I'm a Boston hound, who was visiting the Metro area last week, and had a free night to eat out. About a month ago, I posted to ask for suggestions on where to go, and based on those postings, I decided to try Restaurant Eve. My experience was a little mixed, but in an unusual way- the food was superb, but the service was very lacking (I've much more commonly been to restaurants with great service and mediocre food).
My wife and I had reservations in the tasting room on Monday night- we arrived about a half hour early, due to my unfamiliarity with the DC area traffic, and were told that we should wait in the bar to be seated. We were seated at our scheduled time, and I was mildly surprised to see that only about 1/4 of the tables in the tasting room were full. It was more surprising that by the end of the meal, only two more tables had filled-- I'm not quite sure why they didnt just seat us earlier, but I didn't mind that, since it was my fault for showing up early.
What was then strange is that after seating us, we were abandoned for about 20 minutes. No one came to the table, no one brought menus-- nothing. Meanwhile, there were four members of the waitstaff in the mostly-empty room, hovering about a table in the center, arranging silverware and chatting. After the 20 minute wait, a waitress brought us menus, and I asked for the wine list. Again-- long wait of at least 20 minutes before anyone came to see what we wanted (our menus were closed, the wait staff was once again hanging around in the center of the room, but no one seemed to want to come visit). When our waitress did come to take our orders, we asked a few questions about the menu, but she was really unable to add anything to the descriptions already on the menu. I also had some questions regarding the wine list, and the waitress offered to send us the sommelier. Sadly enough I consented-- thus began another 20 minute wait... Eventually someone showed up to answer our wine questions. I assumed that this was the sommelier, but when I asked about two different wines, she told me that she had never had one of them, and couldn't comment. Although I appreciate her honesty, I usually expect the sommelier at a "top" restaurant to be familiar with everything on her wine list.
All said and done, we were seated for over an hour before the bread appeared on the table, and longer before any food showed up. By then, both my wife and I were feeling somewhat put out-- for the prices we expected to pay (it turned out to be around $350 for the two of us), I really did expect to at least be able to place my order in a reasonable time...
Then the food began to come, and it almost made up for the service. We each had the five course tasting, and ordered different items in each course, so I was able to taste 10 different dishes. In my opinion, the food was exceptional-- both creative, and well executed. It was unfortunate that the waitress hadn't been able to describe the food better when we asked questions-- what we received was significantly more elaborate than what we expected, and was far more interested and complicated than what she had described (this was a pleasant surprise, but didn't do justice to the chef). The only other "nice" restaurants I've been to in DC lately are Maestro and CitiZen, and the food I had at Eve was easily better than the food I had at either of those two places. Service did improve during the five courses (they came at a reasonable pace), but then dropped off again after-- all of the wait staff disappeared around the time we finished dessert and coffee, and we had to wait for quite a while before we could even ask for the check. I didn't get the impression that they were "leaving us alone," but rather that they just weren't interested. The staff spent quite a bit of time in conversation with each other in the center of the room, so it was clear they weren't just overly busy serving other tables. The few other tables in the room that were occupied also seemed to be proceeding at a very slow pace.
In retrospect, it is a real pity for Eve that the service was so disappointing the night we were there-- had it been even what I'd consider average, I would definitely intend on returning to the restaurant the next time I'm in town. Due to the significant delays and lack of attention, however, I'm more likely to try something new. I've eaten at many fine restaurants around the world, and really did think that the food at Eve was comparable to some of the best I've had anywhere; but at this price level, I also expect to be able to place an order in a reasonable time, discuss the menu and wine list with the staff, and have a "smooth" dining experience. If Eve can fix those issues (or if my experience was an anomaly), I think they can really become a significant institution.
If anyone has read this far and has been to Eve-- do was my experience with the service unusual? Am I askgin for too much?