We ate at Restaurant Eve once before, maybe two months after moving to Virginia. It was our first fine dining experience after the move, and it had been long enough since we’d eaten at a quality restaurant that we wondered if it was really that good, or if we’d just been deprived of good food for too long.
Monday night we found out: it was really that good.
The restaurant is comprised of two parts: the Bistro and the Tasting Room. Ten months ago, on a dark Friday night in October, we ate in the Bistro; all I really remember is that we had our first babysitter in Virginia, I had sweetbreads, and the food was great.
In August, however, at 7:30 in the evening, the light still streams in; the restaurant, though large by New York standards, seats a relatively small handful of diners. I had made reservations (and changed the date) the old-fashioned way: Restaurant Eve has chosen to forgo whatever added capacity they could fill using OpenTable in favor of the more personal telephone reservations. (For the record, I love OpenTable, but the staff at Restaurant Eve is so charmingly nice that it’s not a significant imposition to speak with them.) The restaurant wasn’t cramped, but it was well-filled, even for a Monday evening.
In the Tasting Room, a diner can choose between a five-course tasting menu and a nine-course tasting menu. If you choose the five-course, you have to choose between five or six dishes for each of the five courses. (If you’re braver, and your stomach more voluminous, the nine-course menu is essentially set; you do get a choice somewhere around the fourth course, however.)
I don’t remember all of our food choices, but they were all excellent. I had a virgin grilled-lemonade with bay leaf to drink, and Jamie had a virgin cantaloupe martini. The courses follow roughly a creation theme, drawing lightly from Genesis and heavily from French cuisine. I know that among my courses were hamachi, quail and heirloom beets, lobster, and a delicious cheese tartlet with onion and bacon. Jamie’s first course included house-made boudin noir, while other courses included apricots, fresh peaches, and corn ice cream.
The high point for me, though, was off-menu: before the final course, they brought a palate-cleanser. Rather than a mint- or sorbet-based bite, though, we cleansed our palates with buttermilk panna cotta with a blackberry glacé and a half blackberry on top. The panna cotta was silky, sweet but with a slightly sour bite.
Last year, we celebrated our anniversary at Le Bernardine. The food was, of course, proficient and technically excellent. The food wasn’t, however, any better than Restaurant Eve’s (which is to say, in truth, it was not as good). The true contrast, though, was in service: at Le Bernardine, the service seemed almost a caricature of stereotypical French/New York. The waiter barely spoke to us, and seemed determined to put us in our place (wherever our place was). At Restaurant Eve, the staff was as sunny as the evening, all smiles and explanations of the dishes that had just arrived. Our deserts featured gold-stenciled “Happy Anniversary”s on the chocolate sheets. And when we left, all was right in the world.
As a side note, apropos of nothing at all, the couple sitting at the table next to ours was a Columbia Law alumnus, preceding me by about a decade. He’s also a tax attorney, and they were celebrating their (13th) anniversary.
Also: our little girl was asleep in her crib when we got home.
Finally: Cathal Armstrong, the chef and proprietor of Restaurant Eve, is also the owner of Eamann’s. So he’s easily two for two, mastering the high- and the low-brow.