Monday, March 18, 2013

Restaurant Eve, DC

Seeking to continue to expand our palates for fine foods, our journey led us to the famed Restaurant Eve located in Old Town Alexandria, 30 minutes outside of downtown Washington, DC. Over the past six years, we had heard nothing but good things about Restaurant Eve and having read the reviews including Tom Sietsma's 4 out of 4 rating, our expectations were extremely high.

The dimly lit Restaurant Eve sign was barely noticeable on the brick facade on this dark evening. As we peered down the alley lined with lanterns, we noticed the painted green bricks and realized this was the road that would lead us to Eve. It was already beginning to feel like an adventure. Upon entering the restaurant, we were told to take a seat outside of the beautiful wine cellar that was clearly visible through the glass panes. And, soon enough, we were whisked away by the hostess as she showed us to our seats.

Now, if I'm going to trek outside of DC for a nice meal, I'm going to go all out. So, instead of dining in their Bistro, which is the general dining area, Zach and I chose to dine in the Tasting Room, their even more upscale restaurant inside their upscale restaurant. We were seated in the middle of the room in large, plushy armchairs facing some sort of bar/station that the waiters and sommelier are stationed at. I felt like we were at the least private of all of the tables in this small room, but I wasn't going to complain about it. After all, we were expecting an amazing experience regardless of the seating arrangements so I convinced myself that it would be just fine. I will say though that we really did not like the large armchairs as it made it difficult to get up close and personal and to have a personal conversation. In fact, there were some dramatic setups throughout the Tasting Room of plush, high-backed chairs that seemed suitable for royalty. The Tasting Room, and presumably the entire restaurant, was very traditional in decor with brick fireplaces, candelabras, and old-fashioned furniture. It was very classy in a classic sort of way.

As we began looking at the drink menus, we were informed that it would be 25 minutes before the meal would begin. Our server encouraged us to order a drink in the meantime. So, I started with the "What Happened to the Party?" Cute name for a great drink. It was made with sauvignon blanc, Boyd and Blair vodka, cardamaro, fennel, white pepper, lemongrass, and grapefruit bitters.

As we were handed the food menus, the server acknowledged that he knew we'd be dining vegan and encouraged us to choose from the regular menu as anything could be modified he said. Huh?! We took a look at the menu and it was very meat- and cheese-heavy. Not only that, but this remark made it seem like the chef had not given any thought to the vegan menu for tonight and was planning to just wing it, which did not sit well for either of us. After deciding not to ask if I could have the foie gras done vegan in a smart ass sort of way, I politely handed the menus back to the server and told him we'd be having the 7-course degustation with courses chosen by the chef with wine pairings. I refused to sit here and ask a million questions about a menu that was clearly not designed for us.

And so it began. We were brought an amuse bouche of crusted pickles, jam with shallots, and butternut squash with pine nuts. The pickles and jam were fine while the butternut squash clearly stood out as the winner in this trio. This is the point at which I began to become concerned as in a restaurant like this, I was expecting to be blown away from the first bite...and clearly, I wasn't.

Next, we were served a palate cleanser -- a grapefruit sorbet with fennel pollen.

Finally, as an end to the gifts from the chef, we were brought a quinoa and kale soup with micro cilantro in a tomato-based broth. This soup was very good. And after these three small "courses," we would now begin our journey into the culinary delvings of Chef de Cuisine, Jeremy Hoffman.

For our first course, we were served a tempura of matsutake mushrooms with celery caper relish. It was very good, but I was expecting a little more creativity for the first dish. Granted it isn't easy to find matsutake mushrooms in DC, but it is easy enough to get them from Pennsylvania. The wine pairing that was introduced by the sommelier was a white Adegas dos eidos ‘Eidos de Padriñán’, Albariño 2011 from Rias Biaxas, Spain.

The second course was a roasted butternut squash with apples and a harissa vinaigrette. It was fine, but again, not very exciting. It was paired with Cantina del taburno, Taburno, Falaghina 2011 (Foglianese, Italy). A very nice pairing.

The third course consisted of grilled carrots, carrot puree, and housemade kimchi from daikon radish. We were very impressed with this dish. The wine pairing of the Pinot Gris from Chehalem Vineyards in Willamette Valley was perfect.

By this point, I started asking questions about the chef and was told he had no formal culinary training. In fact, he had just picked up these techniques by traveling to different countries and working with other chefs. Pretty impressive.

For the fourth course, we were served roasted sunchokes in smoked eggplant puree with smoked lentils. This dish was so-so. The wine pairing was Brooks ‘Janus’ Pinot Noir 2010 (Willamette, Oregon).

The fifth course was a grilled rutabaga with young chives in a roasted cippolini onion broth topped with sweet potato leaf and oyster mushrooms paired with a Mauritson Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Healdsburg, California).

The sixth course consisted of poached pears with red miso and Bob's walnuts topped with a sorrell leaf. It was paired with Selbach-oster Spätlese, Riesling 2009 (Mosel, Germany).

As a palate cleanser, we were served vanilla poached apples with honey. I asked if it was real honey and they said it was to which I replied that we don't eat honey. They apologized and took it back and returned with one without honey. Now normally, this would not bother me. But, I made these reservations two months ago and spoke to them three times regarding my dietary preferences to which I clearly expressed that we did not consume honey, which made this most disappointing. The dish without honey, however, was very nice.

Lastly, this is where the pastry chef, Joshua Jarvis, really shined. We were served dark chocolate with a chocolate sorbet, prunes, and orange. It was extremely rich and incredibly good. I have to say that this was the best course of the night. The pairing was a sweet wine -- La Giaretta Recioto della Valpolicella Classico, Corvina / Rondinella 2005 (Valpolicella, Italy).

Lastly, another gift from the chef -- an apple sorbet, brittle, and an apple jelly.

Despite how nice all of this sounded, I was really never wow'd in the same way I was when I dined at Cityzen and Rogue 24, which are at similar price points. So, in the end, we were disappointed. We were disappointed because the meals were priced at $135 per person plus $85 for the wine pairing not to mention the $14 cocktails we started off with, which made it about $600 for two with tip and with a meal priced that high, I would have expected him to concoct a special vegan menu for us in the same way that Cityzen and Rogue 24 did. But, they did not. Instead, they modified existing dishes and came up with dishes on the fly, which, while impressive, is not as impressive as it might have been had they thought it through ahead of time.  Don't get me wrong, the food was great, but not $600 great.

I will say that the sommelier did an incredible job in explaining the dishes and the drink pairings. In fact, we thought all of the wine pairings were great. The service was very good as well. But, in the end, it was overpriced for what it was. If you are vegan and are trying to find a very special restaurant, I would recommend Cityzen or Rogue 24 over Restaurant Eve. Unfortunately, I do not think we'll be back.

Restaurant Eve
110 South Pitt Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 706-0450

Restaurant Eve on Urbanspoon


  1. [ Smiles ] Angela, it looks as though you had yourself a wonderful time. You found yourself a restaurant that specializes in vegan cuisine.

  2. Hi, Angela- Thanks for this post. What do you think about wine typically being fined through animal gelatin? I am aware that beer sometimes is fined with a fish product. I do not know whether other alcohol includes animal products.

    Also, what do you think about non-vegetarian restaurants that use the same deep fryer to fry both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items?

    Thanks. Jon

  3. The problem with spending a lot of time worrying about alcohol is that it is so hard to know whether a wine is vegan or not. Many wines are made with eggs and/or fined with isinglass (fish bladders). The same is true of beer. But, if you try to find out whether that is true of a wine in a restaurant, you will have a hard time. So it just depends on how strict you want to be.

    Regarding the deep fryer, I just wish they'd inform the patrons if they use the same deep fryer. Some restaurants do and some don't. You should ask if you want to know.