2011 Fall Dining Guide By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, October 16, 2011
When customers are shelling out hundreds of dollars per person for a single meal, an exclusive restaurant has to distinguish itself not only from the luxurious competition but from any lofty recollections a diner might have. The top spots can't afford to rest on their accolades. That's why I so admire the most formal of Cathal Armstrong's dining rooms in Old Town. The chef constantly pushes himself to please. If you haven't reserved in a while, you'll be pleased to see that the garden is the source of more ingredients (artichokes, herbs, pumpkins) and the dining room is bigger and plusher, dressed with huge chairs the staff refers to as "thrones." If you've never been, here's what you might find on Armstrong's five-, seven- and nine-course tasting menus: hats of pasta filled with lemony soft cheese and presented on beet butter in a copper pan; sweet lobster poached in bacon fat and arranged with near-melting sweet potato gnocchi; marvelous veal sweetbreads and croutons made with head cheese, their decadence tempered with tangy sauce gribiche; a button of smoked cheesecake glinting with gold leaf that is introduced as a "pre-dessert"; and … well, you get my drift. Just do it. Are the meat courses less thrilling than everything that comes before them? Just a tad. I've never been a fan of mingling chocolate with booze, but mix master Todd Thrasher converted me with one of his latest cocktails: an Atypical Martini created with stout, rum, cocoa nibs and house-made bitters. The result is surprisingly elegant and not at all sweet. Eve marries fun with finesse; yes, they really do iron the linens right on the tables. "What a pity this is not in Washington," a companion says as we spoon a glorious liquid salad of succotash. This District dweller selfishly concurs.
My fiancée and I decided to celebrate our engagement with a romantic dinner at Eve’s Tasting Room. I was a little nervous after reading the physician’s review but decided to take a chance, because that’s what you do when you get engaged. I didn’t think I could be surprised anymore with every other trendy restaurant coming out with their version of El Bulli. It is to be expected that you’ll enjoy deconstructed dishes of simple and exotic ingredients pared in interesting ways with a beautiful presentation and severed in an elegant setting; but when the kitchen remembers that the most important thing is to create something that is delicious… well that’s when it's worth writing a review about your experience. My thanks to the staff and chefs.
I am a physician practicing in Alexandria.I recommended Eve to a pharmaceutical company that was hosting a dinner at which I was the Speaker (party of 8; $1700 tab). The meal was great with one exception: I got food poisoning (from the Basque Stew), causing me to miss the following day of work. I detailed my experience in a letter to Chef/Co-owner Armstrong. No response in 2 weeks so I emailed him & others listed on Eve's website. I then received a call from Todd. He apologized & sent me a $100 gift certificate. Eve's response to causing a patron an acute illness + one day of lost revenue was abysmal! Does Chef A. expect me & my wife to dine for $50/person? I won't visit, or recommend, Eve or Armstrong's other restaurants to anyone.
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