanc for my cod which was a great choice, very fruity. My husband had prawns with risotto which was a little al dente for me (I admit I love super creamy risotto that melts in your mouth) but the prawns were very good. I had cod that was...okay.

          For dessert, my husband had the birthday cake/just because. My husband is a "super taster" and said he could taste different flavors in the buttercream from being in a refrigerator with other foods (I kind of roll my eyes when he says things like that but he really does taste a lot more than I do. Plus, I store my cakes in the refrigerator and he doesn't complain about that...maybe a reason we've been married for so long...). As a picky point, the frosting decoration was not well done; no biggie but something I noticed, with the little I know about cake decorating. I had gianduja french toast with banana sorbet. Disappointing. The french toast was dry and crisp. I left over half of it, just not worth the calories.

          I realize it was lunch and I didn't have the tasting menu which is their strength so I won't write off Restaurant Eve completely. Service was excellent. It's just with so many good restaurants in the area, it's hard to go back to a place that was...okay. Part of it is that I had such high expectations.

          2 Replies
          1. re: chowser
            monkeyrotica Oct 17, 2006 07:31 PM

            If this was your first time at Eve, I highly recommend going again. Maybe it's just me, but I can't think of any way I'd be blown out of the water by a salad. "Flavorful" lettuce? Is there such a thing? I guess I'm just a luddite, but I think there's a reason why salad dressing exists. And the beets were good, just not "great?" Does anybody in DC do GREAT beets?

            Even the best restaurants have off days, but it sounds like that isn't the case here, as you said with the excellent service. I've had spotty service there myself, but I keep going back. Two words: tasting menu.

            1. re: monkeyrotica
              chowser Oct 17, 2006 07:41 PM

              LOL, I should emphasized that it was the dressing that wasn't flavorful, not the romaine. The waiter told my husband to drip the egg yolk from the poached egg onto the salad but the poached egg was a lttle overcooked for that--some dripped out but not much. I do have salads a lot going out and have had some great caesar salads. It wasn't the beets that were good but not great, but the scallops and the whole appetizer. Good, but not wow, these are great. I don't have fresh beets, honestly, because they're too messy to prepare and I don't normally order them out so I can't say I've ever had GREAT beets. Maybe next time I won't write a review after having two glasses of wine when I'm not much of a drinker so it's more clear.

              I haven't written off Restaurant Eve completely. I also realize lunch isn't the same as dinner for many restaurants. But, I didn't have anything that made me say, mmmmm, this is amazing... Overall, I'll choose a place that conscientiously picks sustainable food over one that doesn't so that automaticaly puts Restaurant Eve in the running.

          2. monkeyrotica Oct 17, 2006 07:31 PM

            Maybe it's just me, but I can't think of any way I'd be blown out of the water by a salad. "Flavorful" lettuce? Is there such a thing? I guess I'm just a luddite, but I think there's a reason why salad dressing exists. And the beets were good, just not "great?" Does anybody in DC do GREAT beets?

            Even the best restaurants have off days, but it sounds like that isn't the case here, as you said with the excellent service. I've had spotty service there myself, but I keep going back. Two words: tasting menu.

            1. debit Oct 17, 2006 08:21 PM

              When spouse and I went to Eve's tasting room, we were underwhelmed, too. I guess after everything I read, I expected a lot, I admit. But everything was on the sweet side the night we went. It was odd.

              1. k
                kcm19 Oct 17, 2006 09:37 PM

                We went to the Tasting Room a year and a half ago and we haven't been back. We had the 5-course tasting menu, it took 3 1/2 hours to complete (and, no, we weren't the ones slowing things down), and we were still hungry when we left. Some of the courses were very good, but some weren't (and I can't remember one thing we had, except for the bacon/egg salad which was just "eh"). The wine pairings were excellent. Since then we've been to CityZen and Palena and have had far superior experiences. That said, I don't know that there's a better high-end restaurant in Old Town.

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