Report on Eola
My wife and I chose to celebrate our anniversary at Eola last night (in no small part due to the positive reviews on this board); we're very glad we did. The meal was excellent overall and, at times, breathtaking. Perhaps most important (and most unlike many of the DC restaurants we've sampled) the focus was on the food; service was attentive, knowledgable, and amicable, but the space and the people inhabiting it were clearly there for the cuisine.
The chef's welcome plates were outstanding. I'm not sure I remember all of them - there were at least 4 - but one standout was a small bun with scallions and a piece of crispy pork; the soft, somewhat sweet flavor of the bun worked incredibly well with the crunchy, salty elements of the scallions and pork. A similarly interesting invention was the (spicy hot) pepper ice cream with (some kind of) pork foam; the accompanying toasted, finely chopped peanuts helped add a nice nutty, crunchy element.
We chose the stuffed napa cabbage and shoat's belly appetizers. The beans and chanterelle mushrooms accompanying the shoat's belly were superb - full of earthy flavors, perfectly cooked - and the pork itself was amazing; the skin was super crunchy and the belly itself wonderfully tender. Again, the contrast between textures was fantastic with the cabbage dish. The cabbage and pine nuts provided the crunch, the farro, raisins, and ragu providing the soft components. A good mix of sweet and savory in this one as well.
We selected the Fettucine and Spaghetti dishes next. Both were excellent, although my wife thought the cabrales (blue cheese) was a little overwhelming in large chunks; after she made the pieces smaller the cheese didn't overpower the (very rich, very tasty) bolognese. My spaghetti was really quite remarkable. The pasta itself was incredibly well prepared, and the addition of the egg - really the foundation of the sauce accompanying the pasta - was both a huge surprise and huge success.
We chose the Lamb and Poussin for our entrees. I thought the flavoring of the lamb was perhaps a bit too subtle, but my wife appreciated it just that way. We agreed that the gnocchi accompanying the dish were some of the best we've ever had. I liked the (quite rich) grits and tasso cake that formed the foundation for my poussin. The chicken was well flavored and cooked, the outside just the slightest bit crispy (after a quick drop in the deep frier, we learned later).
Dessert was good; frankly, at that point I was so full that I had a hard time analyzing it. The sasparailla ice cream was a real revelation.
We've eaten at Palena, Rasika, and Volt in the last year; This was by far the best meal we've had yet. Moreover, at $65/head, it was very reasonably priced. A few of the early dishes were perhaps a bit too salty, but this was nonetheless a memorable meal and we will return.