We made our first visit to the Tasting Room at Restaurant Eve last week. I have wanted to dine there for quite some time and I fully expected to love it. Sadly, I did not. In fact, I was surprised by how much I did not love it.
Let me start with the positives. The ambiance of the restaurant itself is lovely. I adored the look, the feel, and the sound of it -- the soft edges – it was a nice change from the hard-edged look and sound of so many restaurants today. This made me want to love it even more. The service was friendly – perhaps too friendly – we learned a bit more than we really needed to know about our server’s budding career as a writer for the Food Network. The gin and tonics, with house-made tonic, that we had to start the evening were far and away the best version of that drink I’ve ever had.
What I didn’t love:
(1) Sadly, the food. Price-wise, Eve has placed itself in the same rarified air as CityZen, Komi, and Marcel’s. We have dined at all 3 of these restaurants over the last year and at each of them we more than loved the food. At Komi and CityZen we were blown away by the food. At Eve, we had the 5-course tasting menu and with the various amuses, palate cleansers, etc. we were served at least 9 different plates. Only one of these plates caused us to gush with pleasure – that was a soup that was not one of the 5 menu courses. The server spoke so fast that I couldn’t catch what it was – it seemed to be a tomato soup with a smoky accent. Of the rest of the meal, my husband really enjoyed the Roasted Whitewood Farm Beef Filet and the palate cleanser frozen gazpacho (I did not, which is strange because I love gazpacho – the tomato portion had a strange taste); I enjoyed the Sashimi of Hamachi – very fresh and enhanced by the Yuzu Vinaigrette. Two of the courses (the Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi and the Wild Chicken of the Woods Mushroom Custard) were over-salted and oddly flavored, though I must say that the gnocchi themselves were very delicate and exquisite; the mushroom custard had the consistency and taste of tofu, not a plus. For the cheese course, my husband’s was excellent (Terrine of Gorgonzola) and mine (Crottin de Chavignol) was wrapped in a phyllo dough that rendered the cheese invisible and tasteless and was not helped by the Sauvignon Blanc Gelee. Desserts were NWTC – not worth the calories (Almond Financier – very dry; Praline Crumb Doughnuts – nothing special). The breads were also a disappointment. Served toward the beginning of the meal, they consisted of a basket of 5 small rolls with a plate of Irish Kerry Gold butter (naturally!). When served, the rolls were so hot they could not be touched – obviously fresh from an oven. By the time they cooled enough to be touched, they were hard and difficult to break open and even the butter could not rescue them from nothingness. (These are nothing like the Parker Rolls at CityZen). Finally, we were served a plate of sweets/pastries with the bill. We both agreed that all of these were horrible. Not just ok, but horrible. Batting average: my husband loved 2 and enjoyed 2 of the 9 plates; I loved 1 and enjoyed 1 of the 9 plates. The rest were either bad or forgettable.
(2) Wine pairings: I had the 5 wine pairings. At $70 for 5, 2-oz pours, I expected to be served some really delicious wines. Not the case. They may have complimented the food, but none of the wines were exceptional and 3 of them were no better, taste-wise, than a factory wine. The wine pairings I have had at CityZen have been exquisite, for about the same price. I’d recommend that people just order a $70 bottle of wine – you’ll get a better wine and more of it.
(3) Service: I said earlier that the service was friendly and that is true. That does not mean that the service was of the professional level one would expect at a restaurant at this price-point. I am comparing the service to that we’ve received at CityZen and Marcel’s. In both places the service was impeccable. It was so finely honed, so professional, it blew you away as much as the food. At Komi the service was also excellent in a more laid-back way, inviting interaction with the server. At Eve, many of the servers seemed inexperienced and seemed to struggle with the menu terms. When dishes were brought to the table they were served in a rather haphazard way across the table rather than from the side, such that I often feared that my wine or water glass would be knocked over. Also, I heard a server at the next table describe a dish in a different way than it had been described to us by our server. Is that fish (sugar toads) from the Chesapeake Bay or from the North Atlantic? The young sommelier (not Todd Thrasher, obviously) really needs to study his pronunciation. As someone who lived many years in Europe, the way he mangled the names and regions of the Italian and French wines was almost painful to me. It was only the next day after I read the names of the wines on the menu we had been given, that I understood exactly what we had been served.
(4) Pacing: Slow. It seemed that we waited a very long time between courses. As we did the wine pairing, the wine would be delivered to the table without description and would sit there for 15 minutes before the next course would arrive. Then there would be a wait for the Sommelier to drop by and identify the wine. Twenty minutes could elapse between courses, during which time I have been sitting with nothing to drink and the wine’s temperature has dropped and so has my enthusiasm.
Considering that the cost of the meal, with 2 cocktails, 1 wine pairing, bottle of sparkling water, plus tax and tip, was over $400 for 2 – the experience was disappointing at best, unacceptable for us.