Only a week ago I noted that on a recent business trip to the Black Forest of Germany I had dinner on successive nights at two and three Michelin starred restaurants. Both of those had a style and staff which allowed attention rarely if ever found in the D. C. area.
Last night Eve came close.
Eve's staff is young, exhuberant and professional, directed by one of the finest sommeliers I have encounteredon this side of the Atlantic. He participates in the service along with fashions and references a very intelligent, more than fairly priced wine list. (A South African full bodied, smoky red, Meersault was $58; Wegmans sells it for $35. It drinks like a $100+ wine.) At one point for 30 or so seats I counted 8 staff in the room at once. The pacing of the dinner, the presentation, the Michelin correct service was perfect.
Eve has two prix fixe course menus in this dining room which is one of two along with a very popular, active 30ish bar area. The room is understated with a soft feeling to it. This is not a luxurious, indulgent restaurant but rather somewhat more informal. In fact a comparison to Obelisk, for me, is inescapable.
We had the nine course prix fixe for $90. Along with several amuse the total numbers of courses/tastes in the three hour dinner was twelve. The five course totalled seven, perhaps eight.
The first course, "timbale of lobster with asparagus, chanterelles and lemon viniagrette" was imaginatively presented with the timbable representing an almost lobster mousse consistency. Very flavorful, very good, a hit.
Second was an absolute knockout: housemade gnocchi with arugula, dried tomatoes and basil. This was a GREAT DISH, so good that I seriously considered picking up the plate and licking it clean in public. Didn't matter what others might have thought about my obvious lack of couth. The slightest taste of this justified what I thought would have been an intelligent effort not to leave a drop on the plate.
Third was one of the worst, perhaps the single worst dishes I have ever had in a restaurant in my life: "stuffed skate with morels, peas and carrots." A waft of camphor went straight up my nose with each bite! Horrible! Almost a strychnine (sp) like bit that made me wonder if Vicks Vapo Rub was a secret ingredient. I asked what the "unusual" aromatic was and was told that the kitchen said "Tahitian Vanilla #1." I have no idea what this is or should have tasted like. But someone should have thrown this in the alley for pest control. It was THAT bad. Serious.
"Sauteed softshell crab with asparagus, young garlic and orange viniagrette" was very good but coming after abusiness lunch at Kinkead's it was a very distant second to Kinkead's knockout dish. Overall, good but no better.
"Roasted Guinea hen with garlic chives and porcini potato "risotto" followed. The hen was very flavorful, the presentation-as all of the dishes-was attractive and imaginative. Very good.
The last savory, a "Spring lamb chop with tiand of roasted onion, tomato, basil and spinach" was disappointing. The lamb lacked the charred crust and the juicy, flavorful meat that I've had elsewhere. This was a dish that could and did wow me only a week ago in the Black Forest. Here, it was merely all right.
A cheese course of sorts, "Epoisses de bourgogne with glazed dried apricots" was a disappointment. I love epoisses. Until a year ago when it was legalized in America I have smuggled it on airplanes back from Europe threatening stewardesses that if they would not refrigerate it for me they might have to land in Greenland with the other passengers overcome by what I thought was a glorious stink. This was one small bite and, for me, a waste of what could have been an opportunity for this restaurant to shine. Cheese is usually overlooked in America; here this was pointed out and underlined. I understood their intention but believe that a cart with variety in the style of Galileo or The Inn, perhaps as a $10 suppliment, would have aded much more.
"Local strawberry "salad" was very good, refreshing, extremely enjoyable.
The house special, "passion fruit bombe with chocolate mousse and praline" was a very real disappointment of major proportions. Very nice presentation for the small "bombe" but to us, it tasted "dietetic" if you will, lacking richness and depth of flavour. I felt they wasted an opportunity for a signature dessert tha could have left us with a better impression.
Overall Eve has a great deal of promise. We should have done the smaller, much less expensive five course which, for me, would have put Eve just a shade short of Obelisk in both price, taste and value. For nine courses, with wine, tax and tip $310 ($58 bottle of wine) leaves Eve VERY short of Maestro and Citronelle for only a few dollars more close to this range.
Old Town has needed a restaurant like this for a long time. It is an enormous step in the right direction, filling a void where already, they are booked for Saturdays two weeks in advance. The singles bar seems to have become THE place for eligible 30 year olds to graze and browse. If I were rating it with stars, on a scale of one to four, this would be a strong two for the five course prix fixe.
With time for this very personal cuisine to evolve, with this level of dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism I wish Eve and its owners the best. Minus the awful skate, they are only a few rungs on the ladder away from very real excellence.